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It’s always a good idea to have a written policy in place for dealing with employees’ time off and holiday requests, but with an extra busy summer ahead, you should be planning staffing requirements even more carefully this year.
So how do you prepare for this and, at the same time, make sure your needs as a business are met?
When needs must
The first thing to do is assess your staffing needs, says Sage HR adviser Maureen Lim. For example, how many employees can take holiday at any one time? Will you be quieter or busier? Will some areas of your business be busier than others? Try to anticipate uplifts and quiet patches, and allocate holiday accordingly, she advises.
“Holiday and pay are two of the most emotive issues among employees, so it’s important to engage with staff,” Maureen says.
Rules and regulations
Ensure you’re fully briefed on the latest business and employee rights. According to the Working Time Regulations Act 1998, a typical worker is entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year (28 days for those working a five-day week). This starts on their first day of employment, and can include public and bank holidays. However, employers may increase this, if they wish.
For part-time workers, or those without fixed working patterns, paid annual leave is calculated on a pro-rata basis. So members of staff on a three-day week accrue 16.8 days’ holiday (5.6 x 3) a year.
Next, work out whether your holiday year runs from January to December, or April to March, and whether employees can carry holiday over from one to the next. Currently, under the Working Time Regulations, employees are unable to carry over unused days from their statutory four-week holiday period, but they can carry over the extra days if both employer and employee agree.
Filling the gaps
You might want to consider working from home, hiring freelance or short-term cover, and self-rostering as possible solutions.
If you’re planning to recruit a temporary replacement through an agency or hire a freelance, don’t forget the new agency worker regulations. All agency or temporary workers who perform the same role with the same employer for 12 consecutive weeks are now entitled to the same basic employment and working rights as their colleagues in comparable roles. These include salary, working time, rest breaks and annual leave.
Further, don’t forget any employees who are already on paternity, maternity or adoption leave. They continue to accrue full statutory paid holiday, as well as any other entitlement, depending on the terms of their contract. However, statutory annual leave cannot be taken at the same time as maternity, parental or adoption leave.
Planning your policy
Draw up a clear, written policy so both staff and management are aware of how requests for time off will be considered and implemented.
“Clarify on what basis decisions are made – whether they’re in line with the business, or awarded on a first-come-first-served basis,” says Maureen. “And specify that a holiday request is not granted until it has been formally approved, and that flights and hotels shouldn’t be booked until after approval.”
If you plan ahead, draw up a clear policy, and involve staff in the process of tailoring the working schedule to business requirements, there’s no reason why both company and staff can’t continue to thrive during this busy holiday period.
Melissa Beckett, SageCover team