You will all have heard about the cancellation of Ryanair flights. Around 50-60 flights will be cancelled a day for the next six weeks as the Company deals with a backlog of pilot holidays. Despite the speculation surrounding how Ryanair found themselves in this situation, there are certain things that we do know and there are perhaps lessons for employers to draw.
The Company says that it “messed up the planning of pilot holidays” but reasons may go beyond poor holiday planning and suggest a serious staff shortage. It has been confirmed by rival airline Norwegian that it has taken 140 pilots from Ryanair already this year. Ryanair deny that staff shortages are the root cause of the issue and point to the change in the holiday year and the briefings they were getting from crew managers who are responsible for the rosters. In response to the loss of pilots they are offering new starts a €10,000 bonus on joining.
The Irish Aviation Authority demanded that by the end of 2017 Ryanair change their holiday year form April - March to January - December as this would keep them in line with the European regulator.
How can you prevent issues like this taking place in your business?
The most important thing to ensure is that you have clear annual leave policy and procedure that is clearly communicated to your employees.
Workers must take a minimum of 5.6 weeks (28 days’ holidays for full time workers) per year as stated by the Working Time Regulations. If it us up to individual managers to manage the holidays of their team they should be aware of who has days left to take and if possible, schedule holidays where the business has a lull in demand. It would also be possible, if you have a problem with staff taking their holidays to introduce fixed holidays where employees have no choice but to take time off when you decide or introduce ‘forced distribution’ where you demand that certain proportion of holidays is taken by a certain point in the year. It is important to note that as long as employees are taking their minimum 5.6 weeks annual leave, the employer can decide when and how they take it.
The focus on employee engagement over the last few years should have put good people management practices firmly on the employers’ agenda. You could have the best holiday management policy but if you find yourself with a sudden loss of staff due to a workforce that has limited loyalty, who don’t feel they are valued or properly rewarded , this could be costly for your business!