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It’s coming to the end of another year, and possibly also to the end of your annual leave calendar year. Have all your employees used up their annual leave entitlement, or do you need to get the team to manage their leave better next year?

Here are our top tips for managing annual leave in your business.

The norm

Employing people is a great thing, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. Not just to your employees, but also to your customers/clients and the business. It can sometimes feel like you’re spinning plates. One area that takes up a lot of admin time is managing staff annual leave.

Everyone has a legal entitlement to holidays of 5.6 weeks per year if they are full time. This works out as 28 days, and you can include the bank holidays in this figure.

Booking holidays

Most importantly, you should always keep a record of the holidays that are being used by your employees. It’s difficult enough to remember all of the other things in your life, without trying to remember who is on holiday and when.

If you’re currently using paper forms, there are lots of really user-friendly and cost-effective cloud based HR systems that you can access. These will track your employees’ holiday allowance for you, send you an email to approve or decline someone’s leave, and you canrecord any sickness on there, too.

When it comes to your employees requesting time off to go on holidays, it’s always a good idea to have some rules in place on how they need to do this. If you don’t have a policy or any general rules, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we can assist you. If you do have a policy or rules, then they will normally outline how much notice the employee needs to give you to book their holiday i.e. 2 weeks’ notice. You should tell your employees how to book their leave – the employee will need to get their dates authorised prior to booking and paying for their holiday.

Planning around people’s holidays can be quite tricky. Especially if you have a lot of employees with young children who all need to take their annual leave at the same time of year – school holidays. It always helps to assess your business needs and find out how many people you can allow off at the same time. If, for example, you have a team of 10 people, and 2 are the supervisors, then you are obviously not going to let the supervisors’ holidays overlap with each other. You also don’t want to have too few staff, so it may be that you only allow 2 people to be on leave at the same time. There’s absolutely no problem with you doing this. You should have a policy or guidelines for their employees to follow, which sets out what your expectations are and what is allowed.

You can’t always accommodate people’s holiday requests. Don’t feel like you have to go out of your way to rearrange the whole business so that Kelly can go to Ibiza. If there are already the maximum number of people off on those dates, then you don’t have to authorise the request. If your business has peak seasons e.g. if you’re in the hospitality industry, and you need all of your employees during the summer months because they are your busiest, then you don’t have to authorise holiday requests during this period. You could even write into your policy that holidays aren’t approved at certain times of the year. Telling your employees what you expect as soon as they start will be the best way to deal with this as you’ll want to make sure that they aren’t booking and paying for holidays that they can’t go on.

Some companies have a shut-down period during the Christmas break or even the summer. If you have something like this in your business and you expect your employees to save some of their annual leave to cover this, then tell them from the start. Maybe even put it in their contract of employment, with a caveat that if they have used all of their annual leave then they would be taking unpaid leave during the shut-down period.

Unpaid leave

But what if they just want to take time off and not be paid?

There’s no law to govern this this – anyone can ask for time off without pay, but it’s totally up to you whether you grant it. You should ask yourself why they’ve not opted for using their holiday entitlement to cover this time off, what they are looking to take the unpaid leave for, how much unpaid leave do they want, and, most importantly, are you able to grant it?

As with holiday entitlement, the same principles apply here. Just because they aren’t taking annual leave, doesn’t mean they are exempt from the rules you’ve put in place about how many people can be off work at the same time.

Just remember that you don’t have to say yes to everything.

Employees on maternity, paternity, or adoption leave

If you have employees who are already on maternity, paternity, or adoption leave, then they will still accrue their annual leave.

Reduced hours

If you have agreed with your employees that they will reduce their hours, then their holiday entitlement will also be reduced to reflect this change. Their holidays will only be pro-rated for the period of time that they are working less hours.

Can I ask employees to take holidays?

Short answer is yes. You can require your employees to take holidays at specific times. If you want someone to take holidays, then you need to give them the appropriate notice. The notice is double the length of the holiday you want them to take i.e. 2 days’ notice for 1 day, 4 days’ notice for 2 days, 6 days’ notice for 3 days, and so on.

Cancelling pre-booked holidays

If your employee has contacted you saying they no longer need to take the holiday and would like to cancel those days, then you have a few options.

You can tell the employee that they still need to take the time off, you can agree that they rearrange the holiday to another date, or you can allow them to cancel the leave altogether without rearranging.

You also have the right to cancel your employees’ pre-booked holidays. While it’s not an ideal situation, sometimes the needs of the business change and you have an influx of work. At times like these, if you give employees the correct amount of notice, you can inform them that their holidays are being cancelled. You would need to give them notice that is the same length as the time off they’ve booked i.e. 2 days’ notice for 2 days off.

More information

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