You’re into the final countdown toward the end of the year, and, tick-tock, tick-tock, it’s time to prepare yourself for the inevitable surge in employees requesting they squeeze in owed annual leave before it’s too late.

Every year, this becomes something of a headache for busy bosses and conflicted HR professionals.

We all know the huge importance of encouraging staff to take their deserved and earned rest and recuperation – but it’s not always so easy to preserve the compassion when you’re panicking about pre-Christmas deadlines, or about the reality of many employees wanting to be off at once.

Of course, the perfect scenario is that as an employer, you’re continuously meeting with your staff to check in on their wellbeing, you’re staying mindful of their workloads and capacity to cope with daily stress, and you’re gently reminding them at regular intervals of their right and need to take staggered holiday time.

But perfect doesn’t always work out, and in particular, this year and last were evidence of that.

With many staff on furlough, reduced hours, or even taking periods of time away from work to deal with Covid-associated care duties, it’s inevitable that lots of businesses have seen situations where holiday being accrued wasn’t subsequently taken, in the ‘usual’ manner.

Your role, as employer, is to ensure you have an accurate record of leave due, and that you are doing all you can to accommodate an individual’s specific request for time away from the workplace.

Best practice would dictate that:

The employee will go out of their way to –

  • Give you good notice of the date and duration they are requesting.
  • Pay attention to what colleagues might be doing in terms of their use of leave, mindful of any impact that the leave of a closely associated member of the team might have on being absent at the same time.
  • Be open to consideration of alternative dates.
  • Ensure leave is authorised before confirming travel and accommodation bookings.

And as an employer, your responsibilities would include –

  • Ensuring a clear annual leave policy is created, shared and understood by the team, so everyone is aware of their entitlements and how to go about booking holiday.
  • Ensuring that holiday calculations for entitlement and pay are accurately made in accordance with statutory requirements or the contract if that is greater.
  • Ensuring holiday records are accurately maintained and updated.
  • Clearly communicating in advance your closure periods or any relevant restrictions to when leave can be taken.  For example, to ensure that minimum staffing levels are maintained or around year end/month end activity.
  • Proactively monitoring the annual leave records to spot and address potential bottlenecks in good time.

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It may of course be necessary to reach a compromise with your employee, whereupon they are able to take their leave at a time which falls beyond the previously set date for your year-end.

Conversations of this nature should be captured on record and ideally, both parties confirming in writing that they are happy to proceed accordingly.

We also have an invaluable course, which specifically explores managing annual leave. It’s free to participate and takes place online.

Find out more about our FREE email course on Managing Annual Leave

If you still feel there is more you could learn about annual leave calculations and how to encourage staff to use their leave at the appropriate time, do consider contacting our team.