Planning staff leave: how to prevent a nightmare before Christmas

Tuesday, 20 Nov 2018




The countdown to Christmas has begun, and it’s not just families who should be preparing for the big day. As a business owner or manager, you need to be ahead of the game when it comes to scheduling staff leave during the festive period – so that everything runs smoothly, even with a skeleton workforce.

To prevent a nightmare before Christmas, here are some tips for managing employee holiday requests around this time of year.

1. Remind the team of your Christmas leave policy

Many companies offer their team some bonus days off between Christmas and New Year, which aren’t included in their annual holiday entitlement. Some even choose to shut down their business entirely for the festive break.

To avoid any ambiguity and prevent a flood of last-minute enquiries, send an email round to your staff clarifying exactly what your planned office hours will be during the holiday period, and whether they are expected to use their standard holiday entitlement – or you are gifting them extra days as an early Christmas present.

If you’re asking staff to use days from their annual holiday entitlement, make sure you closely monitor their allocation, to prevent situations where team members end up exceeding their total holiday allowance.

2. Set clear deadlines for submitting holiday requests

Most employees want to take as much time off as possible around Christmas, which can significantly increase the admin workload of your managerial staff or HR person. Planning is a lot easier if you set an early deadline for leave requests, so there’s plenty of time to sort out who can take which days off.

However, even with an early deadline, there’s still a big job on your hands to co-ordinate everyone’s holiday requests – and manual errors can lead to situations where your left under-staffed during the Christmas break.

This is where it pays to start using leave management software, which allows you to enter everyone’s requested dates and compare who’s off each day, to ensure there is still enough people in the office.

3. Make sure there is adequate cover in every department

As we’ve already mentioned, sometimes situations can occur when the office is under-staffed around Christmas time. Although the festive period tends to be quieter for many businesses, you still want to ensure that any colleagues, clients or customers are well attended to despite running a skeleton workforce.

One key advantage of using staff leave management software is that you can analyse who has holiday scheduled in each department, as well as their level of seniority. This way you can avoid scenarios where an entire department ends up taking the same day’s holiday, or the office is left in the hands of junior employees who may not have the skills to deal with incoming enquiries.

4. Look back on last year to ensure leave is distributed fairly

Although many businesses offer extra leave as a Christmas bonus, this gift can backfire if your staff feel that some employees get preferential treatment when it comes to choosing which days they take.

Naturally there are days within the festive period that attract more leave requests – Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, for example – and you want to prevent a situation in which the same team members seem to get those days every year, and other staff end up always having to cover for them.

Leave management software can enable you to look back on previous years and see who had which days off, so that other employees get priority for those dates this year. And even if you only invest in this software now, you can still track your 2018 holiday distribution to reference next year.

5. Factor in the busy period building up to Christmas

Even if your leave management proves relatively straightforward between Christmas and New Year, December can be one of the most challenging times to track staff movements.

Client or customer Christmas parties and end of year meetings mean people can often be out of the office, while there’s sometimes a flurry of last-minute leave requests, as employees rush to use up the last of their entitlement before the holiday year comes to an end.

Additionally, some staff will be working flexible hours to attend their children’s nativity plays or get their Christmas shopping done when it’s quiet – and there’s often a higher absence rate as workers are struck down by winter cold and flu bugs.

The right leave management software will enable you to monitor all types of staff movement, from holidays and external meetings to personal appointments and illness. This gives you a much-needed overview to schedule work, so that everything runs seamlessly right up until Christmas Eve.

Take the stress out of planning your holiday cover this Christmas: start a free WhosOff trial for instant access to our online leave management software.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels


By Callum Ellis

Title: Planning staff leave: how to prevent a nightmare before Christmas
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