Are You Getting Enough Notice for Staff Leave Requests?

September 10, 2019

Getting enough notice when staff request annual leave is vital to make sure your business runs smoothly when staff are away from the business. When staff is on holiday it’s vital to either replace them or to have a colleague cover their work.

Out of the blue, last-minute requests for time off can make it impossible to arrange this, though. Meaning that you either work short-handed or have to refuse the request, hurting your relationship with the employee. So what causes this problem, and what can you do to make sure that you get adequate notice?

What causes the problem?

Your staff has a fixed number of days off each year, in most countries the minimum amount is set out in law. Most employees will want to take one or two fairly long periods of leave in a year, in the summer, or covering holidays such as Christmas, Eid, or Diwali. These will tend to be booked well in advance, as soon as a family holiday is booked, or when the holiday year opens. Most people will then keep the remaining handful of days off to take long weekends, short breaks, or to allow for family events.

Generally, the short notice annual leave requests become a problem with those shorter periods. Some staff will look ahead to the weather forecast for the weekend, booking Monday or Friday off work if the outlook suggests barbecue weather. Others will make spur-of-the-moment decisions based on the calendars for music festivals, or their favourite sporting events.

As an employer, you probably want to be as flexible as you can, so that staff can enjoy a healthy work-life balance. The problem with short-notice leave requests, though, is that they make it hard for the business to thrive, and can be unfair to those employees who always give plenty of notice.

What can you do about it?

As an employer, you are allowed to require a reasonable amount of notice to book annual leave. Doing this makes sure that you have enough notice to let you book agency staff, organise overtime, or arrange for the worker’s colleagues to cover key tasks.

You will need to make sure that the notice periods and other rules you set out are clearly stated. They will also need to follow the employees’ contracts, or if it is not covered in the contract, any relevant laws. Most countries that have a legal entitlement for the paid holiday will also set out some rules on notice periods in the same set of laws.

In the UK, for example, unless the employment contract says otherwise, employees can be asked to apply for leave with a notice period of double the length of time they want to take off work. This means that if a staff member wants a week’s leave, they must provide two weeks’ notice.  Using this default period does mean that for shorter periods of leave, the notice period is still short, 2 days for a single day off work. This means that it is very much worthwhile to make sure that your employment contracts lay out a required minimum notice period for annual leave requests so that you get enough notice to process them.

How can you enforce the notice period?

If you manage annual leave using a paper-based system or a spreadsheet, making sure that rules such as notice periods are followed can be a real headache. Purpose-built annual leave management software is the solution.

LeaveWizard’s fully customisable online annual leave management platform allows you to take control of the application and approvals process, and make sure your policies are applied. If you are using the legal minimums, then our territory-aware system can apply the laws for multiple countries across each of your company’s sites. Seamless integration means that employees will not be able to submit requests for leave that do not give you enough notice to process them.

You can find out more about applying notice periods and the many other ways that LeaveWizard makes annual leave management simple, by booking a free, 30 minute, online demo here.

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