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Blog • 23.08.19

How to manage staff holidays

Kate L
HR Consultant

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How do you manage multiple holiday requests fairly when everyone wants annual leave at the same time? This is just one of the hundreds of questions we get around staff holidays every day.

What about if you really don’t want people booking holiday around Christmas? Or maybe you want the opposite and need your employees to save some holiday allowance for a Christmas shut-down.

And what’s the best way to keep track of all these holiday requests?

If you’re trying to get to grips with managing staff holidays, you’ve likely got a lot of questions on your mind. We’ll help solve them with these tips on holiday management best practice.

10 tips to help you manage staff holidays

1. Start with a holiday policy

A bespoke annual leave policy that establishes your approach to annual leave and sets any restrictions around when your employees can and can’t request leave, and how they should request it, is the best first step you can take to avoid holiday management headaches.

A holiday policy will let your employees know what to expect when requesting leave, and will demonstrate the steps you have in place to maintain fairness.

If you choose to implement any of the following steps, it’s a good idea to document these in your holiday policy.

2. Allocate leave on a first come, first served basis

Operating a first come, first served policy around holiday requests is usually the fairest way to manage a situation where multiple employees might want to take holiday at the same time.

If you employ a lot of parents, for example, you’ll likely see many of them requesting holidays to coincide with the school holidays.

If you do adopt this approach, make sure you clearly indicate this in your holiday policy, so all your staff know they need to request leave dates as far in advance as possible.

3. Set limits on the number of employees who can take leave at the same time

For customer-facing departments in particular, you’ll probably always need a minimum number of employees working at any particular time to satisfy customer demand.

If this is the case, you could set limits on how many people can be on holiday from a certain department at any one time, so you can be sure you’ll always be adequately resourced.

Again, you must make your staff aware that this is the case, and that they may need to work their annual leave dates around those of their colleagues.

4. Specify any time frames where taking leave will not be permitted

If you have a particularly busy period – such as Christmas, for example – when you really need a full workforce, you can restrict staff from booking leave during this time.

As with the previous points, make sure your employees are aware that this is your approach in your policy.

5. Specify any days when holiday must be taken

Alternatively, perhaps your business shuts down between Christmas and New Year, and you want all your employees to take holiday over that period.

This time, you’ll want to use your holiday policy to indicate to staff that they will need to reserve some of their annual leave allowance for during this period.

6. Ask employees to provide notice when requesting leave

The more notice you have that an employee will be on holiday the better, and you can specify that they provide a notice period that is at least twice as long as the period of leave they wish to take.

For example, if they wish to take a week of leave, they should request this no later than two weeks before they wish to take it.

7. Give notice if you need to refuse a holiday request

Employers can refuse a leave request but should provide a notice period equal to the amount of leave requested.

For instance, if a week of leave has been requested, you must refuse this at least one week ahead of the requested period.

8. Proactively review holiday bookings

It’s a good idea to review holiday bookings at regular intervals throughout the year. This way you can spot whether you have too many staff holding on to their allowance, which could result in lots of clashing requests towards the end of the year.

It can be helpful to remind your staff how many days they have left at intervals throughout the year and encourage them to utilise their allowance. The prompt should hopefully help to spread their requests more evenly across the year.

9. Evaluate requests for extended holidays carefully

While it’s typical for employees to limit annual leave bookings to ten working days, inevitably there are times when employees request to take off longer than this.

It’s important to be aware that a blanket ban on any request to take an extended period of holiday does carry with it a potential risk of indirect discrimination.

An example of this could be when your employee has family on the other side of the world and they’re keen to spend as much time as possible with them on this rare opportunity to see them. In circumstances like this, you should still review the request and properly assess whether allowing an extended period of leave would be viable for the business.

10. Manage staff holidays with HR Software

HR Software with holiday management functionality can take a huge amount of pain out of managing staff holiday by streamlining the request and approval process.

It can also provide you with a useful view of who’s off when and help you to spot any clashing leave requests or employees not using up their annual leave allowance.

Holiday management software can also help you to:

  • Calculate time off in lieu
  • Prevent resourcing issues by making it easy to view who’s already booked time off
  • Generate a holiday accrual report that calculates the value of unused holiday at the end of the financial year, which should be reported annually to HMRC.

Holiday management headaches?

From calculating holiday entitlement and pay to booking leave, our software can help.

Find out more

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