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Holidays and what you should learn from Ryanair


Within the Working Time Regulations 1998, all employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday. Not being organised or planning in advance for annual leave could land an employer in hot water - just ask Ryanair. Ryanair have received widely publicised criticism for not managing employees’ holidays correctly. The impact and final cost of this has not been published by Ryanair, but it has been estimated to have cost over £20million.

The aim of this article is to stop small businesses from falling into the same trap and costing the employer hard earned cash.

Know your employees' contractual terms

Knowing exactly how many holidays each employee is entitled to will help a business with its holiday management. Being aware of any contractual obligations that an employer has committed to regarding holidays will also help. Some contracts guarantee that an employee will have 2 consecutive weeks off per year, or that an employee can give as little as 48 hours notice to take holidays.

Don’t assume that the employee will only have the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks.

Having a clear holiday policy

Similar to the above point, if the contract is silent on holiday particulars, then having a good policy in place will help with holiday management.

A good holiday policy will provide details on:

  • How much holiday can be taken at one time
  • How much notice must be given to take holiday
  • How many people can be off at any one time
  • When the holiday year runs from and until
  • Whether or not unused holidays can be carried over into the next holiday year

Holiday is still considered to be a ‘use it or lose it’ benefit, but if this point is emphasised in a policy it makes it much easier for businesses to enforce.

Keeping an effective log of holidays

Who has taken what and when? Being organised and monitoring how much holiday an employee has taken and when will help. Regularly reviewing who has taken what holidays and proactively contacting employees who have a ‘build up’ of holidays to ensure they book them in should stop an end of year rush.

Remember under the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employer can dictate that an employee takes holiday as long as double the amount of notice is given in relation to the amount of holiday the employee will be expected to take; i.e. if an employer wants an employee to take a 1 week holiday, 2 weeks’ notice should be given.

Don’t be afraid to say no!

An employee has the right to request holidays, but does not have the right to have holidays granted. An employer can, within reason, say no to an employee’s holiday request.  If the holiday request does not fall within the holiday policy, or will have a negative impact on the business, an employer does not have to grant it.

Employees should ensure that holidays have been accepted before booking their trips away.


Being organised, knowing your employees’ terms and conditions, having a good, clear policy and sticking to it are all essential to effective holiday management.

As with any policy, being fair and consistent will help everyone with forward planning.

If you need help writing a holiday policy contact one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156.

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The office Christmas party and how to avoid the hangover from hell


Christmas is fast approaching and with it, the office Christmas party.

It is widely acknowledged that an office Christmas party has advantages. They are often morale boosting and provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate success, network and mingle with co-workers you don’t get to see on a day to day basis.

However, whenever employees let off steam there are likely to be fallouts.

This article looks at how you can protect yourself from legal disputes arising, and if they do occur, help manage a potential hangover from hell.


While you would be seen as the best boss in the world at the start, once people have had their limit and then some, the chances of you having to stop a fight, dry tears or send someone home early in a taxi cradling a bin is likely to be increased substantially.

A set amount of drinks vouchers is one way to ensure that you are still happy for people to enjoy themselves, but without inviting risk.


Allegations regarding false pay rise promises and female colleagues being denied a promotion due to rebuffing a senior staff member’s unwanted advances are common tribunal trends after the office Christmas party. If a company has clear guidelines of how promotions are given, use a fair recruitment process and implement clear pay structures this will help minimise the risk of such claims.


Having a clear grievance process that an employee can follow should they feel they have been a victim of excess merriment will help you deal with the aftermath.


Training managers to deal with grievances appropriately can help resolve matters quickly and hopefully stop conflicts escalating to a legal dispute. Many grievances can often be settled informally if quick action is taken. Training managers to find compromises between disgruntled staff, or giving managers the confidence to tackle poor conduct can save small businesses money in the long run.


Given recent events widely reported in the news regarding the Weinstein allegations, more emphasis is being placed on the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from unwanted sexual harassment.

Having a Sexual Harassment Policy will emphasise how seriously you take any such matters, detailing the consequences should an employee be guilty of such action while representing the company.


Which leads on to reminding employees before the party that they are still on the clock and anyone acting in an inappropriate way will be dealt with as though they are still in the office.


Having an annual Christmas party can help employees feel valued and boost morale. Many employers wrongly shy away from the risk of having a Christmas party and miss out on the chance to energise staff.

Being prepared, controlling the merriment and having strong policies in place will help protect employers from legal action.

For more ideas on managing the Christmas party from the business community, check out the latest Community Chest.

If you need any support on a grievance or issue regarding the upcoming Christmas party contact Opsium.

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Top five questions your employees are too scared to ask


According to a recent study from CV-library, the UK’s leading independent job board, one in four employees (22.5%) admitted there are certain questions they are afraid to ask their employer, with that number rising to 31.3% amongst millennials.

A survey conducted with 1,000 UK professionals found that despite their initial fear and hesitation, just under half (49.4) would feel less awkward approaching their boss once they got to know them more.

The top five

The questions employees feared bringing up with their employer most were:

  1. Can I have a pay rise? 63.6%
  2. Can I have a promotion? 34.6%
  3. Can I work more flexible hours? 32.7%
  4. Can you help me with a task? 27.6%
  5. Can I take some time off? 26.4%

Speaking about the results, Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library said:

“There’s a fine line between being too passive, and too aggressive when it comes to your employees asking about pay rises or promotions. It’s important that you create a culture where they feel comfortable enough to ask you anything, it’s then up to you whether or not you grant their request.

If your employee rightly deserves that promotion or whatever it is they’re asking for, hopefully you’ll have already noticed and can reward them for their efforts. Communication is key in the workplace, and providing they approach you in a professional manner with a reasonable request, there is no reason why your staff should feel nervous about asking a question.”

Comfort levels

As with most situations, the longer we’ve known a person the more confident we feel about speaking to them. But how long should that take on average? According to the survey, 30.3% of workers believe it would take a month or so for them to feel comfortable, while 23.4% felt that a week would be sufficient.

Surprisingly 8.5% said they would never feel comfortable talking to their boss.

Biggins concludes:

“It’s worrying to learn that nearly one in 10 said they’ll never feel comfortable with their boss, especially if this stops them from asking important questions. It may always be nerve wracking asking for help, flexible working or for whatever it is they need, so as an employer it’s important that you create a friendly culture where your workforce feel that they can approach you if necessary. In the end we’re all human and your employees just want to do what’s best for their career. As a leader you should support and nurture this.”

How can you become more approachable?

Any good leader will champion communication within their ranks. Failure to communicate well with your team opens the door for potential issues down the line. While it’s easy for people to advise creating a friendly atmosphere how do you go about implementing such a thing?

The best way is to be visible. The harder it is for your employees to see you, the less chance they are going to have to engage with you in any meaningful way. Simply walking through the workplace and asking people how they are getting on is a great chance for you to build a rapport with your employees. You’d be surprised how loyal people become when they feel a part of the team.

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Why you cannot monitor personal communication...


Most workplaces are heavily reliant on IT and digital systems which improve the speed and versatility of communications for businesses. Whilst doing so it also provides workers with more opportunities for personal, non-work related, communication which employers often want to keep to a minimum.

The question of whether it is reasonable for an employer to monitor communication systems in the workplace is a constant tug of war between the employer’s legitimate right to protect their business data and prevent abuse of the systems, and the employee’s human rights;  in particular Article 8 ‘Right to respect for private life and correspondence’.

In the particular judgement of Barbulescu v Romania the issue concerned an employee who had been using instant messaging on his work PC, for private communication, despite being aware that it was against the workplace rules and resulted in his dismissal from employment. In January 2016 the European Court of Human Rights judged that the monitoring of content in personal communication in the workplace was not a breach of human rights subject to applying the practice proportionately and within reason.

In a somewhat surprising turnaround the Grand Chamber of the ECHR has reversed the decision on appeal. The facts of the case are that whilst Barbulescu knew that use of the IT systems were forbidden for private use, he had not been notified that the content of the messaging service would be monitored. In the absence of him being able to mark the communication as private he had a right to believe that the correspondence would remain private. The monitoring of the communication was therefore a breach of his right to respect for a family life and correspondence. Additionally the Court noted that the employer had failed to take adequate precautionary measures to prevent there being a substantial interference with his right as many colleagues had seen the correspondence and open conversations about it followed. The employer ought to have limited access to the content to those who needed to know for the purposes of disciplinary proceedings.

Whilst this case deals with a messaging system the principle equally applies to personal emails, text messages, phones calls and potentially the use of certain websites. In order for employers to monitor and review the content of any communication it is not adequate to simply outlaw personal use, it follows that employers must have taken adequate steps to inform employees that there would be invasive monitoring in place and further that such monitoring is applied fairly.

Opsium’s advice is to check and re-draft your employee handbooks where necessary, make sure your data protection policies are up to date and crucially that there has been sound training provided to all staff who have any control mechanism to monitor the activities of other staff members to ensure that monitoring is controlled, proportionate, reasonable and kept as confidential as possible.

Posted by: Rachel Harkin
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Community Chest: Turning an angry client into a loyal one

In this edition of Community Chest, we look to the business community to answer how to effectively handle a customer complaint and potentially turn it into a positive.

A business can live or die on its reputation. That’s why so many spend so much time and money training their staff to provide a first-class service to the customer at every stage of their journey. But people are human, and occasionally service can fall short of what is expected. That’s why we scoured the business.com community to find out the best techniques to turning an angry customer into a loyal one.

Don’t attempt to change their mind

Don’t approach a situation with the mind set of changing theirs. Instead, aim to understand what their frustration is. Once you do, you’ll be in a better place to remedy the situation.

Listen and learn

See each complaint as an opportunity to practice listening. In some instances, a customer will just want to vent their initial frustration and come away feeling that they have been listened to, so take the cotton wool out of your ears and stuff it in your mouth!

While it is difficult to sit there while someone shouts at you the worst thing you can do is match tone. Instead, keep your tone low and steady and let them speak, even if what you’re hearing isn’t the full story, the worst thing you can do is interrupt.

Repeat after me

At the end of the conversation, repeat back some of the customers’ concerns and frustrations, this highlights to them that you have been listening. Also give them clear instructions on what you are going to do to help them and a time frame in which you will get back to them.

Do what you say you will

Even if you fail to achieve what you set out to within the time frame, contact the customer when you say you will. Be honest about what you have been able to get done, and set a new time frame if needed. A customer will appreciate the call even if a solution hasn’t been reached rather than a broken promise.

Put yourself in their shoes

We’re all customers, therefore when we deal with a complaint it should be easy to empathise with the customer. Often, an initial response filled with empathy can stem any further animosity.

Admit when you’re wrong

In this day and age of claims and legal action, the fear of admitting liability can be all too real for most. But the truth is that acknowledging where you have failed and admitting you are wrong can go a big way to solving most issues. Elton John put it best, when he said: ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’.

If there’s a problem, fix it

Do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Even if the solution comes at a cost to the business, it is far less expensive than having an unhappy customer, and could even turn the complainant into a fan. People will be more likely to show loyalty to a business that seemingly bent over backwards to fix a problem. 

You can’t win them all

If you do all the above and still have an irate customer, remember that you can’t win them all. Also, don’t allow a customer to overstep the mark with rude, offensive or derogatory language to your staff. Frustrations are one thing, but bullying and harassment of your staff should never be tolerated.

If you have a question you’d like answered by the business community, or you have advice and guidance you think will be relevant on one of our current topics email info@opsium.co.uk or visit our FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter pages and use hashtag #OpsiumCommunityChest

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