HR BLOG: Managing holiday requests as lockdown eases

After more than a year of ups and downs, cancellations and lockdowns, holidays have been in short supply. So as lockdown restrictions begin to gradually lift, many people will be eager to find out when they can book their next break.

Simultaneously, the easing of lockdown may see you making plans to bring employees back to work in order to get back to business.

You probably weren’t expecting to say bon voyage soon after welcoming employees back. So what is the best way to manage an influx of holiday requests when you need staff to be in work?

Staffing your business

As an employer, it is your responsibility to provide workers with their paid holiday entitlement.

However, there are measures you can put in place to help you manage employee leave without leaving your business short staffed. In general, if you already know when your busiest times are, you can consider a holiday policy which informs staff on unavailable dates for leave.

Things are different this year, and you may need to make some changes if your usual peak period for business will vary from the norm. So, what are your options?

Firstly, the furlough scheme is open until the end of September, and furloughed employees can take holiday. It’s worth reminding staff that they receive 100% of their pay for holiday used during furlough. With the scheme open all summer, you may find that some employees are happy with this option, saving you an inbox full of leave requests when the scheme ends.

Alternatively, under the Working Time Regulations, you can determine when employees take their holiday, providing you give them the right amount of notice – double the length of the holiday. This is also applicable to furloughed employees.

If you do this, consider that the purpose of paid leave is to maintain good health and well-being, and so an even distribution of holiday throughout the year is advised where possible.

Ultimately, you can turn down a request for leave if it is going to negatively impact your staffing, again giving the correct amount of notice. However, we would advise suggesting alternative options to show staff you are committed to fulfilling their entitlement.

Normally, statutory holiday entitlement cannot be carried forward. During the pandemic, however, the government has allowed for holiday to be carried forward over the next two years. When doing this, just make sure it doesn’t create an even bigger build up and cause you problems later on.

Making fair decisions

When the government gives the green light on international travel, you could have several employees wanting to be off at the same time. Some may have been waiting a long time to visit family abroad, others in desperate need of a change of scenery.

If you don’t need them all to be in work, how can you make a fair decision as to who can be off?

Having a clear holiday booking policy can help here. A first come, first served methodology can help, as well as setting out how many people can be absent from a team at any one time. Using a holiday management tool like The HR Dept Toolkit to keep track of requests, allowances and booked holidays is a good idea.

A fair holiday management process is vital to ensure employees are treated equally. If some employees need to be in work when others don’t because of their role, make sure this is clearly explained to avoid claims of discrimination.

It is a good idea to update your holiday policy in line with COVID travel rules and communicate this with your workforce to avoid confusion over what is and isn’t permissible.

Getting some time back

Running the business means wearing many hats, but don’t forget your sun hat – because you too deserve a break!

If you’re seeking efficient HR support so that you can claim back some well-deserved time for a holiday, we’re here to help.