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Tips for managing special leave

Special leave applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis within the wider context of service needs.

Managers are afforded discretion in handling requests but this can bring challenges when determining if a circumstance is exceptional and whether a decision is reasonable.

Although different decisions may be reached for similar types of request, consistent rationale should be applied and documented in order to ensure fairness, consistency and equality.

The following tips may assist the special leave decision making process:

  1. Reason for the request – Where appropriate, managers should discuss the request with the member of staff to explore the nature and urgency of the issue, the reason that it could not have been foreseen and any additional considerations such as travel time
  2. Evaluate the impact – The impact of the issue on the member of staff should be considered against the consequences for service delivery. Balancing the strength of these against each other may help determine which need is greater and the level of entitlement that is reasonable
  3. Consult the special leave procedure – Determine whether the request meets the specified criteria and if so, the scope of the entitlement permitted
  4. Alternative measures – Where appropriate, discuss other courses of action such as assistance from friends or family, working from home for all or part of the day, adjusting working hours or enabling the staff member to make a telephone/virtual call whilst at work
  5. View request history – The member of staff’s previous special leave requests should be checked to ensure they remain within their entitlements. Consideration should be given to whether any patterns indicate a possible welfare concern
  6. Ensure fairness and consistency – Whilst assessing each request based on its unique circumstances, managers should consider the similarities and differences with other requests previously made within the team and the rationale applied
  7. Equality and diversity – Managers should consider whether the staff member’s request is influenced by their protected characteristics including age, disability, race, pregnancy and maternity, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital status, religion or belief. Whether a decision is made to approve or reject, managers should give consideration to measures which can ensure staff members are not experiencing a detriment within their employment by virtue of these characteristics. Managers must also ensure that the basis of their decision-making is non-discriminatory
  8. Exercise self-awareness – Managers should consciously consider whether there are any factors affecting their decision-making process such as stress levels or pre-judgments. If necessary, they should seek an objective viewpoint from an appropriate third-party such as a second-line manager or HR
  9. Documentation - Employees and managers must ensure the correct documentation and recording of requests in accordance with the special leave procedure
  10. Ill-health - Special leave must not be granted if the reason for the application is due to the employee’s own ill-health. These episodes must be managed in accordance with the sickness absence and attendance procedure
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