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How to manage leave requests over the Christmas period

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Posted by Steph Marsh on 15th November 2021

It’s almost that time of year when employers start to receive multiple requests for holiday leave over the Christmas period, and with many having been unable or unwilling to take leave throughout the year, chances are there will be quite a few bookings for the same dates!

Clearly if staff all want the same days off, there is likely to be some conflict between colleagues, so how can you deal with this and make the process as fair as possible?

The reality is, that regardless as to what you do, someone will be unhappy…

A guide to managing leave requests over the Christmas season:

Encourage early planning

Most employees will know the specific times that they want off, whether it’s before, during or after the festivities start, so encourage them to get their requests in as early as possible. This way, you have as much time as possible to plan for staffing levels and can encourage staff not to leave too much of their entitlement until the last minute.

Understand your obligations

If you require staff to take annual leave at a time that suits the business, or that they use annual leave for any shut down period, make sure that you have the right to do so. If you need to close the business over the festive period but require staff use some of their annual leave entitlement for this, then you need to give them at least twice as many days’ notice of the days that you want them to take off, i.e. you need to give them 4 days’ notice if you require them to use 2 days’ holiday. Although in reality, if you are going to require staff to take holiday at specified dates, it is advisable to give them as much notice as possible. Best practice would be to give something like 11 months’ notice so that employees can plan their holiday year.

Check any policies and contracts to see whether you have the ability to either cancel, amend or force leave to be taken at a specific time. Even if you do have those rights, be aware that enforcing them could create a negative environment and harm the business’ culture and reputation.

Be clear

Make sure that you are clear as to whether or not you will allow holiday leave to be carried over to the following year and that if it can’t be, employees understand that if it is not booked, it will be lost. If you have a holiday request policy, ensure that staff are aware of this and understand that any requests will be dealt with in line with the policy, which could help in the event that you are required to refuse some requests.

Ensure you are fair!

Whether you choose a ‘first-come first-served’ approach or request that all bookings are made by a certain date, ensure you are fair. Whichever approach you take, you’re almost guaranteed to upset someone…maybe they joined the company after the date to put requests in or were unable to get their requests in early for some reason. If you pick a system, you need to stick with it.

Ultimately, whilst you should try and ensure fairness across the board, some employees will probably end up feeling slightly demotivated and upset but by trying to manage expectations and giving as much notice as possible, you should be able to reduce this considerably.