The summer holiday period can be a hectic time for annual leave requests. Whether you’re facing a parent trying to juggle work and school holidays, or an employee pushing for a few extra days to squeeze in an overseas trip, it can be a struggle to balance everyone’s needs.
It’s well and truly holiday season. If you’re based on the coast, at least one employee has come in tinged pink after a beach session (on the subject – slip, slop, slap guys- sunburn is a bad look!). As for those further inland, you’re sure to have weathered one or two scorchers in the past weeks. For those in HR, chances are you’re already inundated with annual leave requests for the summer break, with more to come.
It can be tricky to balance competing obligations and desires of employees. Ideally, annual leave requests should be built into leave-planning for the entire year. This way, all employees know how much leave they have accrued and what they have a right to when summer hits.
Particularly in smaller companies, employers might struggle to grant all leave requests that come in, especially in smaller companies or during peak seasons. After all, there’s still a business to run.
Here are some best practice tips to help you maintain an objective approach to annual leave requests over the silly season:
Have a clear policy in place.
While large companies are more likely to have comprehensive policies around annual leave and holiday leave, it’s important to develop one if you work in a midsize or small company, too.
This policy should outline when leave can be taken, and how many people can take it at once to ensure that all decisions made are not only fair, but also consistent. You should make sure that your employees recognise that requests for holiday leave over the summer period can be refused if too many people have put in requests, or if they haven’t accrued enough leave. Ensuring that each employee knows exactly how many days of annual leave they have at any time can go a long way into managing expectations.
Forced leave: It’s a thorny issue, so be aware and prepared
The Fair Work Act describes a shutdown as when a business temporarily closes during a slow period of the year, such as Christmas or the New Year. Most companies close or maintain a skeleton staff for at least a week during this period. However, in 2015 a Fair Work Commission ruling gave new power to employers to direct their workers to take leave, or offer to buy out up to two weeks of leave a year.
If your company has a forced leave policy over the Christmas break, make sure your employees are aware of the dates ahead of time. There are also possibilities for employees to undertake work and retain their annual leave days in certain circumstances, but this must be personally negotiated with an employer.
Consider flexible work instead.
For many households with two working parents, arranging family life during the school holidays can prove to be a challenge. Although using a ‘first in, best dressed’ approach to granting an extra day’s annual leave over the summer is best practice, you should also be mindful of the obligations of those with dependents. One option is granting flexible work privileges during the school holidays. However, it’s important to keep in mind that once agreed upon, it will make a permanent change to the terms and conditions of employment.