How To Manage Annual Leave Requests

A block of time away from the stresses of daily life is our way of hitting the refresh button and when we return, we are better equipped to handle whatever comes. If we don’t get that chance to recharge our batteries, we start to mentally check out, that means your employees could be surfing the internet when they are supposed to be working on that big project!

Wouldn’t it be great if all your employees spread their entitlement over the whole leave year? But that never happens, it sometimes seems like everyone tries to cram their whole years entitlement into the same 6-week period!!!

So how do you juggle those requests?

5 Top Tips To Help You Manage Annual Leave Requests

  1. Give Yourself Enough Time Approve Annual Leave Requests
    This is a biggie. You need to be very specific about when Annual Leave Requests are due. Be sure to set a deadline for submitting Annual Leave Requests that gives you enough time to project how employee absences might affect production schedules and project delivery dates and to resolve any conflicts (like two employees asking for the same week off). Some organizations require employees to submit Annual Leave Requests at the beginning of the calendar year; others have more lenient procedures. When employees submit Annual Leave Requests earlier in the year, it allows you to plan accordingly with staffing availability as well as work with employees on altering the requested time off.

    Now would be a good time to remind your employees of when their requests are due so you don’t get a ton of last-minute requests cluttering your desk.

  2. Communicate Your Annual Leave Policy
    I’m sure you will have covered these important policies during your induction process. But that process can be quite overwhelming so a refresher is always good, and I always say repetition is better than never at all! Make sure your employees know what notice they need to give you when requesting Annual Leave and how much, or little, Annual Leave can be taken at any one time.

    Send out an email, add it to the agenda of your next team meeting and put a copy of the policy on your notice board. Just make sure everyone is well aware of the policy before it’s too late in the season!

    If you don’t have Annual Leave and Time Off Work policies check out my Holiday Entitlement Toolkit.

  3. Be Fair
    Remember it’s impossible to please everyone!However, a simple and reasonable process for granting or declining annual leave requests will ensure a fair process.

    You will need to create a policy for how conflicting requests will be decided, for instance will seniority take priority or first come, first serve. If you have to decline a request, be sure you’ve made the right decision as the employee may submit a grievance if they feel their request has been handled unfairly.

    To ensure fairness You might allow those who did not get their first choice this year to get first pick in the next year.

    Whatever process you choose for reviewing annual leave requests it’s vitally important that apply that process consistently. When an employee is disappointed that their request has been declined, they are more likely to be accepting of the decision and less likely to make a fuss if they feel a consistent process has been applied to all annual leave requests. That in turn reduces your exposure to complex and time-consuming tribunal claims!

  4. Ensure Staffing Levels are Appropriate
    It’s always best practice to consider annual leave, sick leave and other kinds of employee absences when you’re planning your staffing levels.Ask yourself: who could cover for this position if that person took a vacation?
    • For some critical positions where you can’t afford to have a full-time backup on your team you may need to consider temporary cover by an agency worker.
    • For teams doing similar or like work it’s easy to re-distribute the work amongst the rest of the team rather than one person taking on the work of two.
  5. Prepare The Employee For Their Absence
    You need to create a checklist for your employees of things they need to do before they leave the office. Here are some examples:
    • Notify your customers ahead of time that you will be out of the office and who on your team can be of assistance to them while you are away.
    • Brief your cover on all outstanding work and what needs to be done whilst you are away. Make sure to provide a list of key contact information and details on how to access related files.
    • Record a phone greeting to let callers know that you are out of the office and when they can expect you back.
    • Create and Out Of Office response for your e-mails confirming you are out of the office, when you are back and who they can contact if they’re message is urgent.

There you go! Those are my Top Tips to managing holiday requests this summer.

But what can you do if the summer months are your busiest time, or you have an unusually large project to complete this summer and you need to encourage your employees to be at work during that period?

You can offer premium pay and bonuses but often small gestures are equally appreciated.

Here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Treat Yourself and Your Employees arrange for some ice creams and ice lollies to be delivered during the afternoon of a particularly hot day.
  • Encourage Casual Fridays in the heat of summer we all need a break from professional clothing, let your employees wear flip-flops and relax the formal clothing rules just once a week. See how it goes and if everyone can handle the freedom to choose appropriate summer clothing, then maybe you could make it more than once a week. You may want to outline some rules so no one shows up in beach attire.
  • Create Summer Activities Tell your employees to put a favourite toy on their desk. Encourage everyone to bring in the recipe for their favourite cocktail. Have tropical music playing in the office or staff room. Arrange a picnic for everyone. Suddenly, your office will feel more like holiday than work and your employees can focus on work because they will no longer be Googling holiday spots cos, they’ll be in one!

Holiday Entitlement Toolkit

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Holiday Entitlement ToolkitMy Holiday Entitlement Toolkit provides simple and straightforward answers to common questions relating to Holiday Entitlement in the UK, such as how to:

  • Calculate holiday for starters and leavers
  • Calculate holiday entitlement for part-time and non standard working patterns.
  • Deal with part days
  • Decline or cancel a pre approved holiday
  • Enforce a period of holiday on an employee or group of employees
  • Deal with competing request for holiday
  • Deal with an employee who goes ahead with a holiday which has not been authorised
  • Calculate holiday pay

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How To Manage Annual Leave Requests


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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