For employers, this has two main implications:
1. How do you deal with employees who have pre-approved leave and now want to cancel it?
2. What do you tell employees who are determined to go ahead with their overseas travel?
What if employees want to cancel their leave requests?
If you know an employee had intended to use their leave application to travel overseas, you should do everything reasonably possible to allow the employee to cancel the application. It is in everyone’s best interests that employees remain in Australia at present. If it means bending any in-house rules that apply to dealing with leave applications (e.g. notice period for cancellation), then these are “exceptional circumstances” that justify taking a more flexible approach.
If employees say they want to re-book the same trip at a later date (after bans are lifted), keep a record of the request and consider giving them preference later on in exchange for the personal inconvenience they accepted by doing the right thing now. Remember, many employees will suffer financial losses if they cannot obtain full refunds for prepaid overseas trips.
Consider providing advice to employees that covers the procedure to follow if they wish to cancel leave applications that are already approved.
Problems may arise if an employer has already made some arrangements to cover for employees who were expected to be on leave for several weeks, for example, engaging casual employees or labour hire/agency temporary workers, or other forms of outsourcing work. In such cases, you cannot force your own employees to still take leave. They take precedence over casual employees, and if there is a cost from cancelling the other arrangements, you will have to negotiate with the supplier.
You can consider approaching individual employees to discuss with them whether they would be willing to take at least part of their leave now, and perhaps offer them some form of incentive to do so. But this is a case-by-case approach dependent on the employee’s willingness to help – no force or coercion can be applied.
If you can help the employee to cancel their travel arrangements in any other way, for example, by providing access to resources that will enable them to apply for refunds, be willing to do so.