As with any other matters to do with holidays, the first place you have to start is your contract. Do you have any specific contractual terms stating whether or not the company can decide when an employee can take leave? What are the rules regarding how much notice you have to give to your employees? If you have any contractual terms on this matter then you must follow them.
In the absence of any set terms then you fall back to the default statutory position as set out in the Working Time Regulations. Under the statutory scheme employers can make employees take time off on set days providing they give the correct amount of notice which is twice the amount of time you want your employees to take off. In this case, the Olympics cover a 2½ week period so you would need to give your employees 5 weeks’ notice.
However, you should consider whether or not this is the best approach in these circumstances. While you can force your employees to take time off, this would result in using up a large chunk of their annual holiday entitlement which can be problematic. It can also have a disproportionate impact on employees with caring responsibilities, those with children and those who use their holidays for disability or religious reasons. Unless the traffic restrictions will prevent your employees from carrying out their duties, or mean that you cannot open your premises, why do you need to close down due to traffic restrictions?
Consider your alternatives. Can your employees work remotely? Do you need to close down completely or can you work with reduced numbers? Do you need to close for the whole of the Olympics or just certain days? Speak to your staff about the situation and see if you can find a solution that will make everyone happy. It may be that enough of your staff can work round the traffic restrictions that you can operate as normal.
The traffic restrictions are not something your employees have any control over so if you are in a position to be able to offer options then it will be better for morale. If your business can operate around the traffic restrictions, and enough staff can guarantee their attendance to ensure that you have the minimum necessary staffing levels, then consider giving the others a choice. They can attend work as normal or they can take the time as leave. If you wish you can give them the option of taking the time off as unpaid leave.
You also need to consider that you may have already approved annual leave requests from your employees that meant that they don’t have sufficient time left to take this time off as paid leave. If you make an employee cancel leave that you have already approved then you could be liable for any losses they incur as a result of that.
For any further information, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.