Over the next few weeks, you’re likely to have holiday requests coming out of your ears. And whilst you would like to accommodate everyone, the demands of the business means this isn’t always possible - particular during the summer holidays.

Of course employees are entitled to request holiday, but you are not legally bound to give  it. The Working Time Regulations 1998 permit an employer to refuse a worker’s request, provided the company serves a counter-notice at least as many calendar days before the proposed leave is due to commence as the number of days being refused. But this sometimes isn’t the best course of action for positive workplace relations, so here’s how you can manage requests like a pro and keep (nearly) everyone happy.

The Secrets To Managing Holiday Requests Effectively

1. Have A Holiday Policy In Place

If you’ve already got a holiday policy in place - circulate it now. If you don’t and can foresee managing holidays being an issue this summer, it would be wise to write and communicate one pronto. This ensures all holiday requests are processed fairly and consistently.

A holiday policy needs to include:

  • how holiday should be requested
  • to whom such requests should be made
  • the circumstances in which holiday requests may be refused

You might also want to consider:

  • how many department members/ senior managers are allowed off at once
  • the maximum number of days that can be taken off in one go (detailing any extenuating circumstances here such as weddings/honeymoons)
  • how much time in advance requests need to be given
  • how much time line the employer has to respond to requests

There may be additional requirements unique to your business/sector you would be wise to include too. For example to protect against fraud, finance companies often require certain staff to take at least one 2 week holiday a year.

2. But Be Aware Of How Holiday Requests Are Dealt With In Practise

Equally important to having a policy is how holiday requests are dealt with day to day by your line managers. In particular, there should be consistency across the business in how holiday requests are prioritised. Is it on a first come first served basis? Or for popular holiday days such as Christmas, should employees be granted time off on rotation?  Managers need to be seen to be prioritsing holiday requests fairly and consistently. Otherwise they could be accused of favourite and even discrimination.

3. Make Sure The Holiday Calendar Is Visible To All

Sharing the employee holiday calendar with the team is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid holiday scheduling problems. It empowers team members to propose holiday dates that avoid clashes with their colleagues and gives those remaining at work the ability to plan projects/meetings accordingly.

4. How To Say No To A Holiday Request

Sometimes, with all the love in the world, granting holiday just isn't possible. Here's what to do if you need to have 'that' conversation....

  • Do it quickly: More quickly than stated in your holiday policy if you can, as a sign of goodwill. As always, face to face is best.
  • Explain your reasons: Reference your holiday policy so the individual knows it’s not personal. Talk them through the need to cover off certain business areas of that period  Reiterate the business decision behind the refusal and ensure them that it is nothing to do with their performance (unless it is).
  • Offer an alternative: Such as other dates when a request would be manageable. For accommodating others, some business offer one or two extra holiday days as a way of saying thank you.
  • Tell them how much you value them: When  a holiday request is denied it can make individuals feel undervalued, particularly if they have been performing well. Make sure they leave the conversation feeling positive about themselves and their contribution to the business.

5. What To Do If The Cheeky Beggars Take The Day Off Anyway...

Clearly, it’s a  bit suspect if an employee calls in sick for a day they previously asked to take off as holiday. Gather evidence if you can (social media can be invaluable here!) and hold a return to work interview when they get back. Tell them about your concerns and then explain the impact their absence had on the rest of the team. This is usually enough to stop repeat performances without getting too ‘heavy’.


For more tips on achieving leadership across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help. We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs - providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

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