HR urged to avoid following in Ryanair’s footsteps after annual leave ‘mess up’

22 Sep 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Scheduling problems at airline led to cancelled flights and potential delays in in employees taking holiday

HR practitioners have been advised to review their holiday scheduling systems after Ryanair revealed that mistakes in its planning processes would lead to cancelled flights and potentially postponed leave for some staff.

Earlier this month, Ryanair said it would be cancelling up to 50 flights a day for the next six weeks, after it “messed up” the planning of pilots’ holidays.

Speaking at the airline company’s annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday, chief executive Michael O’Leary added that the company might make some pilots delay their holiday. According to the BBC, this means those pilots who have a four-week block of holiday coming up in the next few months will be asked to postpone one week of that until January. O’Leary also described the issues the organisation was facing as a “significant management failing”, revealing that the flight cancellations had cost Ryanair €25m.

Ashleigh Pinto, HR consultant at RSM HR Consulting, urged HR professionals to have a “[holiday] policy and stick to it, calculate holiday correctly, be unafraid to say no to holiday requests, plan ahead with ‘check points’ throughout the year to ensure employees use all their entitlement, regulate their holiday, avoid causing shortages in busy periods, and have a clear communication strategy well in advance to mitigate future risks when making any changes”.

Chris McCullough, chief executive and co-founder of software company Rotageek, advised businesses to make sure their annual leave scheduling software had the capability to identify issues such as increasing leave liability.

Adrian Lewis, director of Activ Absence, said: “With modern cloud technology today available cost-effectively, there is no way that any company should have problems managing annual leave. Companies that use online holiday planning software can encourage staff to request their holidays year round, and these details can be accessed and seen by everyone. For any business to run smoothly, as this situation with Ryanair shows, holiday planning is absolutely critical.”

It has been reported that some Ryanair staff have been offered cash bonuses and pay rises in return for being flexible with their time off to accommodate the scheduling issues, but this has been met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception, including demands for new contracts and better working conditions.

McCullough said that by rejecting the one-off payment and pay increases, pilots have shown “there’s no quick fix to solve this deep-rooted issue”. He said: “This problem isn’t unique to Ryanair, and the airline industry needs to work together to tackle it. That starts with better scheduling and a change in how management work with staff.”

Richard Nicolle, employment law partner at Stewarts, added: “It seems increasingly possible that the outcome could be pilots raising grievances, coordinating unofficial industrial action or even going for the nuclear option and resigning and claiming constructive dismissal.”

Robin Kiely, head of communications for Ryanair, said: "Similar to all employers, we can require that employees swap one (or two) weeks of their four-week block holiday, which will be allocated to them later in the year. This is a standard part of our pilots’ agreed working arrangements."

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