What To Do When An Employee Returns Late From Holiday

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Most employees will know what you expect when they take time off work for a holiday. I am sure they will all know how to book holiday but do they know what is expected of them if for any reason they are unable to return at the expected time? Returning late from holiday is an unauthorised absence which could result in disciplinary action so it is important that employees are aware of this. Make it quite clear in your employee handbook what action they should take in the event that they are unable to return at the allotted time. There are several reasons why an employee may be unable to return to work on time, many of which may be completely outside of their control such as a delayed flight, sickness or injury. Whatever, the reason, it is reasonable to expect the employee to contact you to keep you informed of the situation. Many companies have a policy when reporting sickness absence that this must be done in person by telephone and email and text messages are unacceptable. You may want to adopt such a policy in this situation. If the employee fails to return to work and fails to contact you, then you should attempt to make contact with them on their home and mobile numbers. Make notes of each attempt to contact the employee. The ringing, engaged or unobtainable tone will indicate whether or not they are still abroad. You can also send them an email. Never jump to conclusions about the reason for the absence – they, or a member of their party, may have had an accident or be seriously ill so your tone should initially be supportive and focused on their wellbeing rather than threatening disciplinary action. Try contacting their emergency contacts as they may know what is happening. If you are still unable to find out what is happening, write to the employee explaining that their absence is unauthorised and set a deadline for them to make contact with you, failing which a disciplinary hearing will be arranged. Once the employee returns, carry out an investigation when the employee can explain what happened. Always gather facts and assess the situation before deciding whether or not disciplinary action should be taken. If the reason for the delayed return was, for example, a problem with the aircraft and the employee notified you of this, you may decide that it was completely outside of their control and that no disciplinary action will be taken. However, if they failed to contact you to tell you of this, then you may consider this to have been unreasonable behaviour which warrants further action. If the reason was due to sickness or injury, then this should be handled in the same way as if they had been at home, requesting medical certificates, etc as appropriate. If a family member is ill, then the individual circumstances should be investigated. Don’t forget that an employee is entitled to time off to care for dependents in an emergency. If, for example, the employee’s child became ill with mumps, they would be banned from flying and so the employee would obviously need to stay with the child until they were well enough to return and the flight restrictions had been lifted. You would not normally be obliged to pay the employee for the additional time taken unless they provide evidence of sickness or injury in which case you would then pay them in accordance with your sickness and absence policy. You may allow them to take additional holiday from their remaining entitlement to cover the extended period of absence.

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