Under UK law, employees who work five days a week are entitled to at least 28 days paid leave each year, usually including bank holidays.
Juggling holiday requests with your rota is a headache at the best of times, but when popular holiday periods come around, it turns into a nightmare - not just for you, but for your staff too, as they fight over who gets an extended Christmas break.
Instead of resigning yourself to the same hassle every year, you can take action now to give yourself a little more breathing room.
It’s simple: encourage your staff to spread their annual leave throughout the year.
Ask yourself this: which is more disruptive - an employee taking a four day weekend once a month or saving their leave to give themselves two fortnights of holiday every year?
In many businesses, it’s the latter. If a staff member is only off on their travels for a couple of days at a time, critical tasks can be completed before their departure without any problems.
Your team can easily soak up the extra work for this short time period, and upon the employee’s return, their mountain of emails won’t be too difficult to scale.
A lengthier holiday causes more problems - you’ll need to assign those important tasks (and potentially the donkey work, too) to other staff, who may need to be trained to complete them.
You’ll also need to get different staff to contact clients - and these staff may not be familiar with previous problems and conversations. Your usually expert customer service will be compromised.
Of course, there are some situations where you’ll be able to prepare for staff taking a lengthy holiday - but if your employment contracts have a generous annual leave system, staff may not have to request leave until only a couple of weeks before their holiday.
As the end of the 'holiday year' draws to a close, your employees will no doubt want to use up their annual leave before they lose it all together.
Employees who tend to be thrifty with time off throughout the year may find that they have a glut of days off stored up and ready to use for a rather leisurely end to the year.
If a high percentage of your staff all have the same approach to taking their annual leave, you'll quickly find yourself short-staffed during this period.
With just a couple of small changes you can significantly reduce this problem.
Firstly, make your employees' remaining holiday allowance easily visible to them - perhaps you can use staff management software to display the number of days they still have available this year.
Next, don't force employees to jump through hoops to request time off - a quick email or a form in your staff management software should be all it takes to start the process - and confirmation should be equally speedy.
Many RotaCloud clients have told us that improved holiday allowance visibility has been a surprising 'side-effect' of using our software - it's reduced the problem of holiday 'competition' between staff at critical points in the year.
Nothing to lose?
Overall, encouraging your staff to take holiday isn't as damaging as it first sounds - in fact, you have very little to lose by doing so.
Sure, a handful of your staff might never get around to taking their full allowance, but the majority definitely will - so you might as well try to prompt them to spread their holiday out a little to reduce its impact on your business.
Besides, time off is good for all of us - it refreshes us and helps us be more productive when we return. Those employees who don't usually take advantage of their full allowance might feel overworked and stressed - encouraging them to take holiday can only be a good thing.