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Airport chaos: what options do employers have if holiday plans go awry?

Whether it’s the long queues at check-in, security and passport control or the late arrival of luggage, the disruption faced at UK airports seems to have been going on for months.

Although we are approaching the end of the school holidays, the problems associated with travelling abroad are showing no sign of taking a break themselves with hundreds of thousands of people still be looking to get away in the coming months.

Many operators are continuing to cancel flights and this is highlighting a number of issues that businesses must be aware of, and be ready to act on.

One thing that has become quite common within the workplace as a result of significant flight cancellations is last-minute requests for changing holiday leave dates.

This appears to creating a headache for many businesses. From a legal standpoint, businesses don’t have to agree to the request unless there’s a contractual clause requiring them to do so (which would be very unusual).The Working Time Regulations don’t address this type of scenario either so it’s entirely up to you to decide how to respond. My recommendation is to look for a solution and see if the request can be accommodated. However, if you go down that route, you’ll need to be consistent and look for a solution for all members of staff in the same situation.

There is also the issue caused by employees being stranded abroad due to cancelled flights.

Here employees have a number of options open to them including taking an extra holiday to cover the extra time abroad. Those that have access to the work systems might be able to work from abroad but care is required to ensure no rules are breached, for example in terms of tax or social security. Another option is to negotiate a compromise such as unpaid leave, or asking them to make up the time later in order to not lose any pay.

To manage expectations, we recommend that you let your staff know, in advance, how you will approach requests to reschedule pre-booked holidays because of cancellations and what options they have if they become stranded abroad.

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British Airways is to cut 10,300 more short-haul flights due to feature in its schedule between August and the end of October.

This latest announcement means nearly 30,000 flights will have been removed from BA's schedule between April and October this year.

The cancellations affect London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports.

The industry has struggled with staff shortages as demand for air travel has rebounded after Covid restrictions.”