How To Manage Holiday Requests

Being able to effectively manage holiday requests for your employees is a key requirement of any successful business. With the restrictions for Covid-19 starting to relax in the UK, many of your employees will be looking to book some holiday. Therefore, it’s a good time to get a good refresher on how to best manage your holiday requests.

Start with your holiday policy

First things, first – do you have a holiday policy? A holiday policy is where you state the rules and requirements for any holiday for your employees. At the very least, you should include the process your employees should follow when requesting a holiday – whether this is contacting their line manager, a dedicated HR department, or using your online absence calendar.

Holiday request notice

You should also include in your holiday policy any requirements that MUST be met. A common requirement here is the amount of notice your employees must give when they request a holiday. This could be handled in one of two ways:

  1. A fixed notice period, eg 1 week’s notice
  2. A flexible notice period based on the amount of holiday time requested, eg 1 week for a day off, 1 month for a week off, 2 months for 2 weeks off, etc.

Holiday allowance

How much holiday do you allow your employees to take? There is a legal minimum of paid holiday that you must offer your employees. However, there is no legal maximum. You have a lot of choices here in how you allow things. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Only allow the legal minimum of holiday.
  • Allow the minimum plus a fixed number of extra days at full pay.
  • Allow the minimum plus a different number of extra days depending on position, rank, or length of service.
  • Allow the minimum plus a unlimited part or unpaid extra days.
  • Allow a totally unlimited number of fully paid holiday days.

These are just some of the options that you have, and each of them has upsides and downsides. When writing your holiday policy, your job is to figure out which approach is best for your business.

Share your policy document

After you have written your holiday policy, the next step is to make sure all your employees have read it and know what to do. Make the document available to them and make sure they have read it.

Set Your Holiday Approval Process

Once your holiday policy is written, and you’ve shared it with all your team, it’s time to set some rules on how holiday requests are approved.

Stop Holiday Requests Before They Happen

Never waste time rejecting a holiday request that never should have been made. How can you do this? Well, the simple way is to make sure all your employees can see when each other is on holiday.

We understand that some time off requests are personal, so we’re not advising that you share everything. However, by sharing the simple details about WHEN each employee is away can help every other employee plan their own holiday. By making all approved and requested holiday dates public, you can stop a huge number of holiday requests from ever being made. Each of your employees becomes responsible for checking dates are suitable before they even request the time off.

Minimise Bottlenecks with Holiday Approval

When a business is small, holiday requests are usually approved by the owner/MD. In the UK, the average employee takes 4 blocks of holiday per year. When the business grows, this means that the number of holiday requests increases by at least 4 per employee. It doesn’t take long before the number of holiday requests any one person is processing starts to take an unreasonable amount of time to process. If this gets out of hand, there can become a real bottleneck in all holiday requests.

Sharing the responsibility for holiday approval is the best way you can reduce the chance of these bottlenecks. For all kinds of business reasons, it makes sense to structure your employees into teams. Approving holiday requests is no different. If you already have your employees broken into teams, why not let those teams decide whether a member can take a certain block of holiday?

By letting each of your teams be responsible for approving holiday requests, you can maximise the time employees spend working on their most important tasks. Being successful with your approach to human resources means making human resources a shared responsibility. This is never more true than when it comes to trusting your team to self-manage holiday requests.

Dealing with Holiday Conflicts and Overlaps

Even when you allow all your employees to see each other’s holiday calendars, there will still be some overlaps and conflicts.

Dealing with this problem starts with your holiday approvers. You need to make sure that everyone who is approving holiday requests can see all the calendars that could cause conflicts.

If two of your employees do request a holiday at the same time, you need to have a set of fixed rules in place about how to deal with it. This should include how many people can be on holiday at the same time from within the same team/role/location. Once this limit is reached we recommend that you start rejecting any new holiday requests for those same dates on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you don’t use a first-come-first-served basis when it comes to approving holidays, you run a very serious risk of showing favouritism towards specific employees. This is something you simply can not do. When it comes to managing your employees, fairness, openness, and honesty, are the most powerful tools you have.

Recording Booked Holiday and Holiday Requests

Now that you have your holiday request processes in place, it’s time to start recording your employee’s holidays. When your business is small, a spreadsheet or calendar will probably be enough for you to stay on top of everything.

As the number of employees you have grows, tracking employee holidays using shared calendars and spreadsheets will very quickly become a problem. Instead, you should look to start using some kind of time off or holiday planning software.

The benefits of using dedicated holiday software do not end with simply recording data though. It allows time to be saved by avoiding choices in the first place. Dedicated HR Software will let your employees find available gaps to take holiday.

Once they make a holiday request, your team managers will be notified straight away. Then they can make the choice to approve or reject the request.

HR Software can make Requesting Holiday a breeze. Compared to using paper, or Excel, HR Software can save you and your team incredible amounts of time and effort. Time and effort that they could be spending working on their main tasks at your company.

How to Manage Holiday Requests in Summary

To manage holiday requests successfully is more than just ticking some boxes. You need to plan ahead with deciding what you will allow, and what you won’t. Then you need to clearly communicate your choices with your employees using your holiday policy.

As your business grows, you will need to update your policy. You will also need to share the responsibility for approving holiday requests. Always try to be fair. Follow your own policy and avoid breaking your own rules.

If you do these things your employees will:

  • Trust you to be fair
  • Avoid wasting time requesting holiday that causes conflicts
  • Work with each other to best support the company

What are you doing to best manage holiday requests? What’s your best tip to share with the HR community?