Ryanair has recently hit the headlines after a disastrous mismanagement of pilots’ annual leave led to the company cancelling tens of thousands of scheduled flights. The aftershock of this error will undoubtedly have a massive financial impact on the company as well as serious reputational damage.
Managing annual leave requests shouldn’t cause these kinds of problems so our employment law experts have put together the following tips to minimise the effect staff holiday can have on your business.
Implement an Annual Leave Policy
It sounds simple but having a formal annual leave policy in place for your business is the first step to successful planning. A good policy will explain the procedure that staff should follow to book time off, for example how much notice is required, who authorises leave and whether or not your business has mandatory leave periods (e.g. bank holidays, Christmas and New Year). It should also include your policy on carrying over un-used entitlement as well as specifying times that leave may be restricted. Ensuring that all staff follow the policy should help the process run smoothly and give you ample time to plan ahead and arrange suitable cover.
Avoid too many employees taking annual leave at the same time
Having a shared team calendar or wall planner can be an effective tool to avoid staff holiday clashes. Staff can see colleagues’ holidays that have already been granted and schedule their leave accordingly. School holidays and Christmas and New Year can often lead to a scheduling nightmare where multiple employees request the same period of leave. To overcome this, ensure that you have fair and consistent rules in dealing with such requests which we suggest should not be “first come,first served”. Consider rotating who gets to be off each year or, if your business allows, closing down or running a skeleton staff between Christmas and New Year.
Encourage staff to spread their holidays across the year
Beware of employees who build up too much unused annual leave as this could lead to extended holiday periods towards the end of the year or result in them carrying forward days to the new holiday year. This can have a dramatic impact on your business if it means several key people out at the same time and it can also have an adverse effect on employee well-being and productivity. It’s sensible for department managers to monitor their teams’ annual leave balances, particularly when year-end is approaching, and encourage their staff to schedule time off. You may also find it useful to bring in a deadline by which time all holiday leave requests must be submitted to allow sufficient time to organise staff shortages.
Plan ahead for holiday cover
As soon as staff leave has been granted, make sure you have the necessary cover in place to minimise the impact on your customers. For example, ensure that cover staff have access to all files and contact information that they will need to maintain normal service levels.
Beware the employee who doesn’t want to take any holiday
There are two reasons for this, the first and most obvious being the risk of one of your staff “burning out” through overwork. If a lack of holiday leads to stress and illness this could easily turn into long term sickness or even worse an employment tribunal claim. The second and less obvious risk is fraud prevention, which is the reason why many financial institutions insist that staff in key positions of responsibility take a continuous block of at least 2 weeks leave each year. If an employee is incompetent, breaking the rules or worse committing a fraud then they may well get away with it as long as they are in the office to hide the evidence that a holiday cover colleague might unearth.
To recap, the key to effectively managing employee annual leave is to deliver a clear and consistent message to your staff ensuring that they are aware of your company’s policy and your expectations of them. Undoubtedly there will be times when leave has to be granted at short notice but for the most part a well communicated and clear internal procedure will avoid any unnecessary disruption.
Problems with managing annual leave?
If you are experiencing problems managing staff leave in your business or if you need help drafting a company annual leave policy, please contact a member of our specialist employment law team on 01245 893400 and book your FREE 30 min, no obligation consultation.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team
Tel: 01245 893400