Staff Holidays at this time of year are more often than not a HR minefield.
A clear example of how HR mismanagement can lead to a huge operating disaster was demonstrated by Ryanair this year when it had to cancel thousands of flights due to a lack of pilot availability. A required change in rota after pilots’ annual leave had already been authorised left the airline unable to cover its flights. How can employers ensure they do not allow annual leave issues to come between them and a successful operation?
Whilst extra demands on your business cannot always be foreseen, you will already be aware of when your busiest times are. This may depend on the type of industry involved but it could be that school holiday times are always busy, or Christmas or other religious festivals throughout the year place the most strain on your operations. Marking these out as times where you must keep an extra tight rein on annual leave will help you ensure you are not left short.
You may want to set a maximum cap on how many of your staff can be on annual leave at once. Consider reducing that cap for busy periods.
Putting other safeguards in place will also help you keep annual leave in check, such as imposing a maximum length of leave to be taken at once. Alternatively, impose a minimum amount to be taken at once.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 allow you to designate periods of the leave year when leave requests will not be authorised. Commonly used in the education sector (teachers cannot simply take a week off in term time to go abroad), this principle can be extended to other businesses too. It may be that there are standard periods every year where you permit no leave to be taken in which case it is best to include this in the written contract of employment, or it may be a special one off occasion.
Consider carrying over staff holidays
Keep a track on how much leave all of your staff have left to take at regular points through the leave year and remind them that they should book their leave otherwise they may lose it. If an employee has a lot of leave left to take, consider whether to allow them to carry it over to add it to their entitlement for the next leave year. This is permitted provided their entitlement for the current leave year is not less than 4 working weeks.
Enforce staff holidays
You can also require employees to take leave on dates that are convenient for you. Again, this can be set out in the written contract of employment e.g. an annual shutdown or at ad hoc times during the year but you must give employees notice which is equal to twice the length of the leave in question e.g. minimum two weeks’ notice of one week’s leave.
Cancel leave already authorised
This move may be contrary to good employee relations, however, you may want to consider cancelling leave that has previously been authorised. This is likely to cause unrest amongst employees and possibly financial loss. This is therefore best considered as a last resort alongside recompense for staff holidays / flights etc booked.