Help, my employee has been delayed returning from holiday

Help, my employee has been delayed returning from holiday

July 12, 2022

At this time of year, employees will be taking annual holidays and as it’s been difficult to take an overseas trip for the last 2 years, huge numbers of us have family and employees taking holidays abroad.

You only have to know someone who is overseas currently to know that the airlines are having nightmares getting passengers back to the UK on time. I was on the phone the other week to my business coach and she said her daughter was on the other line, having been told her flight back from Greece was to be delayed by 5 hours. Our son was delayed by 2 hours on Saturday back from the dreaded Magaluf!

Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised if our employee contacts us and says they are going to be delayed returning from holiday. So here’s how you handle such conversations.

Are they delayed by hours rather than days?

  1. If your employee contacts you as they are delayed by their airline leaving their destination there is no automatic assumption that they should make that they will not be able to return to work as planned. Can you validate what they are saying by checking the flight online? Where an employee contacts you to say, “sorry I won’t get back to the UK till 2 a.m. so won’t be fit to work tomorrow.” There’s no reason to expect that anyone can’t function on 4 hours sleep if they had to. Maybe a later start but not the day off work! Explain your expectation on the phone.
  2. Can they swap with a colleague? Again a culture where staff swap shifts amongst themselves when life throws you a curve ball can be very useful in such circumstances. However you need a team that wants to help eachother out and we have noticed that in terms of delays from holidays, colleagues can resent other colleagues expecting that someone will ‘help them out’ when they are delayed back into the UK.

Are they delayed by days?

If the employee is stuck overseas there are several concerns.

  1. Can they prove the original flight information? I am afraid people do/have lied about their travel situation when they always knew that they needed extra leave that would not be unauthorised. Do you have an original booking request for the period they now ‘need’?
  2. Are they unwell? People can be refused travel if they have had an accident or if the airline deems them unfit for travel. Under travel insurance, it would be reasonable to expect that the employee can support their claims that they can’t travel due to accident/illness with some kind of medical information.
  3. Has their mode of transport failed? We remember an employee who was stuck in Spain awaiting car parts as they had taken their vehicle on a spot of international driving and broken down. It’s not unreasonable for the employee in such a circumstance to be able to evidence their story.

So how do you treat this period where they have not returned to work on time? Firstly investigate and see what evidence can be produced to support their claims. If none, then that might suggest that disciplinary action is appropriate. Regardless of whether you decide the absence is genuine or not, if they are absent without your authorisation the absence would be unpaid. That can result in disciplinary action being taken, but if genuine then such action may not serve the employer and may result in damage to the psychological contract.

If you need any assistance managing absent employees please contact us on 01527 909436.

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