Employees taking a day off is not something new. In fact, we bet you didn’t know that paid annual leave was first introduced in the late 30s. So, when we hear businesses are still struggling to manage employee holidays, it shocks us.
Managing employee holidays should not be a struggle. And for those using our amazing staff holiday planner it isn’t. It is suitable for any business and will enable you to manage employee holiday requests smoother. However, we also understand that this alone is not enough. There are still a few areas you need to think about, as mishandling staff holiday requests can cause upset and lead to disengaged employees.
In this article, we will explore everything around employee holiday requests. How you can manage staff holiday requests better, what as a manager you must do, as well as the most important part, having a holiday request policy and what you should put in it.
A holiday request policy is vital
The first area you need to look at is a holiday request policy. No matter what you are using to book and track employee holiday, you need a holiday request policy. Now, this can just be part of your main annual leave policy, but within this, you need to include a few key points around employee’s booking holidays in advance.
Holiday notice period: This is probably the most important bit and one you need to really think about. Set a guideline out around the time between requesting a holiday and physically taking it. Most organisations set a rule that holiday must be requested 4 weeks in advance, however, it can be as simple as; “Employees must request annual lave a minimum of 7 days in advance”.
Maximum days off allowed at once: Now this is completely dependent on whether allowing employees to take months off at a time, will cause you issues. For small businesses, you will probably need to add this to your policy, for larger businesses, you may be able to cope with long instances of employee absence.
Approvers: You need to set who the holiday approver is. This will tend to be the manager but if they aren’t in, you need to ensure that when the employee is requesting a day off, they know who to go to.
What managers must do & why it isn’t always their fault
The number 1 one thing managers must do is act quickly on all requests. There is nothing more frustrating for an employee than putting in a holiday request, for the manager to not respond for weeks.
As a manager, you must react fast. Notify the employee you have received it and let them know when they can expect a response. It is best to accept or reject requests as soon as you have seen them, however, this may not be feasible. Managers may need to first check if they have enough staff to cover first before approving the holiday. Although the least you can do is let the employee know you have received it.
Now sometimes it may not even be the managers’ fault if there is such a long gap between the request and them approving it. For businesses still using holiday request forms, it can be weeks if not months before the approval. Forms can go missing, be filled out wrong, or never be handed to the manager in the first place. If you are still using paper forms you really need to stop and move away from holiday request forms now. Trust us when we say, your employees don’t like them.
And it may not even be the forms that are slowing the process down. Inadequate systems that do not send automated emails, too many manual steps in the holiday approval process or poor visibility of team calendars, are all reasons for a slow approval process.
The various ways to manage employee holidays
There are numerous ways to manage employee holiday and it is completely dependent on the business. For a business with just 3 staff members, they don’t need a fancy system, a wall calendar or even just a piece of paper is enough. However, for huge organisations with hundreds of employees, a wall planner won’t even come close to what they need.
Below we have outlined 4 of the most popular ways to manage staff holidays.
Bespoke holiday system
A bespoke holiday management system is by far the best way to manage your team’s holidays. We aren’t just saying this because it is exactly what we do, it is just a fact. Think about it, anything that has been built for a single purpose is bound to be better than something that tries to do multiple things. There is a reason the amphibious car has never taken off.
Pros: A system built around your exact needs, easy holiday management, clear visibility of team, additional absence features, easy integration with other platforms, all the absence intelligence and data you need through one screen
Cons: Cost, specialist training required
Suitable for: Business with more than 20 employees
Online HR systems
Most HR vendors will offer some sort of holiday management add-on. They are not as in-depth as bespoke holiday systems, though they do offer a lot of businesses just enough to manage holidays. If you are going to use an HR system, you need to make sure it does what you need. Yes, it may be able to manage holidays, but this may not be the most important factor for you. Make sure you test and compare multiple systems before you make a purchase.
Pros: Has other useful HR features, easy integration with other platforms
Cons: Can be basic and not offer everything you need, cost, specialist training required
Suitable for: Business with more than 20 employees
Paper & Spreadsheets
Paper forms and spreadsheets are still an extremely popular way to manage employee holidays and for a good reason. For small businesses, an excel holiday planner is easy to create, use, and manage. In fact, a staggering 77% of all SME’s that have enquired with us are using paper and spreadsheets to manage employee absence (Source: e-days).
Pros: Free, simple to use
Cons: Can be hard to report on different absence types, if using formulas, it can easily be messed up, hard for managers to see where their team is, requires manual input from managers or HR
Suitable for: Business with fewer than 20 employees
Last on this list is a wall calendar. This is a simple calendar that goes up on the wall of small businesses where a manager will manually write in the employees’ holiday. This tends to only be suitable for very small businesses as it is cheap and easy to manage.
Pros: Cheap, very easy to use
Cons: Not able to report on different absences, only able to view when in the office, can become messy if employees change holiday requests, requires manual input from managers or HR
Suitable for: Business with fewer than 10 employees