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Employment rights for those affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook and their employers.

Today we wake up to the news that Thomas Cook has collapsed at 2 a.m. this morning. Whilst the 9000 UK based employees are in all our thoughts, this article will focus on employment rights if you have employees affected by this news.

If your employee is overseas on a Thomas Cook holiday now?

We know that the Government has prepared for this repatriation as the collapse was not unexpected.  Right now your employee is on holiday, not stranded but of course there is a concern that their holidays have not been paid for. Whether we hear about hotels treating Thomas Cook holidaymakers any differently remains to be seen.  The CAA has to contact all hoteliers to explain what will happen and how they will be paid. We understand that if they have booked a 2 week break, that they will be on holiday for 2 weeks. Holiday makers on holiday due to return before 6th October will be brought back to the UK by the CAA. The issue may be that they where they were due to return to say Manchester they may now land in Gatwick to then experience forward travel by coach. In such situations your employee may be unable to return to work on the day planned due to lack of sleep or being in the wrong place.

Does an employee have any right to be off longer than they booked?

In such circumstances where an employee contacts you to advise that due to the collapse of Thomas Cook they expect to be impacted on their return to the UK we would recommend that you treat their absence as authorized unpaid absence or that you allow them to use further holiday if there is holiday accrued and not taken.  The employer can ask for evidence of their repatriation and the route taken as proof of their experience if they are being ask to treat the absence as authorized.

You may have something in your Holiday Policy which explains how you treat such an occurrence.

Does the employee whose holiday is cancelled have any rights?

The employees who have booked their holidays with Thomas Cook, or have Thomas Cook flights (they may be on say a TUI or Sandals holiday) have had their holiday cancelled. As you will appreciate this is devasting for them. If they booked a package holiday they will be refunded via ATOL or ABTA but this will take time to arrive and in the meantime many will not be in a position to rebook somewhere else and await their refund.  If they used their debit or credit card to book their flights, they may need to rely on purchased travel insurance and Consumer Credit Protection.

Employees do not have an automatic right to cancel their holiday with you and attend work as normal. The employer has a choice in this situation. The first choice is to allow the employee to cancel their holiday with you and to attend work as normal. The second option is that you can decline to cancel the arrangement made, often employers will do this when there is no time between the desire to cancel and the booked leave, i.e this week and next. Remember holiday is time away from work, many people holiday at home. Your employee is understandably upset to lose their plans but if you can’t retract the holiday booking because of operational difficulties then that is your position.

What about the employees who are destressed about family overseas?

An employee may be concerned that their family is overseas and ask you to authorize them time off. The employer is free to say no to time off that it can not authorize. Some employees may sign themselves off sick or go to the Doctors over their worry.

Whilst the Thomas Cook website has gone there is a CAA website for more information. Thomascook.caa.co.uk.