The holiday season is fast approaching… and it’s only April! Easter is looming large on the horizon, and you can bet your bottom dollar there’s been an avalanche of requests for annual leave.
The prospect of a well-earned holiday may fill us all with excitement, but the run up to the holiday seasons can be a challenging time of year for HR teams. They’ll often be on the front line when it comes to dealing with last-minute staff shortages or calming disgruntled employees who’ve had holiday requests turned down.
Of course, if you’re an HR professional, you’ll more than likely want to enjoy a holiday, too. And, with the prospect of global travel now back on the agenda, the temptation to jet off to somewhere exotic might be stronger than ever.
But before you start packing your bags and dusting off your passport, what’s the best way to make sure that the wheels of HR keep turning smoothly while you’re away? Here are some of the key things you’ll need to consider if you want to happily switch your phone and emails off while poolside:
Give the business plenty of notice
If you’re working in a smaller business – and particularly if you are the only HR person – make sure you give everyone advance warning of your holiday dates. That way, if the board has any urgent requests for HR data, or managers are planning to make changes that will affect payroll, they will know to contact you well in advance.
Check HR policies are up to date and available
Often HR get bombarded with questions that are quite easily answered by referring to company policy documents. Most HR software systems provide a central portal where all policies and processes can be easily accessed. Make sure your policies on sick leave, disciplinary and grievance, health and safety, etc. are up to date and that everyone knows where to find them.
Encourage early holiday requests
Summer may still be a few months away, but it’s worth reminding line managers to encourage their team to get holiday dates in early, particularly if they are working in areas where there are rules about when leave can be taken or if colleagues are not allowed to be off at the same time. It’s easy for bad feelings about a holiday refusal to cause conflict and tension in the team – if everyone knows where they stand (and have been reminded) there will be no nasty surprises or ill will.
In addition, you can also highlight the importance of booking annual leave requests as early as possible via your internal communications or your shared workspaces.
Keep tabs on key dates
Make sure you are aware of any key dates that will fall while you are away, so you can plan for them well in advance. What other events might you be responsible for? Check business events too. Are there new people due to join, or probation periods coming to an end? Other dates you might like to look out for could be the start or finish of maternity leave, mandatory training falling due or visa renewals coming up for non-UK employees. If you have an automated HR system, it can be set up to remind you when actions are due so that you can plan ahead.
Make sure new candidates aren’t kept waiting
The job market is ultra-competitive right now, with latest ONS data estimating that the UK’s unemployment rate is at a remarkably low 4.1%. In such a tight labour market, good candidates won’t hang around for long. So, make sure recruiting managers have taken the holiday dates of key people involved in the interviewing and decision process into account so that they can plan accordingly.
With the job market expected to be flooded with university graduates come July, it can be a good time for companies to pick up new, talented employees. However, there’s no sense in launching a recruitment drive if key people are not going to be around to follow through on applications.
Remind employees about self-service
No one likes returning to work and finding an inbox overflowing with time-sensitive requests. If you have an automated HR system, it’s probably a good idea to remind employees about the self-service options available to them before you head off on your holiday. Most systems will have a virtual space where you can upload and store all your important documents. Employees can then access them and help themselves to find answers to any questions they might have.
For example, systems like Cezanne HR makes it easy for employees to log sickness absence, request holidays and enter changes of address or phone number. It also allows line managers to ‘delegate’ approvals to a colleague while they are on holiday. This ensures time-sensitive requests from their direct reports, like signing off timesheets or TOIL requests, can be dealt with while they are away. A timely reminder of what employees and managers can do for themselves could save you from an inundated inbox on your return.
Subject access requests
The GDPR put an onus on organisations to respond to subject access requests much faster than in the past. To avoid panic setting in if a request arrives while you’re away, make sure you’ve done a dummy run and documented where you store employee data and any other information you may need to provide. You can find some further guidance on these requests and the relevant timescales here.
Have an emergency plan in place
There’s an unwritten rule that says the worst generally happens when HR isn’t around. Make sure there is a fall-back plan in place so that if something serious happens in your absence, managers know who they should contact – whether that’s the CEO, a legal helpline or outsourced HR support.
.. And remember: don’t forget to switch off!
Lastly, don’t forget to switch off from work when you’re on holiday. Although we’re living in something of an “always on” culture, failing to take the opportunity to relax and recharge can have serious implications for both mental and physical health.
Aim to leave your laptop at work (or turned off if you’re based at home) and turn off your email notifications on your phone so you’re not as tempted to read them. If you do need to keep an eye on emails, set yourself some boundaries and stick to them.