How to… manage holiday fairly

The first few dreary months of winter is traditionally the time when in an attempt to lift their spirits, people start thinking about booking a holiday and jetting off to sunnier climes. But if a recent survey is to be believed, it isn’t all sunshine and roses in the office when the annual leave requests start rolling in.

Findings from a recent survey suggest that booking holiday is one of the top causes of disputes between people at work. Just over a third of workers said clashes with colleagues had stopped them taking all their holiday entitlement and were the root of much bad feeling and resentment at work.

So what can managers do to manage holiday entitlement fairly while also making sure there are enough people around to keep the wheels of the business turning?

Have a clear policy

Make sure everyone is crystal clear about the proper procedure for booking annual leave. If everyone is well informed about how much holiday they are entitled to and if there are any periods when it either cannot or must be taken (i.e. peak periods or during company close-downs) there is less likelihood of problems arising. Be particularly clear if you have rules about how many people can be off in a team at any one time, or if there are specific employees whose holidays cannot clash. If everyone knows the situation up-front, they are much more likely to accept if they can’t take their holiday exactly when they want to. The latest technology makes it much easier for people to keep on top of their own holiday entitlement. Hr software systems, such as Cezanne OnDemand, allow employees to log in and get an overview of how much holiday they have left, so they can plan ahead and don’t have to keep asking you for an update on their entitlement.

Plan well ahead

Managing annual leave is a task that often causes managers enormous angst. Juggling conflicting requests while also making sure there are enough hands on deck can be a logistical nightmare. HR software can do much to reduce both the pain and the time consuming admin. The most up-to-date absence management software offer a calendar view so you can see exactly who is off when, not just in your own team, but also in other departments if necessary. It allows you to plan well ahead and take the team’s workflow into account so that you can spot any bottlenecks on the horizon and manage holiday requests accordingly.

Encourage people to book early

If you know that getting everyone’s entitlement in is going to be tight, encourage people to get their requests in early. It’s no good burying your head in the sand and hoping that no-one will ask for leave in the busiest period. If everyone knows they need to plan ahead they can’t complain if their preferred slot has been taken. Make sure you get back to people promptly so they know where they stand and can make bookings or re-arrange their plans if necessary. Make sure your policy on annual leave is easily accessible – on your intranet or the social portal on your HR system – so that everyone knows where to find it and is clear that there is a procedure and that it’s not guaranteed their holiday requests will always be granted.

Give a clear reason for refusals

If you have to turn a holiday request down, make sure you can give a clear explanation for your decision. Most people will understand that not everyone can be off at the same time and there need to be enough people around to respond to customer demands or fulfil orders. Don’t expect staff to fight it out between themselves over holiday dates. This isn’t fair and will only lead to tension and bad feeling in the team.

Be firm but fair

If disputes do arise, make sure you are dealing with them fairly and treating all employees the same. It’s very easy for resentment to creep in if people feel colleagues with children, for example, are being given priority during school holiday times. Do also be human! There are always going to be exceptional circumstances – if an employee needs to travel abroad for a close family wedding, for example, or if they have the chance of a trip of a lifetime. Make sure people can see you understand the holiday is important to them and go the extra mile to see if you can juggle work around or get extra cover to fill the gap. Even if you still have to say no in the end, people will appreciate the fact you have tried to help.

Is juggling holiday entitlement a problem in your team? Let us know what strategies you have for managing clashes fairly – and don’t forget to book your own holiday!

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