School holidays, sunshine and last-minute holiday deals – these are a few of everyone’s favourite things about summer and why employees want to use their holiday entitlement at the same time. Making sure the business can cope with an increase in holiday requests can be headache for employers, so here are some practical ways to manage the situation.
Have a clear policy about how holiday requests can be made, set a limit on how many employees can be off at a time and apply it consistently. There are no cast-iron rules, but one option would be to grant holiday on a first-come first-served basis and for the worker to give at least twice the amount of notice as the time requested.
Every employee is entitled to annual leave but employers are not obliged to approve the dates of their holiday requests. If the timing of the holiday requested would lead to operational difficulties, then an employer should feel able to turn it down. When refusing leave, employers should make sure they give the employee the same amount of notice as the amount of holiday requested.
Whenever possible, staff should be encouraged to book and spread their annual leave throughout the year to prevent a holiday-taking glut. Regular reviews of holiday forms to check if employees are booking their leave is a useful exercise and a way to remind employees to use their entitlement.
Identify and highlight key strategic and project dates in the company’s calendar early in the year and let employees know that they should not be absent at these times. This early prompt may encourage staff to be proactive about booking their holiday rather than building it up for later in the year.
Buying and selling holidays
Consider giving workers the extra benefit of buying or selling holidays. So long as a worker’s annual leave does not fall below the statutory minimum levels set out by the Working Time Directive (which is 20 days + bank holidays per full year for full-time workers), employers can set how many days staff can buy or sell.
Benefits to employers include reducing unauthorised absences, encouraging forward planning in taking holiday and having less tired and more productive workers. Staff benefit from an improved work-life balance if they want extra holiday or extra cash if they want to sell their holiday.
Before introducing the benefit scheme, consult with staff to see how popular it could be and judge whether the business could cope with any extra holidays booked as a result. If the scheme is adopted, then employers should reserve the right to refuse applications to buy or sell holidays. It is also best to be organised and arrange for the buying and selling of holidays to take place in advance of each holiday year, so the business can manage its staffing levels and deal with any shortage in advance.