Employee returning late from holiday – what to do?

Usually you will get a request but perhaps the employee just returns late. There are a number of possible scenarios that we examine here…

1. The employee makes a request while on holiday and the effect on your business is minor

You might just want to accede to the request. It could generate some goodwill.

You are within your rights (more or less) to refuse the request it is after all in your contracts and employee handbook that requests need to be made in advance. Before you refuse the request it would be an idea to find why the request is being made.

If the reason is simply that the weather has turned out better than your attitude will be different than if a calamity has occurred. In the later case the employee may just take the extra holiday anyway and you’ll have to consider your options, outlined at 3 or 4 below.

2. The employee makes a request while on holiday and the effect on your business is serious.

Your starting point might be a refusal. There has to be a balance between the needs of the business and the needs of the employee. If the employees need is just for more sun or because of someone they have met on holiday then you’d be wise to refuse it. Calamities are different, balance comes in. Fail to achieve a reasonable balance and an employee might claim constructive dismissal, landing you in a Tribunal.

3. The employee simply returns late

This is a disciplinary matter meriting investigation. They may have been ill, or simply claim to have been ill. The seriousness of the matter may depend on the consequences of the lateness, the individuals level of responsibility as assigned by the business and on their explanation; indeed also on whether you believe their explanation.

Unless they have been in the depths of the South American Amazon jungle there is no excuse for not letting you know. If you think they are making up a story, ask for evidence.

4. The employee ignores your refusal to extend the holiday

Another matter meriting disciplinary investigation. You do have to consider potential mitigating circumstances but this type of behaviour is more likely in an employee with short service. If their service is short you can keep it short, permanently! However, best to follow as procedure just to be sure nothing is there to come out of the woodwork later – such as a disability.

5. The employee fails to return at all!

The main advice here is do not just sack them! You can think of as many explanations as me, from work-shyness to missing in the outback. If you can investigate what has happened, often someone will know. On one occasion this revealed that the employee was in hospital in a diabetic coma (from which she recovered). Dismissal in those circumstances could have given rise to a problem. Sooner or later the employee is likely to contact you for their P45 unless as happened in another case of which I am aware the employee went to India was married off and never came back.

6. A note on disciplinary processes

If you enter in to a process where there is a balance to be struck between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee it may be judicious to involve Employer Solutions in the investigation and any disciplinary action.

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