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Everybody wants to book time off simultaneously over the Christmas period – what should HR teams do?

what should HR teams do about christmas leave

Whether it’s to buy Christmas presents for the family, go to their children’s school play, or they simply want to use up the remainder of their annual leave, almost everyone within a business wants some time off during the Christmas period.

Naturally, those within HR need to manage these multiple requests so that during the festive period, your company can still operate, even with the increase in annual leave requests. In this blog post, we’re going to look at the most straightforward ways HR teams can ensure that dissatisfaction doesn’t set in within your employees when it comes to spreading the festive cheer of holiday leave.

Before we start, let’s look at the law:

Under the Working Time Regulations, all employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of holiday in each annual leave year. Provided the employer does not ultimately prevent an employee from taking this leave over the year, the employer must determine the rules regarding when leave can be taken.

Some employers will specify set periods of shut down where leave must be taken, such as Christmas, whether in relation to all or part of their employees’ annual leave entitlement. Under regulations, this is perfectly permissible provided the employer gives twice the length of the leave period to be taken as notice to the employee.

Moving on, let’s look at the seven best examples of how to ensure you have a stress-free December when it comes to booking holiday for your employees:

Make sure you start with a company holiday policy:

A bespoke annual leave policy that clearly states your company’s approach to leave over the festive period will allow you to clearly, and easily engage workplace expectations over the festive period.

Within the policy, make sure you:

  • Establish your company-wide approach to annual leave.
  • State what restrictions are in place and why.
  • Explain what deadlines there are for holiday leave.
  • Explain what, if any, shutdown days you will be operating.
  • Explain what the carry-over policy is for your company, if applicable.

Be fair to everyone, and implement a first-come, first-served basis for holiday requests:

Instead of having to juggle multiple requests at once, a simple solution would be to offer the available annual leave spaces on a first-come, first-served basis as this will be the fairest way to manage the situation. If you employ a lot of parents, for example, you’ll likely see many of them requesting annual leave to coincide with the school holidays, so this approach will give your HR team a fair and straightforward policy to implement.

If you adopt this approach, make sure you indicate this in your holiday policy, so all your staff know they need to request leave dates as soon as possible.

If you’re struggling to get to grips with the – at times- head-ache-inducing calculations when calculating holiday pay, why not try our part-time and zero-hour contract worker holiday entitlement calculators?

Be fair but firm (and be underpinned by policy):

Aside from full shutdown days, you’re always going to need a minimum number of employees working at a given time to be able to function as a business. If this is the case, you could set limits on how many people can be on holiday from a certain department at any time, so you can be sure you’ll always be adequately resourced.

Again, you must make your staff aware that this is the case and that they may need to work their annual leave dates around their colleagues.

Be clear on any time frames where no leave will be permitted:

If you have a particularly busy period – such as Christmas – when you need an entire workforce, you can restrict staff from booking leave during this time. You may also want to consider a restriction in the first week of January so that all your teams can catch up with work missed due to the increased amount of annual leave taken in the previous weeks.

As with the previous points, make sure your employees are aware that this is your approach in your policy.

Specify any days when a holiday must be taken:

Alternatively, perhaps your business shuts down on public holidays, such as Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Day, and all your staff will be required to take those days off due to the business being shut. 

If that’s the case, you’ll want to use your holiday policy to indicate to staff that they will need to reserve some of their annual leave allowances during this period.

Be clear about what the company is doing over the Christmas period:

Make sure everyone is clear about exactly when and how the business will be operating over the Christmas period. Are you going to finish early on Christmas Eve, or will everyone be expected to work a full day? Will it be business as usual over the period between Christmas and New Year or just a skeleton service?

If you are closing down entirely over Christmas and New Year, are these being given as additional holiday days in addition to people’s usual entitlement, or will they be expected to take them out of their annual leave? If everyone knows the score, there is less potential for confusion within your workforce.

Make sure you’re following the law:

Refusing holiday requests, changing leave that has already been approved or insisting employees take a holiday at a time that suits your organisation can easily create tension and could adversely impact the working culture of your organisation.

As an HR professional, you must ensure your organisation follows the rules. For example, if your business decides to close over Christmas and you need your employees to take time off, you should tell them at least twice as many days in advance the number of days you want them to take off.

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