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Croner – In the Know

Flight cancellations cause disruption to workplaces With cancelled flights and delays at airports preventing employees from arriving back in the UK in time for their scheduled return to work after their holidays, we look at the implications for employers.

 • Whilst it is the employee’s responsibility to contact their employer to explain their absence if they are going to be delayed returning from holiday, employers should take into account the individual circumstances and be reasonable in terms of expecting timely contact. Employees who don’t get in touch to explain their absence can be treated as absent without leave (AWOL).

 • The delay should only be a matter of a day or two but employers will still need to consider how to cover the absence. Options include agreeing more annual leave, enforcing annual leave if there is enough time to give notice (double the length of the leave you want the employee to take), taking any banked time off in lieu or a combination of these. If no other arrangement can be made, the employee will need to take unpaid leave (unless there is some rare provision in the contract providing for payment).

 • For employers who are considering dismissing for the absence, this is not likely to be gross misconduct so dismissal for this sole reason if the employee has at least 2 years’ service is not likely to be a reasonable response. The employee is not in control of the delays but is in control of getting in touch when they should and also getting back in work as soon as possible after they get back.

 • Dismissal may be less risk if the employee is short service (under 2 years’ service), but this will depend on the circumstances and employers should make sure there is no connection to a protected characteristic or any automatic unfair reasons for dismissal.