Moose sign Full disclaimer: I’m off on honeymoon soon. I plan to spend 3 weeks driving around Canada and, in my head at least, spotting many moose and bears and eating my body weight in maple syrup and pancakes! But, fear not Canter Levin & Berg, this article isn’t published as a hint to you but, rather, because I get a lot of questions from employees and employers alike about ‘honeymoon etiquette’!

Now, honeymoons are a curious beast. Firstly, because it tends to be one of the few occasions where an employee is allowed more than two consecutive weeks of annual leave and, secondly, because it remains a symbolic event in which a newly married couple are seen to go away and focus on each other which, naturally, doesn’t really interlink with the concept of working.

Due to the subject matter, this blog is going to have to be a bit vague and generalised, simply because different sectors and types of job will be affected by lengthy employee annual leave to different degrees. So, this blog isn’t going to mention hypothetical clauses within Employment Contracts which can affect possible management instructions and working hours; instead, it’s simply going to look at some common stereotypes about employees away on honeymoon. Let’s have a glance at them below:

(1) Employer wanting employee to keep on top of emails

In the majority of cases, it is hard to truly ‘finish’ a worklist before jetting off to (normally) sunnier climes! Therefore, emails will inevitably tumble in whilst away on honeymoon.

Depending on the nature of the job, some employees expect to be able to leave their work phone (or work log-in details) at home and enjoy their trip. Unfortunately, in some jobs, this would put their current job list and/or client list at risk.

What to do in that situation? Well, firstly, both parties should try to ensure that a colleague (or, in case of extreme need, a temporary replacement) is set up to handle correspondence whilst the employee is away. There should also be an agreement as to what happens if that individual doesn’t know what to do with incoming work; normally this would be that the individual passes it to someone else or forwards it by email to the employee for instructions.

(2) Employer wanting employee to relax and stop checking emails

Yes, this is common as well! Even in busy, proactive professions, I’ve known managers who have had to email employees on honeymoon and tell them to stop checking their emails!

Now, in an ideal world, it would be nice to not check work emails at all whilst away for an extended break. However, in the majority of jobs, an occasional glance may be needed by the employee just to answer any questions from colleagues – i.e. questions about the client and/or particular piece of work that only the employee will know the answer to.

Whilst an employer will appreciate the employee being proactive whilst away, at a certain stage, they are likely to email the employee and tell them to enjoy their time off and only check their inbox periodically.

(3) Bad practice or complaints come to light when handling the employee’s workload

This is an awkward one and, thankfully, not too common. However, sometimes when an employee’s work is covered by someone else, complaints and/or poor working practice may come to management’s attention (often in completely good faith). I’ve known HR Managers contact me in this situation and their usual query is whether they should immediately contact the employee for their comment.

The answer? No! Unless it is a genuine emergency, the matter should be left until their formal return to work and, in the meantime, proactive action should be taken to solve the issue without the employee’s help. This is a similar principle to that of having to hold a disciplinary meeting in person and not being able to force a seriously ill employee to respond to formal allegations over the telephone.

So there we go. The norm is simply that employees can be asked to keep a passing glance on their inbox for any urgent/alarming emails but, otherwise, they can be left to enjoy their trip (whether moose-related or not!) If anything, I don’t expect their partner will be too happy to have their maple-syrup fuelled pancake binge interrupted by their new spouse being glued to their mobile phone screen! I’ll name no names…

My final word to employers? Sympathise with an employee’s ‘holiday blues‘ on their return from honeymoon – okay, Canter Levin & Berg, that one was a slight hint!