Saturday 18 August 2018

How do I organise holiday leave for my team in busy periods without creating bad vibes?

Keeping all staff happy when they are wanting to book holidays can be a big challenge. Stock image
Keeping all staff happy when they are wanting to book holidays can be a big challenge. Stock image

Caroline McEnery

Q: I have a small team of really great employees and all of them go beyond the call of duty in their jobs. Most of them have children of school-going age and there is going to be a rush of people booking holidays for the summer. How do I allocate holidays fairly? Should it be first come, first served? Or should I introduce another system? The last thing I want is to create bad feeling among them.

A: Employee holidays are outlined in employment law to ensure employees have adequate work-life balance. This allows time for staff to recharge during the year.

You must communicate the annual-leave policy to all employees as soon as they are hired. Depending on your business, time-off policies may differ. Some businesses like to include the following in their policy: The employee is requested to book their annual leave in the following format: one week from January 7 to March 30; two weeks from April 1 to August 31; one week from September 1 to December 1.

This ensures the busy periods, such as Christmas, are not affected by holidays.

Whatever policy you have in place, it's important to ensure you take reasonable account of the employee's need to reconcile work and family responsibilities and the opportunity for rest and recreation available to the employee. Bear in mind different employees will have different circumstances and requirements with regard to taking leave.

Employees with children can be very restricted with times and it's important to try to facilitate this where possible.

It is important to give everyone a fair chance to take leave at the time they want and that all employees' circumstances are facilitated as far as possible.

Most companies will operate on a first-come, first-served basis - but, where possible, set out the popular times of leave so employees know which dates are likely to book up quickly. Encourage staff to consider when making requests, if they can possibly take leave at different times.

It's important you consider all requests and that refusal is not immediate if there have been a lot of bookings.

Consider is the business busy at this time? Can I let more than usual on leave during the summer months as business is quieter?

If you find allowing holidays at certain times like Christmas and Easter is problematic, sit down with employees and discuss them taking the annual leave during these times on a rotational basis.

This would allow a number of employees to take leave at Christmas and the others at New Year for example, and vice versa the following year.

At this meeting you can also discuss annual leave allowances during the busy summer periods and that the company will facilitate holidays as far as practicable considering that this is the most popular time for taking time off.

These days some organisations provide employees with additional annual leave, in excess of the legal entitlement. These additional entitlements maybe at the discretion of the employer.

Alternatively some companies may operate an annual leave purchase scheme to provide employees with additional flexibility in respect of planned time off work. This benefit can help an organisation attract and retain staff.

This annual leave is unpaid - the cost is deducted from an employee's salary over their annual leave year.

These methods encourage work-life balance where employees can increase their amount of annual leave entitlement by an extra couple of weeks per year.

So if an employee takes four weeks annual leave and four weeks purchased leave, they are paid for the equivalent of 48 weeks of the year, but payment is spread out evenly over the full 52 weeks.

It is a good idea to include in the annual leave policy that employees are required to submit their applications at the beginning of that year. This makes it easier to plan and schedule work around the absences, and to calculate and spread out the reduced rate of remuneration.

Caroline McEnery, managing director of The HR Suite, is a member of the Low Pay Commission and is an adjudicator in the Workplace Relations Commission

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