Have you heard the one about the extended holiday? “Sorry boss, but my flight was delayed”

It’s holiday season and no doubt most of your hard working employees will be heading off for a well deserved break in the sun. They’ve lodged their holiday request, you’ve agreed it, their ‘out of office’ is on and they’ve waved farewell to their colleagues for a week or two.

Then there’s the one who was due back today, who left you a voicemail this morning – “Sorry boss but my flight was delayed. Not sure when I’ll get back”. You might have imagined it but you’re sure you could hear ‘The Macarena’ playing in the background…..

It might just be worth referring to your top 5 tips for managing unauthorised absence:

1) WRITE IT DOWN – if you do one thing, and one thing only, make a record of the holiday dates agreed with the employee before they wave farewell to their colleagues and make sure you and the employee sign the record. Then you have agreed dates against which you can question any unauthorised absence.

2) ASK FOR FURTHER DETAIL – if their flight’s been delayed or there’s some other excuse for them not making it back from holiday in time, you are able to ask when they intend to get back, what arrangements they are making to get back to work and if in doubt, ask for their flight details just so you can check they are being true to their word. If it’s found they aren’t and photos pop up on social media sites of them enjoying one last tequila in Linekar’s bar on the day they were due back at work, then potentially this can be treated as unauthorised absence and dealt with via your company disciplinary policy.

3) DEVELOP A POLICY – whilst at Turner HR we don’t advocate policy for policies sake, we know when it’s useful to have some guidelines in black and white. So develop a policy that outlines how, as an employer, you will handle different types of absence. Then if this case turns out to be one of unauthorised absence, there won’t be any surprises if it has to be dealt with formally.

4) CARRY OUT REGULAR RETURN TO WORK INTERVIEWS – in cases of any absence, try to get into the habit of making time to have a confidential 5 minutes with the returning employee. That way you can either ascertain whether the employee requires any further support returning from a period of ill health or personal difficulty, or, whether their absence was unauthorised. And we won’t bore you with the stats but there have been various studies which demonstrate that, by introducing this simple approach, cases of short term, intermittent absences, decrease.

5) MAKE A SENSIBLE JUDGEMENT CALL – ultimately line managers know their employees best. Don’t wheel HR out for the sake of it – if the line manager; knows the employee well, their track record with the business and whether this unexpected absence is a little out of character, often a sensible, informal word with the employee is adequate. We’re pragmatists and if issues can be resolved informally, via sensible 1:1 conversations, then all the better.

Happy holidays!

Turner HR Ltd is a professional HR and training consultancy, providing commercial, pragmatic and practical HR support to businesses. Website launching late summer. In the meantime, follow our blog, and @_TurnerHR on twitter. To contact us, call the office on 01823 240067 or email lucy@turnerhr.co.uk.