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Ask Ash

15 July 19

Advice column: I’m under pressure ahead of my holiday – and to deal with things while away

Dear Ash,

I will shortly be going on holiday with my family, but I am getting increasingly anxious about my time off due to work pressures. I have a stack of casework to deal with before my leave begins and I am expected to be available on email during my time off. My line manager has also indicated that she expects me to join a conference call during my break as I am the only one with the specific knowledge behind the case in question. My partner is unhappy at the prospect of my not being able to be undisturbed by work issues while we are away, but I am also worried about my prospects at the firm if I don’t check emails and join the call. There seems to be a culture of ensuring availability even when on annual leave.

Ash replies:

From my own experience, I can definitively confirm that no one – but no one – is indispensable in the workplace. If this were not true, a firm would not be able to cope with unexpected absences of employees such as sudden illness or death. A holiday is planned annual leave and accordingly there should be a plan in place to allow a person to take time out from work comfortably. If there is no effective cover, there may be a resource issue that needs to be addressed!

I recall, when I was a young lawyer, my own line manager went on leave with specific instructions to be contacted if there were any emergencies. A critical development took place in a case I was dealing with, but I sought input from another senior colleague and was able to address the issue effectively. The manager came back from leave and was pleased with the way the issue had been dealt with. In short, my line manager’s absence actually gave me the opportunity to grow and to find a way to problem solve effectively, while giving my boss the assurance that he could actually take time out and trust me to provide cover.

I appreciate that you may be under pressure to deal with your casework while away, but you need to find definitive solutions in order essentially to provide assurance to both yourself and your manager and colleagues that there is an effective plan in place for holiday cover. Therefore, if there is a critical call on the case while you are away, why not consider alerting the fellow attendees about your annual leave and seek clarity as to whether the call can await your return. If this is not possible, I suggest you outline your position on the matter and ask a colleague to cover the call and confirm the possible parameters of authority they have to deal with the matter effectively.

Having uninterrupted time out is important not only for your family but for your own health and wellbeing too. Therefore, draft a plan and enjoy your holiday without any guilt – you deserve to!

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email: KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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