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Unable to book any holiday in school holidays - potential discrimination

(24 Posts)
elphabadefiesgravity Sun 21-Aug-11 18:22:41

Sil works part-time for a well known high street retail chain. Her dh also works in retail. This year he was able to book 2 weeks off in the August plus February half term holidays but he couldn't get May half term off. Fair enough.

All holliday in sils company has to be booked from 31st January onwards. Forms have to be handed in the the HR office. Sil has to drop her dd off at school at 8.30am so the earliest she can get to work is about 9am. She starts work at 10am. By the time she got there she was not able to book any of her preferred weeks, the only days she was offered in the school holidays was May half term. The woman who managed to get all the dates she needed was waiting at the office at 5am.

Sil has now asked for time off during October half term. She has been refused. Last year she got Xmas day off that was all. Her dd's birthday is Xmas eve and she is never allowed it off. She was the only staff member who had no time off during Xmas. It was just the way the rota was done. So they will not have been able to have a family holiday this year. Bil has taken their dd away for 2 weeks on his own.

Is there anything she can do? It seems like discrimination to me. A mother with childcare/school responsibilities is never going to be able to queue to hand holidays in at 5am. I have suggested she try and get a free consulation with a lawyer. She is on minimum wage and only works 20 hours per week but she needs the money so giving up work is not an option.

flowery Sun 21-Aug-11 20:26:55

Why is it discrimination? It's a completely open first-come-first-served thing, yes? So no rules about not taking time off in school holidays or anything, just who gets there first.

Not a brilliant system and I think a ballot or something would be more sensible if people are having to queue at 5am, but really it sounds like your sister wants preferential treatment, rather than equal treatment. I don't blame her for that at all, but imagine the woman who queued being told that she wasn't getting her dates because they were being given to someone else because they have children, which is I presume what your SIL wants to happen.

Does she even know this other woman doesn't have children? Could someone else not drop her dd off just one day in the year so she could have queued? I think it would be pushing it to claim that no mother could ever get to work really early, not even once a year.

I feel for her I really do, but I don't think she has any kind of legal case.

inmysparetime Sun 21-Aug-11 20:29:00

Could she pop the holiday request under the door the night before? Beat ms 5am at her own game? Or persuade the boss to let everyone have 1 week in school holidays randomly assigned and work the rest of them around that, swapping with colleagues where necessary. It seems harsh that people without children are getting front of the queue for school holiday leave. Alternatively get the school to fight your corner, telling them she is effectively being forced to break the school rules to give a child a holiday.

midnightexpress Sun 21-Aug-11 20:33:56

I'm just amazed that anyone without children would want to go on hols in the school holidays when it's far more expensive - surely Ms 5am must have family too?

No idea of the legal situation, but while I feel for your SIL, and it sounds like a bit of a rubbish system, I think I'd be pretty fed up if I was working there and she got preferential treatment over someone without DC.

elphabadefiesgravity Sun 21-Aug-11 22:18:03

No you have to hand the forms in in person.

I guess I want to know if it is discrimination becasue the holiday procedure disriminates anyone with childcare or other responsibilieis from getting there in time. A system whereby everyone was allowed a certain amounbf to time only during popular periods would be fairer. She does not want preferential treatment, she wants just 1 week of holiday out of a possible 9 weeks. As I said before she was the only member of staff rotad in over the whole Xmas and New Year period.

The other woman does have children but has a husband who is able to mind them whilst she queues up.

Dneice was in tears over it all. I don't overly get on with sil but feel very sorry for them as a family. It is a big company and they take on loads of temps over Xmas.

elphabadefiesgravity Sun 21-Aug-11 22:19:48

I realise there is little she can do but it seems so unfair that it is not just once but every time. She works 20 hours per week on minimum wage and is always the first to volunteer to cover sickness busy times etc.

elphabadefiesgravity Sun 21-Aug-11 22:21:26

Her boss by the told her that others shoulg get prioroty becasue her mother is retired and so can look after dneice in the holidays despite both her and her father (my in laws) not being in the best of health.

Rocky12 Tue 23-Aug-11 16:46:23

Sorry, I dont mean to be rude but I think she whinning. Surely 'someone' could have minded her children if she really really wanted the holiday, I see lots of threads where people make excuse after excuse when people make reasonable suggestions as to how they can achieve what they want, for one day in the year your SIL must be able to get someone to mind her children. You - perhaps......

DamselInDisarray Tue 23-Aug-11 16:56:04

If she's that unhappy with the holiday procedures, she'll probably have to try to get another job elsewhere. Other companies have better policies and procedures.

(I'm not implying that it will be easy to do so, but it's really the only course of action open to her).

Loads of parents never get their kids' birthdays off work. If a family holiday is that important, she could consider taking the kids in term time.

GwendolineMaryLacey Tue 23-Aug-11 16:58:11

Whatever the rights and wrongs of her particular situation, that's a bloody stupid way to allocate holiday.

DamselInDisarray Tue 23-Aug-11 16:58:43

Wait a minute, how could she possibly end up with no days off over Christmas? She only works 20 hours a week.

WilsonFrickett Tue 23-Aug-11 17:13:45

She works in Retail. Their peak times are often 'holiday' times. It sucks, but it isn't discrimination I'm afraid.

Having said that, if I was her manager I wouldn't be encouraging staff to come in at 5am to hand in their form, but I have worked in a first come first served situation and it is just the way it goes unfortunately.

flowery Tue 23-Aug-11 17:19:59

It is an unfair system because it means that potentially one person gets all the holiday they want, and no one else gets any of the holiday they want.

But it's not discriminatory against parents, and claiming it's impossible for parents to be able to make arrangements one day in a year for their partner or someone else to be in charge for a few hours isn't going to come across as credible.

If your SIL wants the holiday situation for this year changed she would be asking for preferential treatment. But if she wants it changed for the future, I'd suggest she talk to all her colleagues because I imagine they'd all feel the same. Is she in a union? - they could help make representations to change the system for next year.

elphabadefiesgravity Thu 25-Aug-11 00:12:48

To answer a couple of questions, her 20 hours per week are spread over five days 10am - 2.00pm Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri Sat and during Christmas she also has to work Sundays.

She won't consider holiday in term time. She trained as a TA (but can't get a job as a TA) and there is no way she will take her dd out of school in term time.

My dh works away from home in the week so it would be pretty impossible for me to get my children to school at 8.40am 7 miles away from where her dd starts school at 8.30am.

I have to be honest and say if it was me I would either take the kids out in term time or take them and a sleeping bag and camp outside Argos (though January might be cold).

I've never come across this sort of thing before. Where I work we have a system whereby eveeyone can take a certain amount of time off at Christmas, Easter and in the summer and whatevr is left is first come first served.

Ponders Thu 25-Aug-11 00:21:04

the company where I used to work opened up next year's holidays in JUNE - so you had to know then when you wanted holidays next year!

and if you happened to be away at the time it was opened up, by the time you got back all the school hols had gone pretty much, & it was practically impossible to get weekends off too (was a 7-day call centre which only closed on 25 & 26 Dec)

it is infuriating but it is legal (& not uncommon hmm)

gaaagh Thu 25-Aug-11 09:34:40

Well it sounds like a terrible system, but I wouldn't have thought it was discriminatory in the legal sense (against sexual orientation, gender, disability, etc).

Your sister could frame a request to change the allocation process because the outcome is not working well (e.g. employee queuing at 5am) but if she goes in there with the attitude of "I'm going to consult a lawyer because you're discriminating against me because I have children", I'd have thought her HR dept will view it as quite confrontational.

She needs to formally outline why she thinks it's not working, feel out any support in her place of employment (not underhand - I don't mean gossip about it) and present a case to her supervisor/HR with a constructive idea on how it might be improved/what she sees as a better alternative for a greater percentage of their employees.

OddBoots Thu 25-Aug-11 09:38:58

I'm not sure if the system could be seen as discrimination but "Her boss by the told her that others should get prioroty because her mother is retired and so can look after dneice in the holidays despite both her and her father (my in laws) not being in the best of health." certainly sounds it, the trouble would be proving that was said.

BerylStreep Fri 26-Aug-11 22:27:06

What a crap system. She could always lodge a grievance, on the basis that staff queuing at 5am are getting all their choice of holidays, and no-one else is, but I wouldn't claim it is discriminatory. A more positive way is to try to raise it with HR as previous poster suggested.

I would be taking dc out of school to go on holiday, and asking employer to provide letter of confirmation that she has been unable to avail of leave during school holidays.

If system doesn't change, then sil needs to make sure she is there at 4.30am next year. If it is so important, she can let kids be late for school that morning, or have someone else mind them.

KatieMiddleton Sat 27-Aug-11 00:20:11

I doubt this system is based on company policy. I'm betting it's some rogue manager who for whatever reason thinks this is the best way to allocate holiday. It isn't.

I think asking the manager to adjust the system so there's say a 4 week window to get requests in and for high demand weeks (ie school hols, Xmas etc) a cap on the number of days off available. Ime there are usually quite a few staff who definitely don't want school holidays or Xmas but maybe want other times (Eid/June/diwali etc etc). A good manager can manage annual leave for the benefit of the business which includes the keeping employees as happy as possible.

NLonherwayhome Sat 27-Aug-11 00:26:44

I agree it's a rubbish system. I think your sil is being a bit wet though. So she can't get school holidays - take the child out of school for the last week in the summer. Not a problem at all. Also she could get May - I know her dh couldn't but that's not her employer's fault. Nor is it the fault of the woman who got up at dawn to get the dates she needed.

featherbag Wed 31-Aug-11 01:05:55

We don't have DCs (yet - childless for another 10 weeks!), but my DH can ONLY have AL during school holidays due to his job (not a teacher, but works for a company contracted to do certain work in schools). Therefore I've always felt justified when bullied by the 'but you don't have kids, I need that week' moaning that comes with a first-come first-served system. On the other hand, I also found last year that those who thought they should get priority on school holidays also weren't keen on working night shift over the holidays. This meant those of us working night shift on New Year's Eve got first choice of the year's holidays (Happy New Year Sister, mwah! Here's my holiday request form...). The (minority of) parents who felt they should be entitled to their choice of AL, yet also didn't want to work the crappy shifts because fo their DCs, didn't think this was fair either.

BerylStreep Thu 01-Sep-11 16:53:13

I think first come first served systems for leave aren't generally fair at all. In the unit I manage, we all work out the leave between us and make sure everyone is happy. There's a lot of give and take, where people may want one particular week, but are happy to change other weeks. It makes for a much more harmonious working environment, and removes the need for petty oneupmanship. We still ensure the unit is covered.

ragged Thu 01-Sep-11 17:09:28

It's a rubbish system, but if it's one predictable day a year to make the bookings can't she beg someone else to take her DD to school that morning so she can queue up at 6am, too?

MrsFlittersnoop Thu 01-Sep-11 17:24:07

I do think under these circumstances, if the parents REALLY can't organise thenselves to get the forms handed in on time, they should just take their DC out of school for a week's holiday and say the family have had swine flu. Unless it's an exam year (and their attendance is normally good) it won't make the slightest difference to their education.

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