How to avoid holiday clashes and conflict after lockdown

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

April 30 2021

Summer is on the way and lockdown is lifting. 

Together, they create a perfect storm. Combine easing restrictions with better weather, and watch the annual leave requests start to flood in.  

And while you’d rather not deny leave, you can’t manage your business if too many employees are off. That’s why we’re here to help you prevent holiday clashes this summer…  

Can I require staff to use their annual leave now? 

In short, yes. As an employer, you can book time off for your staff.  

To do this, you’ll need to provide enough notice. If you’re booking time off for your staff, you should provide notice that’s double the length of the leave. So, if you need an employee to take two days off work, you should give them at least four days’ notice. 

So if you predict a big holiday rush after lockdown, you could require staff to use their leave now.  

But while this can prevent staff from stockpiling leave and splurging over the summer, it’s not a perfect solution. Staff could resent being forced to use their leave, which can hurt morale. 

Instead, encourage your workforce to spread their leave evenly and remind them about the benefits of taking a break from work.  

Can I refuse a holiday request?  

As long as you provide staff with at least 5.6 weeks of annual leave, you can deny any holiday request. 

But before you do, consider whether you have a valid reason to do so. Because while you can say no, you should explain why you’ve made that decision. 

It could be that your employee hasn’t provided enough notice. Or it might be that granting the request would leave you understaffed.  

It’s important your reason is consistent with your annual leave policy. So if your policy says staff should provide two weeks’ notice, you can’t refuse a request on the basis that three weeks’ wasn’t enough.       

What can I do if staff want to book the same leave? 

When travel restrictions lift, staff will want to book their long-awaited holiday. And during the summer months, there’s a high chance holidays will clash.  

To avoid any conflict, make sure your employee handbook covers any reasons why you might need to let someone down. 

For example, do you need a certain number of staff at any one time? Or do you need at least one employee from each role or department to stay at work? If so, make sure your employee handbook explains this.  

That way, if you need to deny a request due to being short-staffed, employees will know why you’ve made the decision.  

Use a first-come first-served policy  

If multiple staff want to book the same holiday, you might need to disappoint someone. But instead of making a tough call, you can use a ‘first-come first-served’ policy. In other words, you give automatic priority to whoever booked first.   

Base your decision off anything else – like seniority or the reason behind the holiday request – and you could be accused of being unfair.  

Plus, a first-come first-served policy makes life easier. It means you won’t need to assess every request on a case-by-case basis – all you need to do is check who asked first.  

Encourage staff to book as soon as possible  

With a first-come first-served policy, staff won’t want to leave their holiday request until the last minute. And that’s great – because it means you have more time to plan for future absences.   

It also means your staff are less likely to be disappointed. Because by booking early, they’re more likely to be first in line and take priority. So, even if it’s months in advance, encourage your staff to book as soon as they can.  

This gives staff more responsibility to make sure they book their holiday off ahead of other staff. 

Make a shared holiday rota for everyone 

You shouldn’t need to deal with clashing holiday requests. If you can’t have multiple workers booking the same days off, create a holiday rota and share it with your team.  

Whether you pin the rota in the staffroom or save it online, make sure staff can clearly see when their co-workers are away. It means staff can check availability before requesting leave – and if it’s already fully-booked, they’ll know to avoid booking those dates.  

Avoid clashes with smart technology  

When the holiday requests start to rush in, it can be hard to spot any overlaps or clashes. Especially when all your team are booking leave at the same time. 

With BrightHR, you won’t need to check for holiday clashes. With smart software, your staff can securely request leave – and if that creates a problem for your business, the system will alert you straight away.    

Remind staff they can use holiday on furlough 

If staff are on furlough, they might be waiting to book leave when they return to work. If that’s the case, remind employees that they can use annual leave while they’re on furlough. 

Not only does this prevent bottlenecking, but it also has clear perks for your staff – because they’re entitled to receive 100% of their wages, instead of the reduced furlough rate.  

So if your workers are happy to take their leave on furlough, it’s a win-win situation.  

To avoid a big build-up of holiday when furlough ends, it’s possible to book the time off on behalf of your staff. But remember, you need to provide notice that’s at least double the length of the leave.  

Create a dedicated policy… and share it around  

Miscommunication is the biggest driver behind annual leave conflict. It could be that your employee didn’t realise they couldn’t be away at the same time as their colleague. Or maybe your rules on providing enough notice weren’t clear.    

To prevent misunderstandings like these, make a policy and share it with your team. Make sure the policy answers these questions: 

  • How much notice do your staff need to provide? 
  • Who should staff send a holiday request to? 
  • What might mean you refuse a request? 

If you don’t know where to start with paperwork, Peninsula is here to help. We can create watertight employee handbooks and expert policies to protect your business.  

Call us on 0800 028 2420 to see how we can take the hassle out of holiday requests. 

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