Managing staff through the summer holidays

Summer, much like Christmas, is a crunch period when many employees compete for limited time off.

Now is the perfect time to consider strategies for managing your staff during the summer holidays.

Ensure you have an annual leave policy
This is the most basic step, but it’s worth checking you have one written down. While there are statutory rules you must adhere to, whether you have a policy or not, your policy will guide you and staff in how annual leave works in your business.

For example, how do you prioritise annual leave? First come, first served is a pretty fair way to do this, but there are other methods too, such as a rota system. Your annual leave policy may explain minimum staffing requirements, or busy times when leave will be refused for everyone. Conversely it may include a shutdown, when everyone must take some of their annual leave.

Use HR software
If you don’t use HR software already to manage annual leave, you will find it a godsend when you try it. It will keep track of all annual leave, letting employees self-serve their own requests, and giving you an easy way to approve or decline them.

Consider other leave entitlements
One of the main factors in certain times of year being more popular than others is school holidays, and the need for working parents to look after their children, including taking them away.

There are other leave entitlements that can be used if they run out of annual leave – most specifically Unpaid Parental Leave. This entitles parents to up to four weeks a year (taken in whole week blocks and normally capped at 18 weeks in total per child before their 18th birthday). They must have worked for you for one year to qualify and give 21 days’ notice. You can ask them to postpone it if there is a good business reason, but if it relates to school holidays they may have little choice.

For those who have a caring need which differs from childcare – say someone with a disability or an elderly relative – Carer’s Leave could be an option. This entitles employees to take up to a week per year as unpaid leave as a day one right. It can be taken as a whole week or in as little as half day increments.

Dependents’ Leave isn’t an appropriate mechanism for the summer break as it is limited to unforeseen circumstances, not long-anticipated school holidays. A longer-term solution could be designing term-time-only flexible roles.

Reserve staff on standby
One way to keep your business staffed during peak holiday season is to develop a reserve of experienced staff who can stand in. This could be through a relationship with a temping agency, suppliers who have additional resources to pick up slack or perhaps staff who have retired but would appreciate a little work on the side.

Above all, try to be fair with your annual leave policies. Fair to all staff whether they have children or not – everyone needs a break; but fair to your business needs too and the employees who are left behind to hold the fort.

Get support from The HR Dept.


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