How to deal with employee ‘holiday hassle’ in December

Last minute holiday requests from lots of employees around the festive period? Here's how to handle it

BrightHR Team

Up to a third of British employees don’t take their full holiday entitlement during the holiday year. With around 77% of businesses starting their holiday allowance at the start of January - and with most businesses not allowing their employees to carry over their leave - this can inevitably lead to a surge of absence requests at the end of the year.

For many business owners December is a time to plan for the new year, whereas for others, especially in retail and hospitality industries, it is often the busiest period. So, having to deal with holiday requests can be a real hassle.So what can you do about it?

Monitor the situation and anticipate clashes

Business owners should be keeping an accurate record of remaining employee leave entitlement and any booked time off. These records can prove invaluable when it comes to anticipating staffing problems in December.

By taking a look into holiday remaining entitlement you can see if there are any staff need to take time off before the start of the new year. If it’s just one member of staff who has a lot of days to take it might be ok, but if you find several that’s a whole different story.

You also have to factor in potential holiday clashes. December is always a popular month in terms of employee time off and if you have a combination of employees with time already booked off and employees with leave yet to take, you may be facing a major problem.

Have your processes, procedures, and policies in place

Encouraging employees to take time off during the year can have big benefits for your business, and it’s always best to try to work with your employees to make sure there isn’t a sudden deluge of holiday requests during the latter part of the year. Some companies put specific policies in place to make sure this doesn’t happen, whilst most others have an unwritten rule about when absences are acceptable and what aren’t.

As an employer, you’re entitled to refuse an absence request due to the time of year. It’s a good idea to be understanding about your employee’s needs during this period by trying to be as accommodating as possible, however, if they’ve left the request too late and it will have an impact on your business you must do what is right for the business.

Even if you are prepared to let people take time off during the lead-up to the festive period, you should communicate with your team throughout the year that this is an important time for your business and they should try to plan their absences in advance.

Spend time effectively during this important period

We estimate that the average manual absence process is at least 10x slower than using an automated system such as BrightHR. On average employees submit around seven holiday requests a year. However, in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the holiday year, employers can end up being inundated with requests from employees wanting to do a bit of Christmas shopping or just looking to use up their holiday allowance.

And the holiday requests in December don’t just cover the lead up to Christmas. Many people decide to take off the period between Christmas and New Year, with businesses often shutting down during this period and specifying that three days be kept back by employees for this purpose. Although most employees will request this time off well in advance, there are some that will leave it to the last minute.

You may also have to determine how many people can be off over the holiday period in order for the business to retain enough capacity if you’re to stay open over Christmas.

These issues are always sensitive and must be handled as such. Be careful to consider potential custom and practices issues. Putting in place procedures and policies well in advance is always the best solution. And if you are reliant on a manual absence management process it’s important to remember there is an increased risk of things going wrong.

For most companies, the lead-up to the end of the year presents an opportunity to develop and grow, whether it’s a busy transactional period or a time to plan for next year. Wrestling with absence management procedures only serves as a distraction.

For example, there's filling in paperwork, problematic spreadsheets, troublesome holiday calendars and potential holiday conflicts. Furthermore, in January this holiday headache can grow to a whole new level as employees return to work and have their new entitlement to play with.

What if there was a better way? Well, with BrightHR there is - and now is the perfect time to get started. Request your free demo today