By Claire West

A small business support group is urging firms not to leave their 2010 staff holiday calculations until the last minute.

The Forum of Private Business is calling on smaller companies to work out their employees' holiday entitlements now in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the year.

Due to repeated changes to legislation, calculating statutory annual leave entitlements has become an increasing confusing process for business owners over the years. Part-time staff, maternity leave and sickness absence pose a particular problem for employers.

As a result, the Forum's website provides free information on holiday entitlement and a free holiday entitlement calculator.

However, the pages see a huge surge in traffic during December and early January, when employers realise they need to make their calculations before the end of the calendar year.

Suddenly discovering that employees are owed more leave than anticipated often causes major problems for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With a smaller pool of workers to absorb absence among colleagues and greater fluctuations in overall company workloads, SMEs are disproportionately vulnerable to staff shortages when compared to big businesses.

As a result, the Forum believes that smaller employers should find out how much leave is owed to their staff for 2010 as soon as possible - and also start to plan ahead for staff holidays in 2011.

The Forum's finance and administration director, Nick Palin, said: "If smaller businesses fail to keep tabs on how much leave their employees are owed, it can lead to a lot of workers taking their holidays at once, causing potentially damaging staff shortages.

"Like many areas of employment law, the rules surrounding holiday entitlements are complex. The legislation is particularly tricky to interpret in areas such as sickness absence and maternity leave, so it's perhaps not surprising if business owners put off dealing with the issue until they have to.

"However, by leaving holiday entitlement calculations until the last minute, employers are increasing the likelihood of staff shortages and potential legal problems. This doesn't have to be the case - holiday entitlement calculators like the one on our website are easy to use and should allow business owners to work out their employees' entitlements in a matter of minutes."

The calculator can be found under the 'HR' section of the Forum's website -

Paying members of the not-for-profit organization can also access expert advice on employees' holiday entitlements through the Forum's helpline, along with its 'Practical Employer' package.

The Forum provides its members with a range of other employment-related products and services through its 'HR Director' business support solution.