The rush of December holiday requests can make the already hectic festive period a nightmare for business owners. Paul Tooth, co-founder and CEO of BrightHR, advises how best to manage it.
Astounding results from our latest research have revealed that up to a third of British employees don’t take their full holiday entitlement during their holiday year. With around 77% of business starting their holiday allowance at the start of January - and with most businesses not allowing their employees to carry over their leave - this can inevitably lead to a surge of absence requests at the end of the year.
Dealing with holiday requests can be a real hassle - particularly in December when many business owners are planning for the new year. It’s ever likely December is not always the best time for you to have your people off. So what can you do about it?
Communicate throughout the year and have clear procedures in place
Encouraging employees to take time off during the year can have big benefits for your business. It’s always best to try to work with your employees during the year to make sure there isn’t a sudden deluge of holiday request during the latter part of the year. Some companies put specific policies in place to make sure this doesn’t happen whilst most others have an unwritten rule about what absences in December are acceptable and what aren’t.
As an employer, you’re entitled to refuse an absence request due to the time of year. It’s a good idea to be understanding about your employee’s needs during this period by trying to be as accommodating as possible, however if they’ve left the request too late and it will have an impact on your business you must do what is right for the business.
Even if you are prepared to let people take time off during the lead up to the festive period, you should communicate with your team throughout the year that this is an important time for your business and they should try to plan their absences in advance.
Spend time in December wisely
We estimate that the average manual absence process is at least 10x slower than using an automated system. On average employees submit around seven holiday requests a year. However, in the run up to Christmas and the end of the holiday year, employers can end up being inundated with requests from employees wanting to do a bit of Christmas shopping or just looking to use up their holiday allowance.
And the holiday requests in December don’t just cover the lead up to Christmas. Many people decide to take off the period between Christmas and New Year, with businesses often shutting down during this period and specifying that three days be kept back by employees for this purpose. Although most employees will request this time off well in advance, there are some that will leave it to the last minute.
You may also have to determine how many people can be off over the holiday period in order for the business to retain enough capacity if you’re to stay open over Christmas.
These issues are always sensitive and must be handled as such. Be careful to consider potential custom and practices issues. Putting in place procedures and policies well in advance is always the best practice. And if you are reliant on a manual absence management process it’s important to remember there is an increased risk of things going wrong when compared to an automated system.
For most companies, the lead up to the end of the year presents an opportunity to develop and grow, whether it’s through a busy transactional period or a time to plan for next year. Wrestling with absence management procedures only serves as a distraction.
For example, there's filling in paperwork, problematic spreadsheets, troublesome holiday calendars and potential holiday conflicts. Furthermore, in January this holiday headache can grow to a whole new level as employees return to work and have their new entitlement to play with.