Budget airline Ryanair has announced that it’s having to cancel hundreds of flights to accommodate annual leave for its pilots.
Marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “We have messed up in the planning of pilot holidays and we’re working hard to fix that.” The BBC reports that the airline is changing its holiday year which runs from April to May, to run from January to December instead, meaning that the airline now has to allocate annual leave to pilots in September and October.
Liam Grime, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says: “The change in holiday year going from April-March to January-December gives the pilots a nine month window from 1st April to the 31st December in which to get their annual leave entitlement booked and used. We do not know if the mix-up here was as a result of pilots not being aware of the change or if there was some delay in approving/scheduling the holiday requests. Whatever the reason, there is a backlog of leave that needs to be taken. No matter what size business you run, there will always be a problem if too many employees need to take leave at the same time and it takes careful planning throughout the year to ensure that there is no end of year crunch with employees needing to use or lose their annual leave.
“Ryanair, and all companies, should have a thorough holiday booking procedure so that whoever is managing it is able to deal with holiday requests, identify where there may be too many people requesting time off at the same time and follow a strict first come-first serve policy when accepting or rejecting holiday requests. Most employers tend to allow no more than two, maybe three, employees to take time off at any one time and it is perfectly acceptable to have this kind of restriction. It is also within the power of employers to dictate when employees are permitted to take their annual leave to ensure that sufficient cover is available for the amount of work that they have on.
“In this case, had sufficient and proper planning taken place then Ryanair would have been able to assess the potential annual leave crunch and come up with some kind of rota for who is on holiday and when, in order to ensure that pilots are still able to use their annual leave entitlement in the allocated time without having to cancel flights. If it was determined ahead of time that their business demands and flight schedule would not permit all of the annual leave to be taken within this timescale then some pilots could be allowed to carry over any outstanding entitlement to the next holiday year. This would have avoided the current situation they find themselves in of having to let pilots take their annual leave over a two month period, and thus prevented the cancellation of so many flights and the public relations fallout that has come from this.
“All businesses should have plans in place to ensure that employees are able to take the full leave that they are entitled to without it having an adverse effect on the business. If there are situations where leave needs to be carried over, then companies should let employees know as soon as possible in order to avoid ill will.”