Managing the Holiday Crunch

By Amanda Beattie
05 Nov 2018

This year, many employees will be going into November with a significant chunk of their annual leave not taken. According to BrightHR, 83.3% of UK employees have not booked all of their annual leave for 2018, meaning there are a huge number of holiday days yet to be taken.

This is similar to last year, when 83.2% of UK employees had unused annual left by the end of December.

Depending on sector, businesses may decide to shut the office down over Christmas. In these circumstances, employees might like to save up their annual leave entitlement and attach them to the mandatory leave they already have, giving them a lengthy winter break. For organisations that cannot shut over the Christmas period, the month of December can become a mess of overlapping annual leave requests.

Managing Requests

How do you work out which requests to approve and which to deny? How do you keep disgruntled employees from raising a grievance? Here are a few tips on how to manage requests:

  1. Let your employees keep track: If your employees are overtly aware of their holiday entitlement, how much they’ve taken, and how much they’ve yet to take, they are more likely to book it. Providing them with a means to keep track of their annual leave will increase visibility and allow them to request holiday more easily. Also, sending monthly alerts, or updates on annual leave entitlement is a good way of reminding staff that they need to take time off.

  2. Start the conversation: Conduct a review of the remaining holiday of your employees. If the review shows that there is a lot of outstanding annual leave remaining, send out a company-wide email, or if your schedule permits, hold a meeting with employees and begin a discussion. You can put forward your expectations and requirements, and then employees are under no illusions regarding their entitlement and what they can expect when making requests.

  3. Be fair and consistent: Especially in smaller teams, make sure each of your employees gets the opportunity to take some time off if they’ve requested it. If you have previously set strict guidelines then stick by them, otherwise things can get messy. For example, if you are running a ‘first-come-first-served’ policy, don’t approve request for leave that comes in a few days before Christmas over someone who submitted their request over a month ago.

    That being said, if you receive a holiday request that doesn’t meet your guidelines, but there is a good reason for the booking, then consider the request seriously and see if you can accommodate it in some way. (For example, if an employee was on sick leave when the guidelines for annual leave over the Christmas period was sent out, and they didn’t return to work for another week, at which point several requests had been submitted on the same dates they wanted.)

  4. You can always say no: Ultimately, you have the final say as an employer when the employee can take leave, in line with your internal holiday policy. If the requests are piling up and it isn’t viable for everyone to have the time off, tell them. Legally, you are within your rights to refuse holiday requests, just make sure you show that you have at least tried to accommodate all employee’s requests, and you have taken into consideration all factors.

Expert Support

If you need assistance with holiday requests or any other HR issue over the coming holiday period, speak to a Croner expert on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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