Managing annual leave – the dos and don’ts.

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12 November 2021

Managing annual leave – the dos and don’ts.

With the ongoing pandemic and travel off the cards for the last 12 months, there are flickers of hope that we might be able to get away in the UK at least over the summer.  Managers may be bracing themselves for a deluge of requests for time off in the coming weeks and requests to carry over unused annual leave.

Are you confident you can handle them without a whole load of extra stress?

How are you going to keep your team happy whilst ensuring you don’t go short-staffed?

Fear not as we have some great advice on the dos and donts of managing annual leave, which should help to ensure there are no glaring gaps in your rota at any time.

How to avoid the pitfalls of managing annual leave

  • Don’t use manual processes.  A wall calendar or an excel spreadsheet are too error prone and too time consuming to be effective.  They are not helpful when it comes to tracking existing absences or remaining holiday balances.  It only takes one inaccurate formula to send the whole thing awry.
  • Don’t rely on annual leave requests via email or Word document request forms.  These make it difficult to get an accurate overview of the full picture and can be easily missed.
  • Don’t accept all holiday requests just because you feel you should.  Remember line managers are not obliged to agree to a worker’s request to take holiday at a particular time unless their contract says otherwise.
  • Employers should have a clear policy on holiday requests (typically, a “first-come, first-served” approach). Line managers should be brave enough to turn down holiday requests (with the correct notice) when the timing of leave would cause the business difficulties.
  • Don’t wait until the end of the holiday year to review whether or not employees have taken their full allocation of leave.  Allowing staff to build up too much annual leave and not spread out their holidays over the year can be a major problem.  Regular reminders throughout the year should be given to staff.
  • Don’t make staff feel guilty about taking holiday

It feels like everyone is overdue a holiday this year more than ever before, but it’s important to manage it carefully.  It is important to encourage taking holiday from a health and motivation perspective and keeping your staff happy.

Best practice for annual leave management

  • Be proactive in how you manage annual leave.  Don’t leave things to chance as you run the risk of everyone requesting to be off at the same time and leaving huge gaps in your rotas.
  • Do encourage your staff to plan their leave as early as possible in the holiday year giving line managers as much time as possible to plan ahead and give everyone a fair chance to get the time they want.

If someone has nothing planned by the middle of the year, remind them to request their time off asap.

Even better you could specify a notice period for submission of leave requests, especially for busy times of the year.  This is especially helpful if you operate on a ‘first come first served’ basis.

  • As a line manager you need to ensure that annual leave is planned to ensure there is adequate cover at all times.  This is especially important in healthcare organisations when patient care needs to come before everything.   Knowing your critical limits is crucial.
  • Keep the booking process simple and make sure there is no room for missed requests.
  • Communicate early, clearly and consistently

Clarify any rules around annual leave caps or restrictions, direct them to the booking policy and ask them to provide plenty of notice. This approach gives everyone a fair shot at busy times and prevents anyone from pleading ignorance when their request is declined.

Managing leave more efficiently with rota management software

Software like RotaMaster can make it far easier to manage time off.  Employees can check their holiday balance whenever they like, easily request time off and for managers who have to deal with it all, it tracks everything and individual allowances are all taken care of.  No more scraps of paper with crossings out and scribbled notes.

Rota software also makes it simple for you to see who’s taking leave at which times.  You can check leave balances before you approve the time off.  You can also see a preview of who will be out of the office when so you can arrange for those shifts to be covered.

This means your annual leave management processes will be hugely improved, leaving you free to get on with more important things.

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