Partner Susan Thompson comments on Deloitte’s decision to allow employees to take flexible public holidays, following the introduction of similar policies by Grant Thornton and Herbert Smith Freehills.
Susan’s comments were published on 2 February 2022 in HR Grapevine and can be found here.
How could offering something like this encourage the diversity and inclusion agenda within the company?
“Office shutdowns (when holiday is compulsory) most commonly occur during the Christmas and Easter holiday period - both of these are traditional Christian holidays and it is understandable why employees of other faiths (or none) may prefer to use their annual leave for the holidays or festivals that are important to them.”
“However, both Easter and (especially) Christmas have moved beyond being purely Christian holidays and it is not apparent to us that there is widespread opposition to Christmas or Easter shutdowns among non-Christian employees.”
If employers want to follow in the footsteps of Deloitte, will they face any potential issues from a legal perspective?
“Employers following in the footsteps of Deloitte will not face legal issues if they offer genuine flexibility around holidays (as Deloitte claims to be doing).”
“Problems will arise if policies are changed to force employees to work on public holidays, they would normally expect to be able to take - many employees may have a contractual right to time off during public holidays (particularly around Christmas) and employers removing this right would risk claims. Cancelling Christmas is unlikely to be popular!”
Can employers force staff to take holidays on certain days?
“A lot of people are unaware that employers can force staff to take holiday on certain days by giving notice that is twice the length of the proposed holiday. For example, an employer can force an employee to take 5 days holiday if that employee is told at least 10 calendar days in advance.”
“This power is wide but should be exercised reasonably as all employment contracts have an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence - it would almost certainly be a breach of mutual trust and confidence to force an employee to take all their holiday at once for example.”