How To Manage An Increase In Holiday Requests

Holiday requests can be difficult & finding cover for shifts with less staff can lead to poorer experiences all round.
Reading Time: 8 minutes
holiday requests

Holiday management doesn’t need to be complicated. Your employees are fully deserving of a break every now and then to replenish the mind, take a breather from working life and enjoy themselves. Organisations who prioritise this and have a positive attitude towards taking time off thrive, it keeps employees content and enables everybody to work more healthily and be more productive in their role. 

Taking holidays is important to reduce stress and avoid burnout. So why do so many organisations struggle to manage holidays effectively for their staff? 

Let’s explore some reasons of the importance of effective holiday management:

1. Highlighting the importance of annual leave 

Organisations see holiday entitlement as just a number. However, it’s more than that. For many, working can be a challenge and those entitled holidays can be what powers them through. Many companies may not acknowledge that taking annual leave is a positive thing but it all starts with eliciting the right company culture.

There is a culture of continuing to show up for work whilst being sick, especially in current times when the opportunity of working from home prevails. 

Really there is no benefit to this as it often results in less productivity as you are not in full state of health. Employees are inclined to work longer hours at home, and even while feeling unwell just because they think it’s normal. Is this the company’s fault for not educating the importance of taking a proper break?

In turn, employees not taking holidays can lead to stress or even worse, burnout. All productivity levels go downhill, work isn’t being completed to the standard that is expected and a vicious cycle continues impacting the persons attitude towards the business and the business performance itself. Overall, employees not taking a holiday can damage business reputation in the long run. 

How can your business be expected to grow if everybody is tired and burnt out?

Every member of your team needs to take all their holidays every year. If they don’t, stress levels will rise, and employee burnout will be more likely. You need to strike the balance of leave allowance and manage these with your staffing levels. If you leave yourself understaffed, this affects your sales, productivity, and customer satisfaction can suffer as a result.

This can be particularly difficult in a smaller company with less working staff, particular seasons such as Christmas, Easter or Summer may cause disputes as there always needs to be someone there to cover the base. Without proper management, this can lead to tension and resentment between individuals and teams, and between the staff and management.

2. Calculating holiday entitlement can be a nightmare

You must consider your employees’ statutory rights, as well as whatever holiday allowance they are entitled to as part of their role. For each employee, you need to keep track of days taken and days remaining. There are different rules for anybody who works part-time or on zero-hour contracts. And if you have TOIL (Time Off in Leiu) arrangements (UK operations), this is where it gets a little tricky!

If you have employees based in several different countries, you’ll have to account for international employment law too.


3. Getting holiday requests approved

Do you have a formal working process that staff go through to get leave approved?

Or does it currently look a little something like this:

  1. An employee contacts their manager, with a request for some time off.
  2. The manager checks that employee’s holiday allowance. 
  3. This step is most often overlooked, but some may even check the rota to ensure they have enough staff to cover the time period the employee is requesting off.
  4. They either approve the employees’ leave requests or reject them.

Depending if you have software in place, this leave process can take hours or even days, completely wasting a manager’s time. It does not need to be this complicated to approve or reject a holiday request. Also, the longer an employee must wait to get approval for their leave request, they will start to get frustrated as they are trying to plan their lives outside of work. 

4. Multiple, disconnected solutions to solve one challenge

Managing and holding records of your employees holidays taken and time off requests is no doubt a challenge, especially if your business has a huge number of employees and multiple locations. Manual methods of this process will often lead to errors with the schedule; forgetting staff had booked off and they are scheduled anyway. Not recording how many days have been taken so far will only result in staff taking more holidays than they are entitled to and at times could result in you being understaffed. This can be increasingly difficult for managers who run multiple locations as well. 

Manual methods are completely unproductive and waste a lot of their time that could be spent focusing on other areas of the business, such as training their teams.  Having no visibility of absence across your business will not enable accurate data and reporting, which in turn, can hinder company growth as you cannot identify areas for improvement. 


10 Ways to Manage your Staff Holidays Requests Better

1. Get to know the legal requirements and how they affect your business

In UK employment law, workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year. For full-time workers, this 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday usually extends to 28 days of annual leave each year. Part-time staff and those who work zero-hour contracts are still entitled to these 5.6 weeks. This is where calculating holiday allowance can get complicated. But there are simple calculations you can do in each case.

If you have operations and employees based in multiple countries? They’ll all be subject to local employment law, and this can differ significantly from country to country so you are best checking this out for each. The information can usually be found online on a government website. 

2. Create a transparent holiday policy

Holiday policies don’t need to be made up of high flying words that nobody understands. Keep it plain, simple and to the point. Making it easier to understand will enable employees to understand what they are entitled to as part of their contract. Make sure you share the policy with your staff, somewhere everyone has access to it and a platform they use regularly. Staff should be notified of any updates to the policy and valid reasons for these changes. This is all about letting employees know their rights while making it clear that you’re not hiding anything.

Outline the desired steps you would like employees to take when booking time off. There is no secret to how the actions are carried out on your end. Do you want employees to submit their leave requests in advance? If so, highlight that in the policy and reinforce it so they will follow your request. 

It’s not always going to be perfect, but having these procedures in place will certainly reduce any confusion around the time off process.

 3. Cover all types of leave allowance

Many businesses may offer additional leave allowances on top of the statutory minimum as benefits in their engagement strategy. These may include birthday days, parents leave or days out of good gesture. So be sure to factor these in as part of your entitlement rules.

4. Be fair

It’s important to highlight that within the company the same holiday rules apply to everyone. There is no prioritisation over who gets a day off whether they are a manager or a team member. Reinforce that leave is allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. 

This approach will encourage employees to take their holiday management seriously and plan out their holidays in advance, especially around the popular holiday season. It eliminates any upset and gives more of a chance to be in with getting the day off they requested for. 

5. Avoid staffing issues and conflict

To ensure you are fully covered with staff for every shift, it is essential to put a limit on the number of staff who can book off for any day. Including this as part of your policy will ensure that staff are aware that this is how the holiday management operates and will avoid any future conflicts. 

It will also help to avoid disappointment from staff as they shoudl know they are not always guaranteed of getting the day off they want. 

6. Factor in entitlement carry-over

We discussed earlier the importance of taking holidays, and you as a manager, business owner or supervisor should encourage your staff to take their days off. However, in a shift-based business this may not always be possible due to high demand of customers, therefore high demand of staff required. Therefore, you should have in place that staff can carry some of their leave forward into the next working year. 

7. Automate holiday entitlement

How do you currently manage your staff holidays? If you’re still doing it with spreadsheets and paper, you’re prone to making errors, wasting time and generally just making life harder for you as a manager!

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We previously touched on how manually calculating holiday entitlement can be a real headache, especially for each individual employee. Not to worry, with a leave management system you can automate the entire process!

Simply enter the employee’s details; their contract and their working hours. Then anyone with permissions can see how much leave that employee gets each year. Any leave they take will be automatically deducted from the total.

Employees will be able to see their remaining allowance every time they go onto their employee portal. This eliminates emails to HR, phone calls or confusion around their time off.  And a big plus of not wasting time checking spreadsheets and making individual calculations for each request.

It also works with part-time staff, zero-hour contract workers, and even international employees. So if you’ve got employees working a range of different shift patterns in keeping track will no longer be an issue.

8. Booking time off is simple

Above we explored the process most employees go through when requesting holiday leave. We said that, with a manual or outdated system, this process can take hours or days. With a good leave management system, it can take seconds.

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Staff can request time off straight from their phone on the MyZimply app or on the desktop portal. All they have to do is submit the request for the desired dates.

Their line manager will then get a notification, letting them know that an employee has requested leave. They too will be able to immediately see whether that leave would create any problems. They can then approve or deny the request, within seconds. When a decision is made, the employee is alerted. Simple!

9. Giving responsibility to the employee

This streamlined approach to booking leave won’t just make life easier for your HR team. Give employees the responsibility to manage these essential aspects of their working life and you’ll demonstrate that you trust them. It can often lead to a boost in morale, and sometimes improved relationships between employees and management and even teams. 

An automated system can also make the process more accessible for employees who work remotely, and for those who may travel for work. They don’t need to be on site to ask about a day off or hunting down the manager who is always on the go. Instead, they can request time off wherever and whenever they can.

10. Reporting and insights can be used for business development

Manual methods such as paper records and error-prone spreadsheets will not give you the insights you need to be proactive when it comes to managing employee holidays. You can set up automatic reporting and alerts.

End result? Happier employees who are well rested and ready to return to work with full productivity

The easier the process you have in place for staff, the happier they will be. Combine this with a company culture that champions employee wellbeing, the more likely it is that employees will use their holiday allowance. This is essential for good productivity levels that can lead to good business growth. 

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