How to manage annual leave backlogs & avoid operational nightmares

By Rachael Smedley | Absence | 4 min read

A leave backlog is when an employee ends up with multiple leave days to take before the end of the holiday year. A leave bottleneck occurs when too many employees attempt to take multiple leave days at the same time.  

This creates two problems. First, there’s the operational problem. If multiple employees take leave at the same time, productivity is bound to suffer. 

Then there’s the question of fairness. We all need to take regular breaks to fight stress and burnout. So when faced with a leave bottleneck, who do you prioritize?  

Post-lockdown leave blues

When they introduced the first lockdown in March 2020, the government changed the law regarding holiday carryover. Employees can now carry forward up to four weeks’ leave for the next two consecutive holiday years. Beyond this, businesses can set their own holiday carry-over policy. You can read our full guide to carry over here. 

This change in law means that these issues of holiday backlogs and bottlenecks may haunt businesses for years to come. So how can you manage this situation in a way that works for everyone? 

Crystal clear communication

It’s never been more important to set a comprehensive annual leave policy. Share your policy with people across your organization to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. This way, everyone will know where they stand when it comes to leaving allowance and the leave booking process. 

You should also be as open as possible about this potential leave bottleneck situation. Explain your difficulties to employees, and make it clear that you’ll be approving leave on a first-come, first-serve basis. This might help you to address any potential misunderstandings in advance. 

Monitor your absence trends

With good absence management software, you can set flags to alert you should an employee go for too long without taking a break. You can then intervene to encourage them to use some of their leave. This will help the employee reduce burnout, while also preventing the build-up of any future leave backlogs. 

Are any of your staff still on furlough? They’ll have continued to accrue leave while furloughed. So encourage them to use up some of their leave while on furlough to avoid a future bottleneck. Just remember that you must pay furloughed employees 100% of their normal salary for any period of leave they take. 

Stay compliant and operational with automation

The situation is particularly challenging for international companies. Not only do restrictions vary from country to country, but so too does the rate at which countries leave restrictions.  

With in-built automation tools, good absence management software can help you stay compliant with international leave allowance and other associated laws and restrictions. So whatever the local situation is in the various countries in which you operate, your absence management system can guarantee that everyone gets the leave to which they’re legally entitled. 

Make your rules firm but fair

Finally, a good absence management system can also help you set and maintain fair rotas and working patterns to avoid employee conflict. You can set rules and limits to ensure that, no matter what happens with leave, you’ll always have enough hands on deck to guarantee full operational efficiency.  

Meanwhile, a streamlined leave booking process, in which you can approve or deny requests in minutes, will guarantee total transparency. This should help the entire team manage their leave backlogs while you work to avoid a leave bottleneck. 

Additional support through troubling times

Lockdown was rough for many businesses. And we can expect choppy waters for some years yet as we navigate a post-lockdown world. 

Our secure, cloud-based absence management system is an all-in-one HR tech package that’ll help you manage everything, from leave allowance to payroll. Through streamlining your processes we will help you improve your operational efficiency, leaving you free to focus on kindling growth and innovation through improving your employee experience.

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