So that’s it then: the bedraggled bunting has been taken down, the last few soggy sandwiches have been eaten, and everyone has returned to their usual weekly routine.

It certainly was a Platinum Jubilee to remember and a celebration that seemed to sweep the entire nation into a swirl of street parties, pomp and pageantry. I suspect, however, that for many businesses it wasn’t quite ‘back to normal’ on the following Monday…

How was the Platinum Jubilee for you HR professionals?

In the rush to get time booked in, I’d bet a pretty penny that employees didn’t consider the extra load juggling a perfect storm of holiday requests puts onto HR. A rare double bank holiday and the opportunity for an extended period of leave: all the ingredients needed for a flood of holiday hassle?

The rush for first dibs on annual leave requests

As any battle-weary manager will tell you, there’s nothing like conflicting annual leave requests to cause tension and bad feelings among a team. In reality, everyone knows that an entire organisation’s workforce can’t be off at the same time – but each employee will think they’re the ones who should be given first dibs on those precious leave dates.

For example, working parents are often desperate to get the thumbs-up over half term breaks to avoid having to make complicated and costly childcare arrangements. However, while those without family responsibilities are generally sympathetic, they’ll (rightly) tell you their time off is just as vital for their own personal wellbeing – why should they be pushed to the back of the holiday queue?

So, how was it for you? Did you manage to keep everyone happy while also keeping the wheels of your business turning? Or, were there murmurs of discontent from those left to hold the fort?

Avoiding nasty surprises

I hate to mention it, but you’ll most likely have to do it all over again when the August summer bank holiday rolls around. Plus, November and December see the first ever winter football World Cup: an occasion that’ll undoubtedly prompt football fans in your workplace to make a beeline to their absence portals to request time off on the run up to Christmas.

The key to managing annual leave requests successfully and fairly, of course, is plenty of forward planning and no nasty surprises. A carefully thought-out holiday absence policy, which sets out a procedure for applying clear guidelines for how many people can be off at any one time, can do much to quell any discontented rumblings. This can be especially useful when planning for annual leave requests over national holidays, such as Christmas or Easter.

When the policies on annual leave are clear to everyone, people are much more likely to accept that they may not always be able to take time off exactly when they want to.

In addition, managers must be transparent about the fact that, although they will do their best to accommodate annual leave requests, the needs of your business and your customers come first. They also need to reinforce the fact that if people know they need to get annual leave requests in early, they can’t really complain when a last-minute application is turned down.

Lastly, it makes sense to be up-front too about how any unauthorised absence will be dealt with. If people know a convenient ‘sickie’ is likely to be viewed very dimly, they’ll be much less likely to throw one.

Making absence policies accessible

It’s good practice to talk about the company absence policy at the time of induction. This ensures your employees know exactly where they stand from day one. There’s no harm, however, in issuing the occasional timely reminder in the lead-up to national events or major sporting occasions (the 2022 World Cup, for example).

Make sure your absence policies can be accessed easily by your employees. Using an HR portal or shared workspace is the perfect place to host your absence guide – along with the rest of your HR policies. That way, everyone knows where to find it and can get clear guidance on your organisation’s holiday requests procedures.

Need to give your policies a bit of attention? ACAS has some useful guidance to help businesses draw up absence policies – and of course the latest absence management software solutions can help you and your line managers keep track of annual leave requests and get an overview of how holidays are panning out across different teams.

Paul Bauer author image

Paul Bauer

Paul Bauer is the Head of Content at Cezanne HR. Based in the Utopia of Milton Keynes (his words, not ours!) he’s worked within the employee benefits, engagement and HR sectors for over four years. He's also earned multiple industry awards for his work - including a coveted Roses Creative Award.

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