This article was updated on September 11, 2018.
In a perfect world, your employees would divide their vacations evenly throughout the year. In reality, most people want to take time off during the same months, usually during the summer and at the end of the year. Unfortunately, this can make vacation scheduling a real headache.
Here are some tips on how you can keep your business functioning while ensuring that your employees get to take the time off that they deserve:
Ask for Advanced Scheduling
The earlier your employees inform you of their vacation plans, the easier it will be for you to manage the scheduling process. Some companies ask that their employees put in their vacation requests at a specified time interval before the days off. By doing so, they can ensure that there is plenty of time to come up with a solution if a conflict arises. In an effort to encourage your employees to plan early, consider a policy accepting vacation requests on a first-come, first-served basis. This can help the scheduling process and creates a fair way to vet requests.
Encourage Your Employees to Coordinate
Vacation scheduling can be a problem when too many people in the same role are away at the same time. For example, it would be bad for business if your entire sales team were to disappear for a week. As such, you should encourage your employees to coordinate their time off with others in their department to help ensure that each mandatory role is filled during popular vacation times. Furthermore, it will encourage your employees to compromise. For example, if one employee worked during the holidays last year, his coworkers may volunteer to stay on this year to allow the employee to enjoy time off.
Establish Your Vacation Policy in an Employee Handbook
Your employee handbook should clearly outline the specific steps a staff member needs to take to get a vacation request approved. For example, you should standardize request timelines, who should receive the request and what tasks the employee should complete before his or her time off. This may include making arrangements with other employees to cover shifts or specific tasks. Employers should include some flexibility in their vacation policies for employees who seek to use their vacation time for medical or other personal reasons.
Designate Time Off Blackout Days
You may also choose to establish vacation blackout periods during the busiest times of the year to prevent employees from taking time off when it will result in a hardship to the business. As your company grows, a clear vacation policy will become more and more important. Blackout periods should be reasonable and accommodating for employees who may need time off for personal reasons.
Offer Extra Pay During Popular Vacation Times
In the end, a certain degree of vacation conflict is unavoidable, especially if you stay open during the holidays. As such, some employees may have to rework their vacation scheduling. As a means to make it up to them, consider offering extra pay for hours worked during popular vacation times. However, this may impact the regular rate of pay for hourly workers when calculating overtime rates. This incentive may even encourage enough employees to stay on that you don't have to deny any requests.
A clear system and protocol for vacation scheduling can help create a system in which employees can enjoy their time off without worrying about the potentially negative impact it might have on the business.
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