As the sun starts to shine, many employees start thinking about a summer break. But for business owners, staff time off during the summer can be fraught with difficulty.
That’s because summer can be a busy and profitable time for many businesses. However, it’s also the time most staff want to take a sizable chunk of their annual leave allowance.
Banning or restricting leave at busy times is legally possible. However, that will do little to nurture a positive culture. More likely it will lead to disgruntled staff. Some good employees might even decide to leave. But letting too many employees take holidays at the same time will almost certainly leave your business flagging.
This could mean delays in meeting customer orders and less efficient customer service. Moreover, disgruntled staff will have to work harder and longer hours to take up the slack.
Therefore, managing staff time off during the summer holiday season needs to be fair. Here are our five top tips for fair and efficient holiday management. Implement these tips to keep your staff happy and your business on track.
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1. Develop a Clear and Fair Annual Leave Policy
Annual leave during the summer, especially during the school holidays, can be a contentious issue. This can be especially true if you have several staff with school-aged children. In that case, they might all be jockeying for the same few weeks off.
How you manage staff time off will depend on your business. If summer is your busiest time, you will have to factor that in to your annual leave policy.
Conversely, is your business is able to operate with minimum staff during the summer holiday season? If so, use that to your advantage. As a matter of fact, some manufacturing industries shut down for two weeks in summer.
Some Questions to Consider About Staff Time Off
You will need to consider the following questions:
- Do you prioritize leave requests for those with children who need to take their leave during the school holidays?
- Should you adopt a first-come, first-served annual leave policy?
- Do you prioritize leave for special events?
- Will you enforce any restrictions on staff time off at your busiest times?
Prioritizing one group of staff over another group isn’t generally conducive to good employee relations. A first-come, first-served policy is probably the fairest option. However, that option works in favor of those who are more organized.
No Right or Wrong Answer
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. The fact remains, however, that not everyone can have their leave request approved for exactly the same weeks of holiday.
How you handle holiday requests will depend on the size of your business. A small business with just a few staff can’t afford to have more than one or two people off at the same time. Bigger businesses can be more flexible.
Developing a rotation system for key holiday periods, like school holidays, is probably the fairest option. ACAS (the UK Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers good guidance on managing staff time off, including rights and responsibilities.
2. Plan Ahead with Staff Rotation Software
Understanding your staffing requirements and planning ahead are key. The best way to ensure you have your finger on the pulse when it comes to annual leave and staff cover is to invest in decent staff rotation software.
Good staff rotation software (such as Planday) will enable you to manage rotations and deal with leave requests much more efficiently. You can also set a limit on the number of staff who can be off at the same time. Choose software that has an app so staff can see their schedule at any time, check leave availability, and make leave requests.
3. Learn from the Past and Forecast
If last summer was your busiest time, then you know to plan ahead. You may have to limit leave requests. You might also need to offer flexible working arrangements to those with childcare issues. Perhaps you’ll even employ temporary staff to get you through the holiday season. Learn from the past and forecast so you don’t make any of the mistakes you made in previous summers.
4. Maintain Good Communication
Whatever your approach to staff time off during the summer months, good communication and transparency are paramount. Staff rotation software can help. If all staff have access to a digital holiday calendar, they can plan accordingly. When summer holiday leave booking is problematic, get your team to sit down and discuss the options.
Involving your staff in the decision-making process will make them feel like they have a say in the solutions. Be prepared to think of alternative solutions. For example, if one member of staff gets priority on leave booking, make it clear that someone else gets priority next time.
5. Be Flexible About Cover
Consider hiring in temporary staff during your busiest times. This will ensure you have full cover when some employees are away on holiday. You may also want to consider offering more flexible working arrangements to anyone who has drawn the short straw and has to cover.
Plan, be clear on your annual leave policy, communicate, offer transparency, and be flexible. When you do, you will avoid the pitfalls of efficiently and fairly managing staff time off during the summer holiday season.