We all enjoy a holiday, we work hard and deserve a break. However, as a business owner, managing annual leave requests can be a headache, especially through the Summer. How can you keep the business running smoothly while team members are off? What can you put in place to streamline the process, prevent disruption to the business and enable your team to have a well-deserved break?
Why is annual leave important?
Every full-time employee in the UK is entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid annual leave. You may wish to add more to incentivise recruitment, recognise achievement or reward loyalty.
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – Unknown
Studies by Expedia have shown that breaks from work are beneficial to the employee and the employer. The detachment from work, change from the usual routine and opportunity to relax or partake in enjoyable pursuits have multiple health benefits.
Whether we travel abroad or stay at home for our break, stress levels reduce, the risk of health issues drops and we recharge. On return to work, we are more energised and motivated. Taking their full annual leave entitlement makes staff less likely to experience burnout or be absent with health complaints.
However, this only works if we take a proper break from work. No answering calls, responding to emails or finishing off a project to keep on top of things. If employees are taking annual leave, the company culture and resources should ensure they switch off. Achieving that takes a bit of planning.
Managing annual leave
Prepare an annual leave policy
The first step is to provide an annual leave policy to all employees, which clarifies:
- Annual leave entitlement and how this has been calculated
- When the holiday year runs (for example Jan – Dec or the Financial Year)
- Any limitations (days that are not permitted or days that have to be taken as annual leave)
- How to request annual leave and the process for approval
- How much notice is required for requests
- Whether unused annual leave can be carried over to the following year, or not
Will you set a limit to the number that can be off at a time?
Remember, pro-rata calculations must be made for part-time staff and if you have workers on more flexible contracts their allowance will be different to full-time staff members.
Use a holiday document
The next step is to create a living document; a calendar with requested and approved annual leave for all employees shown in colour-coded blocks. Dates when the office is closed for bank holidays, industry events or staff training are also clearly marked. With access to this document, employees can clearly see when is a good time to book to avoid clashes.
Having a current picture of staffing levels will inform management decisions on whether future holiday requests can be approved. It can also aid the planning of holiday cover; when to arrange temporary contracts or enlist freelancer support.
3 Doc Solutions provides a holiday document template. Get in touch if you would like this branded and tailored to the specific requirements of your business.
Measures to minimise peak holiday disruption
The school holidays, religious festivals and summer months are peak times for holiday requests. This can leave the business with skeleton staffing, which can be a challenge. By encouraging staff to give as much advanced notice of holiday bookings, you can take control and put measures in place to keep everything moving efficiently.
This is a good time to make use of freelance contacts and temping agencies, to provide cover. Getting them in place and fully briefed before the exodus will help to keep things operating as usual. Outsourcing can enable all permanent staff to take holiday when they want to, so no one is disappointed.
Other options are to quote longer lead times or avoid contracts with deadlines that fall at peak times. If staff shortages mean that you decide to close the office for a couple of days, inform customers to manage their expectations.
Encourage pre-holiday preparation
In addition to the Annual Leave Policy, it can be useful to have a pre-holiday checklist for staff. This can include:
- A meeting to hand over responsibilities to a colleague
- Agreeing on a lead contact in their absence
- Contacting clients to inform them of the temporary point of contact
- Switching on a standard company Out of Office message
- Who to forward messages to, or leave the work phone and other devices with
As a small business owner, you also need to book your holiday. A break from work is as important for you as it is for your employees. Our Holiday Handover article could help make this possible.
Keep the business running during the peak holiday season
With a clear policy, a living holiday document and advanced preparation it is possible to minimise the risk of disruption, even during the peak holiday season. Take control and remember that time off benefits everyone’s health and well-being – yours included.
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