As an employer I am sure you try to approve Christmas holiday requests for your employees wherever you can but inevitably there are times where it is simply not possible.
The main reason for refusing is usually because the business will be understaffed or cannot function without the employee over a certain time period.
Employees may not be happy about a refusal to grant them holiday but most would understand. However, you may find yourself in a situation where an employee doesn’t turn up for work on dates they’ve requested time off for, so what can you do?
How to avoid the situation
Ensure that you make it clear if you are going to impose any annual holiday restrictions such as no holiday bookings permitted over Christmas.
If you have to refuse a request for holiday, ensure that you let the employee know as soon as possible and give at least the same length in notice as the period of the requested holiday (if possible). This gives them as much time as possible to re-arrange.
Only refuse a holiday request if you have a strong business reason.
What if the employee doesn’t turn up and there is no explanation?
There are a few reasons why an employee may not turn up for work including; emergencies, they’ve decided they are leaving and won’t be coming back, illness or the fact they wanted a holiday and you were unable to agree it (or they didn’t request the holiday in the first place).
Make every effort to get in touch with your employee to find out why they haven’t turned up for work. How your employee explains their absence is key to what you should do next. If they state that they are sick and cannot come into work, remind them of your absence reporting procedure.
If they do not have a reasonable explanation for their absence, you should ask them to attend work and make clear to them that unauthorised absence with no reasonable explanation is a disciplinary matter.
Realistically though, if your employee has gone on holiday without authorisation and has not rung in in sick, they are unlikely to respond to attempts to make contact. If you can’t get hold of them, you will need to write to them requesting an explanation for the absence.
What to do if an employee returns to work after unauthorised absence
When (or if) the employee returns to work you need to meet with them to discuss their absence and the reasons for it. You may well then feel a disciplinary process is appropriate.
If the employee phones in sick
If your employee phones in sick on a day you had refused a holiday request, you will be suspicious, but what can you actually do? You should remind your employee of your sickness absence procedures including the requirement for a self-certificate or doctor’s fit note, but realistically this requirement should present very little difficulty for them.
If they complied with your procedure, it will be very difficult for you to do anything. For short infrequent absences it is unlikely to be worth taking the matter further with an occupational health advisor or requesting a GP’s report.
What about pay?
There is no entitlement to pay for unauthorised absence, so if your employee is not claiming that they were ill for the period they were off, you do not need to pay them.
If the employee is only entitled to SSP, then they will not be paid for the first three days and will then be entitled to SSP provided they follow the appropriate procedure and provide the appropriate certification.