Holiday management doesn’t have to be a challenge, and employees need to take a break from time to time. But managing holiday bookings in growing and large organisations comes with pitfalls if good practices and a streamlined approach aren’t in place.
Taking holidays is important to reduce stress and avoid burnout. But if people managers each have their own way of managing holiday bookings and approvals per team or department, and are relying on spreadsheets to record everything, holiday management becomes a big admin drain and can lead to poorer organisation and resource planning.
In this blog we look at why staff holiday management can be a challenge, and 8 steps organisations can take for a better approach.
Why holiday management is a challenge for organisations
1. Encouraging annual leave isn’t part of your workplace culture
Holiday entitlement is more than just a number in employees’ contracts. It all starts with the right company culture.
In today’s world of work, we still see a culture of presenteeism in many organisations. Employees are inclined to work longer hours at home, and even while feeling under the weather just because they think it’s normal, or they don’t feel able or encouraged to take time off.
In turn, employees not taking holiday leads to burnout and stress, which eventually sees organisations starting to experience stuttering morale that impacts productivity, wellness, and the eventual turnover of losing top talent. Overall, employees not taking holiday is detrimental to your company’s growth plans.
Every member of your team needs to take all their holidays every year. If they don’t, stress levels will rise, and employee burnout will be more likely. But you need to balance leave allowance with your staffing levels. If your staffing levels get too low, then sales, productivity, and customer satisfaction can all suffer.
This is why there are often disputes over holiday dates. Somebody wants to take a certain week off. But somebody else has already booked that week off. And if both employees were to take that week off, it would create staffing issues. This can lead to tension and resentment between individuals and teams, and between staff and management.
2. Calculating leave entitlement isn’t always easy
You must consider your employees’ statutory rights, as well as whatever holiday allowance they receive as part of the job. And for each employee, you need to keep track of how many days they’ve taken, and how many days they have remaining.
There are different rules for anybody who works part-time or on zero-hour contracts. And if you have TOIL arrangements, things can get even more complicated.
And this is just for your UK operations. If you have employees based in multiple countries, you’ll have to account for international employment law too.
3. Problems with the approval process create a negative employee experience
What sort of process do people have to go through if they want to book time off in your company? Your process might look a little something like this:
An employee contacts HR, or their line manager, with a leave request.
HR, or the line manager, checks that employee’s holiday allowance. They also check the rota, for any potential resourcing issues. They either approve the employees’ leave requests or reject them.
Depending on the systems you use, this process can take hours or even days. But if this process is more complex than it should be, it’ll mean a lot of admin for HR. And the longer an employee must wait to get approval for their leave request, the more frustrated they’ll get, and the more disappointed they’ll be should you have to reject their holiday request.
What’s more, if your holiday booking system is too complicated, some of your employees may be less inclined to put requests in, which isn’t a pleasant employee experience.
4. Using multiple, disconnected solutions to solve one challenge
Scaling HR processes with growth is one of the biggest challenges companies face, and it’s the same case for managing and recording employee holidays. This will resonate with organisations that operate across multiple sites and countries, as dated manual methods such as paper forms and spreadsheets become duplicated across these different areas of the business.
This disjointed method for managing holidays is not only unproductive but creates uncertainty through zero centralised visibility of teams across the whole organisation. This lack of centralised visibility of absence, therefore, doesn’t provide accurate data and reporting required to spot issues that will disrupt company growth.
Do any of these challenges sound familiar? We’ve taken the best-practice approaches from some of our most successful customers around the world to help your growing organisation manage holidays more effectively.
8 steps to better holiday management
1. Understand the legal requirements, and how they apply to your organisation
When it comes to leave entitlement, every country is different and these rules are subject to change, which spreadsheets cannot keep up with without manual updates.
In UK employment law, workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year. For full-time workers, this 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday usually extends to 28 days of annual leave each year. Part-time staff and those who work zero-hour contracts are still entitled to these 5.6 weeks. This is where calculating holiday allowance can get complicated. But there are simple calculations you can do in each case.
But what if you have operations and employees based in multiple countries? They’ll all be subject to local employment law, and this can differ significantly from country to country.
2. Create a transparent holiday policy
Produce a holiday policy in simple language, so that anyone can understand it. And make sure everyone can easily access it. Share it with new starters, but also place it prominently on your company directory for when employees need it. This is all about letting employees know their rights while making it clear that you’re not hiding anything.
Outline how you’d like employees to book time off, and tell them what they should expect to happen once they make a leave request. Be as transparent as possible.
You could also define the amount of notice you require employees to give when making leave requests. Many companies set this as being at least twice as long as the period of leave an employee wishes to take. So if they want to take one day off, they’ll need to give at least two days’ notice. But if they want to take one week off, they’ll need to give two weeks’ notice.
It’s all about managing expectations, encouraging employees to plan in advance while giving HR enough time to make arrangements to manage the leave requests.
3. Be fair
Let employees know the steps you’ve taken to make holiday management as fair as possible. Talk about how you allocate leave on a first-come-first-serve basis, and how it’s nothing to do with preference.
This could encourage employees to book their leave far in advance if there are specific days they wish to take off, which could help avoid conflict if multiple employees want to take the same time off. Parents, for example, will know to book school summer holidays off months in advance, rather than leaving it to the last minute.
4. Avoid staffing issues
This is another way to avoid conflict and tension. If you want to avoid staffing issues, you need to set limits on the number of employees who can take time off on any given day. Define this limit, and communicate it clearly. This will send a subtle message to staff, that they’ll need to think of their colleagues when it comes to booking leave.
Coupled with your first-come-first-served approach to allocation, this could help to avoid disappointment and arguments in the long term. At the same time, you could let employees know if there are any times when nobody will be allowed to book any leave, such as in that busy run-up to the festive period.
5. Factor in entitlement carry-over
As a responsibility as an employer, you need to do all you can to encourage employees to take all of their holidays. But there will be cases where they’re not able to take all their leave in a given year due to unforeseen or special circumstances. So you need to allow them to carry some of their leave allowance forward.
6. Automate your entitlement tracking
How do you currently manage your staff holidays? If you’re still doing it with spreadsheets and paper, then you’re making life much harder for everyone. A centralised absence management system will streamline many aspects of the holiday management process.
As we explored above, it can be a real headache to calculate an individual employee’s holiday allowance. But with an absence management system, you can automate the whole process.
Just enter the employee’s essential details, such as the nature of their contract and their working hours. Then anyone will be able to see, at a glance, just how much leave that employee gets each year. And any leave they take will be automatically deducted from the total.
Employees will be able to see their remaining allowance every time they access the system. This means no more endless emails to HR, and no more endless hours spent checking spreadsheets and making individual calculations for each request.
It also works with part-time staff, zero-hour contract workers, and even international employees. So if you’ve got employees working a range of different patterns in multiple countries across the world, keeping track of every employee’s holiday allowance will no longer be complex.
7. Make booking holidays simple
With an absence management system like edays, booking leave takes seconds.
Any employee can securely access the system from any device. As we said above, they’ll immediately be able to see how much leave they have to take. They’ll also be able to see an up-to-date employee rota. So if you’ve effectively communicated your company policy on leave allowance, they’ll know from the start whether their leave request could create any issues.
If they want to make a leave request, there’s no form to fill in, and no emails to write. Instead, they just have to choose their dates and push a button. Their line manager will then get an alert, letting them know that an employee’s requested leave. They too will be able to immediately see whether that leave would create any problems. They can then approve or deny the request, once again at the touch of a button. A few moments later, the employee will know where they stand.
8. Leverage intelligent absence reporting and insights
Manual methods such as paper records and error-prone spreadsheets will not give you the insights you need to be proactive when it comes to managing employee holidays. With edays, you can set up automatic reporting and alerts. If an employee works for too long without taking a holiday, you can receive an automated alert. You can then talk to the employee, and arrange for them to take that much-needed break.
The easier you make it for employees to take holidays, and for people managers and HR to manage those holidays, coupled with a company culture that champions employee wellbeing, the more likely it is that employees will use their holiday allowance. This is crucial for fueling the growth of your organisation because happier, well-rested employees are more productive and loyal employees.
Find out why edays is the leading absence and leave solution – book a free, personalised demo
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.