Roy Morgan recently released data that shows the significant level of annual leave Australians have banked due to the Covid-19. The inability to travel freely means many are keeping a higher stash of leave than ever before. This information was looked at by The Age and our very own Deborah Peppard was quoted in the article. But in true HR Staff n’ Stuff style, we have more to say on the subject as we believe access to, and the use of annual leave is something business owners should be looking at now in preparation for states and international borders reopening.
We all know that international travel is off the cards for most of us at the moment. But this may change when significant numbers of us are vaccinated, lockdowns ease and people feel more confident about the safety of leaving our shores as well as having the security to return easily. Inter and intra state travel is currently the main option for holidays when COVID-19 outbreaks stay at home orders and border closures aren’t in play. We also know that it is important for employees to utilise their annual leave as it is vital in terms of work life balance, physical and mental health, reducing stress and ensuring our teams are not burnt out as they have not had significant downtime in which to recharge.
According to Roy Morgan, over 8 million Australians in paid employment have a total of 174.9 million days of annual leave up their sleeve. That is up a whopping 23.7 million days from 151.2 million days prior to the pandemic hitting our shores. 174.9 million days – that’s a lot of annual leave that employers are going to need to manage! So let’s look at how they might work….
Annual leave without taking time off?
Cashing out annual leave has been an appealing option to those who have significant amounts of annual leave and nowhere to go due to restrictions but there are rules that must be observed:
Freedom – the borders open. Now what?
If you wait until travel restrictions lift, (be they state or international options) to provide information to your team on how annual leave request will be managed, you are likely to create yourself and your employees more stress and grief than necessary. We recommend getting out on the front foot and having your processes for requests determined now which allows you to communicate early with your team. Managing expectations from the outset will minimise confusion and disappointment.
As always, annual leave approvals will need to consider the needs of the business as well as the employees need and right to annual leave but for some businesses, a first come, first served or longevity in the business won’t work. HR Staff n’ Stuff recommends a person-centred approach to approvals where you really consider the individual circumstances when prioritising leave requests.
For example, a beach trip to Bali with a group of friends is important and the health benefits of such a relaxing and fun trip are not to be minimised. However, if you have employees with family overseas or interstate that they have not seen for a considerable period due to the pandemic, such a request may take precedence. Let’s be clear, no one request for annual leave is more important than another, but consideration must be given to the circumstances of each request.
Communication, communication, communication
Did we mention that communication is the key? It is fair to say that HR Staff n’ stuff are big fans of clear communication once a policy has been determined simply because it allows everyone to know and understand the company position which in turn helps remove doubt and confusion.
Okay, we all know that we need to communicate but what should we be putting out to our teams in advance of state and international borders opening up? You need to show that a fair and balanced approach will be taken that will look to address the needs of individuals while also factoring in the needs of the business. Points to consider are different for each business but may include:
Leading a team through and out the other side of a pandemic comes with a new set of considerations that most of us have never before had to factor into our business decisions. If you need help changing or adjusting your annual leave policies to cover off the changes that COVID-19 demands, contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team and we’ll help you sort through your challenges.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!