Stephanie Pote, Senior HR Consultant at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, considers the challenges that face the travel and tourisms sector as the country emerges from the the Coronavirus pandemic.
It has been a particularly difficult 18 months for the Travel and Tourism sector. Businesses may have placed employees on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). They may unfortunately have had to make some redundancies. As we start to return to some sort of normality, with the overhaul of the COVID travel restrictions and an end to the “traffic light system”, the sector will have many HR challenges to face.
The implementation of the flexible furlough scheme in July 2020 allowed employers to have staff back on a part time or flexible basis while they were looking to recover. Now that furlough has ended, employers are beginning to welcome back staff on their full contractual hours. Considering that there are still uncertainties regarding international travel, however, companies in the travel and tourism industries are still not back up to speed, and will need to assess if ongoing changes to hours of work are required to maintain flexibility.
Of course, the nature of these industries has always meant flexible working patterns with employees being required to work additional hours during peak periods. As these sectors recover slowly, this may not be the case this year but certainly more flexibility will be required. It is important for companies to gain the support and trust of their employees and so any changes should be introduced via consultation rather than the so-called “Fire and Rehire” tactic. HR Advice should be sought on this process to avoid claims of Constructive Dismissal.
Businesses who have held off on making redundancies may well have to consider going down this route now. Again, consultation will be required and HR Advice should be taken on the legal processes to be followed to avoid Unfair Dismissal claims. In addition, there are minimum timescales for consultation if more than 20 redundancies within a 90 day period are being proposed, and failure to comply with them can result in “Protective Awards” of up to 90 days’ pay per employee.
A number of organisations have also introduced remote working during the pandemic and may wish to continue with that to some degree going forward. This will have been initially put in place as an emergency response but more formalised policies will need to be implemented with defined parameters so that employees are clear on the rules and employers understand their obligations to home-workers. This will also require input from HR to ensure that the correct policies are in place.
In addition, businesses will also need to incorporate a number of changes to employment legislation which were introduced back in April 2020 but which may not have been implemented whilst employees were on furlough. These include:
- amending the requirements for the contents of Employment Contracts to include days of work, paid leave (sick leave and “family-friendly” leave), remuneration and benefits, probationary periods and training requirements, along with the obligation to issue them no later than the first day of employment. Failure to do so can render organisations liable to an award of up to £2,152 per employee.
- increasing the averaging period for calculating a week's pay for holiday pay purposes for variable hours workers from 12 weeks to 52 weeks.
- the introduction of a statutory entitlement to two weeks’ leave, and statutory pay for employees with 26 weeks’ service, in the event of the death of a child.
The postponed extension of the rules relating to off-payroll working (IR35) to private sector organisations which went ahead in April 2021 also means that businesses are now directly responsible for determining whether their workers are employees or contractors. Failing to accurately determine the status of their workers for tax purposes will result in a hefty bill from HMRC, along with the risk of worker status cases in the Employment Tribunal.
In addition, Brexit has changed the landscape for travel throughout Europe as well as having implications for EU nationals employed in the UK. The travel and tourism industry has historically had a heavy reliance on workers from the EU. Freedom of movement has ended and the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme has passed. Employers must therefore ensure that they carry out Right to Work checks for EU Nationals employed after 1 July 2021, otherwise they risk five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to £20,000 if they hire an illegal worker.
Employing EU nationals without Settled Status now requires the obtaining of a Sponsor Licence. This involves an application process that includes the submission of various documents to the Home Office and an eight week decision time.
The Travel and Tourism sector therefore needs to take account of the implications of all these HR considerations; getting them right will be vital to its recovery.
About the author
Stephanie Pote has worked within the MHA MacIntyre Hudson HR Solutions team since August 2018. She is an employee relations specialist, qualified as an Associate CIPD member since 1998 with 28 years’ HR experience, 20 of which are in consultancy. She is also an OISC registered Level 1 Immigration Advisor.
Stephanie can be contacted at Stephanie.Pote@mhllp.co.uk