Summer is here and most of your staff will be wanting to book time off if they haven’t already. With the right planning, you can make sure your small business doesn’t come to a standstill while your staff are taking a break.

According to the Working Time Regulations 1998, there is no obligation on employers to approve an employee’s holiday request, unless the employee’s employment contract states otherwise. But of course, your employees are entitled to annual leave, so you should consider all reasonable holiday requests.

Remember, a complete break is important for the wellbeing and morale of your staff. They will hopefully return to work feeling relaxed, reinvigorated and ready to deal with their work once more.

Consider what work needs to be done and what cover is needed

The key is to make proper arrangements and be as flexible as possible with your staff to ensure good morale and that the work still gets done. Think about what previous summers were like and what resources you may have needed to make the organisation run smoothly.

Think about what tasks will need to be carried out during this period and if other staff can take them on. Are there any urgent deadlines that need to be met? Can you organise extra cover?

If there are crucial periods over the summer that you need certain staff to be working, then inform them in good time. You could ask for volunteers as a first step, rather than simply telling people that they have to work.

Holiday procedure and notice

Make sure everyone knows your company’s holiday procedure. This includes the notice period they need to give you to request time off, if they can carry holidays over, or if they can use next year’s allowance to make up any shortfall.

If your staff give you adequate notice of the holiday they want to take, you can check for any clashes. Make sure everyone knows how much holiday they have left out of their entitlement and when they have to take it by.

Also give everybody plenty of notice about who is away and when, any additional tasks they might have to take on and how to prepare.

Holiday request forms

Even for companies with only a small workforce, having a holiday request form is a good idea so staff are able to formally request their annual leave. The holiday request forms should clearly state that people must give:

  • at least four weeks’ notice of any intention to take holidays
  • one week’s notice for odd days

Conflicting holiday requests

It can be tricky when different employees request the same time off work. As the employer, you are entitled to prioritise the requests, provided that this is done in a fair, consistent and transparent way, such as on a first-come first-served basis.

Formal annual leave requests and recording procedures will make it easier for you to identify where there are request clashes, and to keep a record of who has had a request granted and for which dates.

You can refuse requests for time-off. You are entitled to say no if your company’s genuine interests will be compromised, for instance if there wouldn’t be enough staff to run efficiently on a particular day. Staff should be reminded that they shouldn’t book any holiday until they have had prior agreement from their employer that they can take that period off work. However you will need to give notice of the refusal.

Tasks for those taking leave

To make sure that the organisation still runs smoothly while staff are on holiday, they should be given a set of tasks to action before their annual leave starts. These could include:

  • set up an appropriate email auto-response
  • write a comprehensive handover, including details of where they are up to on certain tasks and who will be responsible for what
  • tie up as many loose ends as possible before they leave
  • inform clients that they will be away and who they can contact instead if necessary

Avoid staff having too much leave at the end of the holiday year

It is important as their employer that you make sure that people are taking their holidays. You want to avoid staff having a large amount of holiday left over at the end of the year that they will either have to take in a large chunk, or carry over to the next holiday year.

But it is also important for your staff to take their holiday so they have a chance to rest and relax and enjoy their time away from work. After all, a happy employee is a great employee.

Find out more about the HR compliance service from Hiscox and BusinessHR Solutions.