The Troubleshooters

Got a problem you just can’t solve? Don’t despair, The Troubleshooters are here. Travel Weekly’s magnificent seven industry experts have ridden into town.

This week, what are the important considerations when setting up a second agency, and covering maternity leave.

Click here to meet the experts and submit a question… 

Chris Lee

chris transparent 2troubleshooters - big Q I have an opportunity to purchase another travel agency site in a nearby town. What steps do I need to take to ensure my outlay is going to pay off?

troubleshooters - big A It is important to be familiar with the town in which the new unit is available. It is an advantage that it is nearby so travelling time between your existing and new sites is manageable.

Analyse the competition in the new locality and assess your ability to make an impact in that area. You should spend time on an unannounced basis watching foot traffic past the shop premises at different times.

If the unit is an existing travel agency, you should seek copies of historic audited accounts as well as up-to-date trading information. Ensure the purchase price or rental payment and associated costs are reasonable by researching comparable units/selling prices with local agents. Ask why the existing owners/tenants are leaving. If leasehold, find out what repairs and renovations you are responsible for and, if you wish to make alterations to the façade, investigate with the freeholder (if leasehold) and the local planning department to ascertain their views in advance. Factor any refurbishment costs into your detailed cash-flow calculations and ensure you have sufficient funds left over for new fixtures and fittings, advertising, marketing etc. If at all possible, time your purchase to catch the best time of the annual cash-flow cycle to get off to a flying start.

Once you have completed your research, run your ideas past your accountant and bank manager, and if seeking funding, present the lender with a business plan. Good luck.

Peter Stewart

peter transparenttroubleshooters - big Q I work for a large business travel firm in the out-of-hours emergency department. When I joined, I worked a 12-hour Saturday shift during the day, and two four-hour shifts on a Monday and Tuesday. One girl became pregnant and asked if she could swap her 12-hour Sunday shift for mine. I agreed. She has now returned to work and I have been put back to working on a Saturday, as this suits her better. But it doesn’t suit me any more. What can I do?

troubleshooters - big A The original reason for swapping hours with your colleage was not to cover her maternity leave but to help her out when she became pregnant. Unless there are additional facts not covered in your summary, your boss was not obliged to give your colleague back her old shift simply because she was returning from maternity leave.

It is not necessary for a change in contract to be recorded in writing, but it always helps in case of dispute. In your case, there may be a dispute over whether the change agreed was intended to be permanent or was only ever intended to last until your colleague returned from maternity leave. Even if a permanent change was agreed, you need to check the terms of your written contract to see whether the clause dealing with hours of work entitles your employer to change your shift unilaterally, ie, without having to get your agreement. The best thing to do would be to write a polite but firm letter to your boss saying:

  1. That you do not believe you can be required to work on Saturdays as you are contracted to work the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday shift.
  2. That you are raising a formal grievance in the hope the matter can be resolved internally.
  3. In the meantime you are working Saturdays under protest pending the outcome.

An alternative approach would be to hope your colleague could be as generous as you were and either swap shifts with you on a permanent basis or on alternate weekends.

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