What businesses can learn from Ryanair's holiday calamity

Get your pad and pen at the ready

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017

5 min read

We all know that person who loses track of their annual leave and has to take a large chunk of time off before the end of the holiday year. It’s either use it or lose it. On the face of it this may look like poor planning on behalf of the employee, and this may well be the case, but what about the role of the employer? Does any of the blame lie with them and should managers be taking annual leave more seriously?

After all, annual leave affects businesses far more than individual employees. All the employee has to worry about is when to take time off and what to do on their holiday. For businesses, the implications are much wider. Will we need cover for any employee on holiday? Is the team able to take up the slack? How will annual leave affect our customers? Will we face a productivity issue if we have a few staff off?

In most situations the risk of a few staff being off on holiday is minimal and as a result, employers can easily become complacent when it comes to managing annual leave.

But what happens when things escalate, when it's more than just one or two members of staff that need to take holiday. When a lack of leave management causes a major problem. That’s what’s happened at Ryanair.

The Ryanair holiday mess up

On 17 September 2017 Ryanair admitted that it had ‘messed up pilot holidays’and would have to cancel 40 to 50 flights every day until 31 October as they didn’t have enough pilots to cover the flight rotas. The reason given at the time was due to a combination of changing the holiday leave year, due to EU regulations and the regulations around Flight Time Limitations (FTLs). It has since been suggested that a wave of pilots leaving the company over the last year could also have played a major factor.

Whatever the reasons, the repercussions of this 'leave error' has led to Ryanair having to offer compensation for hotels and other expenses, as well as alternative flights with other airlines. But it's not all about the money, Ryanair's brand image has been damaged and what this holds for future sales is yet to be seen.

Ryanair may be on the extreme scale in terms of the repercussions, and many businesses may never face such a combination of events that have led to this outcome. However, the lessons are clear. Getting staff holidays and rotas wrong can negatively affect your business, so you need to manage them effectively.

So, how can you avoid a holiday situation like Ryanair? We give you some simple ways to avoid the potential negative impacts of managing annual leave and rotas.

Monitor and record holidays accurately

The first step to avoiding issues is to monitor and recorded leave accurately.

For most small companies a holiday spreadsheet seems to do fit the bill. However, these can be problematic. A formula can seem correct at first but quickly provide incorrect information or break altogether, version control can quickly get out of control and there’s always the annoyance of ‘read-only’ when someone else is in the document when you want to make a change.

Paper-based recording is no better and can be equally problematic. The only way to ensure accuracy is to employ a software solution such as BrightHR. With software, holidays are recorded automatically and employers have one clear view of how much holiday entitlement employees have, whether they are full-time, part-time or even a casual worker.

Encourage staff to book leave in good time

When you keep accurate records you can easily keep on top of any employee annual leave entitlements and should be aware if any employee has a sizeable chunk still to take before the end of the holiday year. If this is the case then you need to alert staff to this fact and encourage them to book leave in good time.

By doing this you avoid the potential last-minute rush of employees requesting leave, you avoid the potentially awkward conversation of having to reject holiday requests and you can plan ahead more effectively.

Plan ahead

“What do I do if a number of my staff have to take time off?”

Whether it’s annual leave or unplanned sickness absence it’s important that businesses consider the worst case scenarios when thinking about staff leave. By looking at these scenarios you can start to put plans in place to negate any impact and you can be confident that if the worst does happen you’ll know exactly what to do, rather than panic and make the wrong decisions.

Get your policy in place

Your annual leave policy should outline the procedures in terms of requesting leave and state the notice times you expect. It should also outline your procedures in terms of carrying forward any holiday, the maximum account that can be carried across and the deadlines by which these carried forward days must be used.

Allowing employees to carry forward holidays could be extremely helpful when it comes to the potential problem of staff having to take unused time off at the end of the holiday year.

If staff have more holidays than can be carried over your policy can also outline any special circumstance exceptions in which employees may receive payment in lieu of unused annual leave.

Worried about the implications of getting annual leave and rotas wrong? See how BrightHR’s people management software can take the hassle out of it by requesting your free demo today.

Already a BrightHR customer? Our customer support team are here to help on 0800 783 2806

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