Car manufacturer Daimler has taken action to prevent its workers from feeling compelled to do work during periods of annual leave, and also from returning to work after their holiday to a bulging inbox.
All emails sent to workers who are on holiday are automatically deleted when received. Senders are invited to email another nominated worker instead who is designated as cover. Daimler workers are not forced to work in this way - they can opt in to this system if they wish.
But what about those workers who feel they can’t let go, who carry their smart phone around with them whilst on holiday and can’t help but keep in touch with the office and respond to emails?
Annual leave operates as a health and safety measure. It was introduced via a European Directive to ensure that workers do not burn out – that they have time off during the year when they can rest, mentally and physically. As an added incentive to taking time off, workers get paid during their holidays. If workers continue to work when on holiday, they are not taking full advantage of their opportunity to rest and are therefore less likely to feel rejuvenated on their return.
If you suspect, or know for sure, that an employee is working whilst on annual leave, you need to find out why. There are many reasons for this kind of behaviour but it may be that you are responsible for some of them so information gathering is the first step.
Your employee may feel he has more work than he can cope with so he feels he has to use his holiday to clear the things he hasn’t managed to do so far. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee is misusing his time at work, or performing below par. It may well be that, because of other office moves e.g. restructures or resignations, that his workload has increased but hasn’t mentioned any problems he is having with it.
Is he concerned that there is not sufficient structure in place for someone else to pick up his work while he is off, leaving him with huge amounts to wade through when he returns? Or maybe his work is being looked after but the employee providing cover is not up to standard? This is likely to cause an employee concern because he will have to deal with the repercussions on his return.
Alternatively, if none of the above are the real concerns, but the employee just cannot let go, then you should remind them that they are not required to do work whilst they are on holiday and you do not expect them to do so. Remind them that the appropriate processes are in place to deal with his work whilst he is absent and he can rely on those.
Your responsibility goes as far as ensuring there are appropriate measures in place to allow the employee the opportunity to take annual leave.
If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772