Hello and welcome to our fourth Employment Law Snippet article. This week, we’ll be looking at honeymoons and how they affect employees and employers alike.
So, honeymoons. A slightly wonderful and unique concept within employment law and a (usually) once-in-a-lifetime experience for the couple. As with everything, everyone’s mileage will vary – some will go to a 5-star island hideaway and spend 3 weeks by the beach whilst others, who won’t be named, may road-trip across Canada gaining an unstable addiction to maple syrup, falling in love with the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team and failing, despite maximum efforts, to see any of the rather elusive native moose (ahem!)
So, why are honeymoons a rather curious beast within employment law?
1 – Length of break
For the majority of employees, a honeymoon tends to be one of the few occasions in which an employer will permit annual leave for more than 2 consecutive weeks. This is because most employers limit annual leave to a maximum period of 2 weeks to avoid disruption and/or staff using too much annual leave in one go.
Naturally, this is because of the once-in-a-lifetime nature of a honeymoon, which traditionally means that the trip is likely to be lengthier, more exuberant and/or more expensive (usually all three) than a ‘normal’ holiday.
The 2-week limit on holidays sometimes causes grumbles with employees, so employers usually only grant lengthier annual leave periods in ‘exceptional’ situations, which a wedding and honeymoon are!
2 – Lack of contact
Employers are increasingly expecting staff to touch base and/or log in during annual leave periods, particularly where the annual leave is for a week or more. This usually involves employees checking work emails remotely and, if urgent, forwarding them to a colleague to action in their absence.
However, employees tend to be more loath to doing so whilst on honeymoon for the obvious reasons that, firstly, it is their first chance to fully hang out and adventure with their new spouse and, secondly, most people want to close their mind to the trip only (and not work!) because the trip is more of an ‘experience’ than a holiday. Also, no-one wants to be that couple that sit at dinner staring at mobile phones (particularly work emails!)
Whilst it sounds obvious, employers should be mindful that staff aren’t necessarily going to be as proactive away from the workplace whilst on honeymoon, even though that trip may be a longer absence from the workplace than usual. In fact, an employer trying to criticise lack of contact in this situation would be putting the working relationship at risk, particularly in a world where professionals find it ever easier to find alternative roles via LinkedIn, online recruiters and/or online job sites.
3 – Holiday blues
Forgive the cliché phrase but holiday blues are real! Again, using a completely hypothetical example (ahem!), I know of a man returning from a trip to Canada who, alongside having to adjust to needing a concentration span of more than 1 hour (as well as a gap between meals of more than 1 hour), had to seek out the one independent coffee shop in Liverpool that put maple syrup in lattes (sadly now closed (hypothetically, of course)) to adjust to holiday blues…
Whilst staff can sometimes take time to settle in and catch up when returning from holiday, it may be a slightly larger adjustment after a honeymoon. Employers also shouldn’t be surprised if the employee (who, for example, normally works beyond normal working hours) leaves on-time for a while following the honeymoon as, naturally, it can be an exciting, fresh period, particularly where the couple have recently moved in together.
4 – Holiday notes
Are there any easy ways to mitigate a lengthy honeymoon? Well, a simple one is to have the employee concerned (industry dependent, of course) draw up a ‘holiday list’ of ongoing matters, so that a colleague can keep an eye on them. This list will include current progress on work matters and any likely events whilst they are away, alongside a brief suggestion of what to do within predicted situations. It is a small thing which, if done right, can reduce the stress levels of the person covering the honeymooner (note: a word I’ve just made up!)
Handled well, honeymoon annual leave can be a simple process but, without due tact, battle lines can emerge when the employer stands as an obstacle to the dream honeymoon (and, indeed, I’ve known staff threaten to resign in protest where the employers attempts to waylay dream honeymoon plans). After all, to (rather unusually) quote Leo Tolstoy: “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.“
My thanks for reading our fourth Employment Law Snippet article. Our intention is to publish these weekly and continue to discuss varied, entertaining topics.