What to do if your employees are stranded abroad

British holidaymakers are already facing flight cancellations due to staffing issues, air traffic control restrictions and increased demand.

Over the Jubilee weekend, hundreds of flights out of the UK were grounded, and over 100 international flights into the UK were also cancelled, most of which originated from across Europe.

Unsurprisingly, travellers are finding the situation to be very stressful. Last-minute cancellations have devastated some people, and others have been "abandoned" at airports.

Additionally, the interruption is harming employers. Businesses will be under pressure from demands to reschedule annual leave and staff who are stranded abroad without a way back into the country.

What does the law say? 

Employees are not legally entitled to pay if they are unable to work. Although it would be rare, certain contracts might include an employee being paid if they cannot report to work due to reasons beyond their control.

Therefore, employers have a couple of options. First, time off for cancelled flights may be claimed as annual leave, provided both parties agree to it and the employee hasn't used up all of their yearly holiday entitlement. Although not ideal, at least the team member would be paid for their delay by their employer.

The second option will be to treat the absence as unpaid leave if they choose not to use any of their holiday entitlement or have none left. It's important to note that employees do not legally have the right to unpaid leave; therefore, while they may request it to avoid taking a holiday, employers might not want to support or agree to it, given that it is essentially unproductive time.

Beyond these two options, you might also want to check your leave policy to see whether there are other provisions for taking time off.

What about employees whose holiday is cancelled?

In addition to employees who are stranded abroad, you can also have employees who never leave the departure lounge. These people might want to postpone taking their annual leave until later.

While employees can request to cancel approved annual leave, businesses are not legally required to do so. They also are not required to allow employees to reschedule their vacation time. 

In the latter scenario, the employee's request would be subject to the standard restrictions, so elements like job demands and how many other team members are off on that date would be considered.

It would be considered an unauthorised absence and could result in disciplinary action if the employee rebooked their trip without authorising their request for time off.

Despite this, companies must still be aware of the effect on employee relations. Given that these problems are out of the employee's control and the current difficulty in finding and hiring new employees, it might be advantageous for you to be as accommodating as you can while juggling business requirements.

Read the NHBF’s in-depth blog on holiday entitlement for employees.

For less than 80p a day, the NHBF will work with you to support your business on HR, legal, industry regulations and all the latest business laws. For further queries and membership enquiries, visit www.NHBF.co.uk

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