Ready to implement a standard vacation policy for small business? Here are 5 simplifying rules for managing employee vacation time…
5 Golden Rules To Implement Regarding Employee Vacation Time
As an employer, the vacation time that your employees take is unlikely to be something you think of often. Most often, bosses see this as something for employees to deal with, and not something where they should be actively involved.
There is some truth to this belief too: Few employees would want to feel that their boss was overly involved in their choices regarding their use of vacation days. However, it is important that you do pay more than cursory attention to the matter of employee vacation time because — to put it simply — employee vacations can cause costly disruption.
When Employee Vacation Time Goes Bad
Badly managed, employee vacation time becomes a melee that has the potential to severely disrupt the operation and overall productivity of your business. Worse yet, poorly-managed vacation time can lead to division in the ranks, and create ill feeling between employees and management. So while employee vacation time isn’t an area you’re going to want to dedicate weeks of your time to, it does deserve a little extra consideration to ensure it is running as smoothly as possible.
To achieve this, you will need to consider a number of things including vacation policy trends. First and foremost, be sure you have the right tools working through the process.
Dedicated employee scheduling software provided by Getsling – and similar tools – can ensure that you are able to completely manage, at a glance, your employee schedules:
- On the whole
- Managing vacation requests
- Scheduled time off
This kind of software can help you maintain, monitor, and safeguard the vacation schedule for your entire workplace.
In the modern business world, a calendar with dates blocked off simply isn’t sufficient. If this is your current existing system for managing employee vacations, it’s definitely time for an upgrade!
Secondly, you will need to formulate a series of rules regarding how vacation time can be booked, managed, and optimized to work as seamlessly as possible for your business, and for those that work for you. In short, draft a vacation policy employee handbook. You may find it helpful to consult an advisor, or adopt a standard vacation policy.
Below, we’ll dig deeper into the topic of employee vacation time, including details on systems you may want to consider implementing, and how your business can cope without trusted employees for short periods of time. But, first things first: Let’s look into the golden rules you need to implement in relation to how employees are able to book their vacation days.
Here are a few tips for navigating employee vacation time: 5 simplifying rules…
1. Set Firm Limits On When Team Members Can Request Employee Vacation Time
In terms of employee morale, by far the best thing you can do in regards to vacation times is to set limits– and always stick to them. Institute a policy that states vacation time must be requested with at least a week’s notice. Then, communicate this rule to all staff so they know they must adhere to it.
The above, however, is the simple part. Once you implement the guidelines you then have to reinforce and insist that this policy remain in place regardless of circumstance. Realistically, it is not expecting too much of your staff to provide a week’s notice when they wish to go on vacation.
2. Extend Your Limits In Regards To Holidays
Instituting a one-week (minimum) rule for requesting vacation time is a workable solution for the vast majority of the year– but there is one exception: The holidays.
The time around the end of year holidays tend to become a source of contention for employees and, as the employer, the last thing you want to do is find yourself caught in the middle. Realistically, there are limited ways of fairly arbitrating employee arguments about time off during this time period.
For example, many employers institute a rule that those with young children will receive priority access to vacation time during specific weeks. This sounds fair… but it isn’t, and causes real resentment from those who are childfree or childless. Employees without children can be just as excited about the holidays. They may want to be with their own family and extended family on these days.
Simply put, it is harder to manage requests for time off during the last two months of the year. In effort to be the most fair, extend the notice period to a full month, and ensure that staff are aware of this policy well in advance.
Additionally, November 20th of any given year, the remaining days of the year should “close” in terms of vacation time, and only requests pertaining to the New Year should be accepted. Again, your goal is to be the most fair possible – You probably will not please everyone each year.
3. Operate “First Come, First Served” Without Exception
The above two points are useful, but they do have a potential flaw. Let’s say that Employee A wants to book the last week of September off work; they file a request for this on August 1st. Employee B also wants to take vacation days in the last week of September; they file a request for this on August 10th.
Both employees have adhered to the notice rules as outlined above. However, there’s a problem: Both Employee A and Employee B work in similar roles. It probably does not promote a comfortable work environment allowing them both to take time off during the same period. It would leave you short-staffed and the business would struggle to cope with work demand for the week.
So, how do you decide?
Yes, both employees have given notice as required and, as already discussed. The answer, however, is simple: Employee A is granted the vacation time, as they requested the days off ahead of Employee B.
Ultimately, a first-come, first-served system is the ideal system for managing vacation days. Admittedly, this isn’t a perfect system, but it is the most optimal of all the imperfect options. At least with first-come, first-served, everyone knows where they stand and there is a firm, fixed, and fair rule as to what is and isn’t allowed.
Now, with the process of booking employee vacation time streamlined and simplified, you should turn your thoughts to how your company can manage when a valued employee takes time off.
4. Make Delegation Your Friend
The management of a week or two without an employee depends very much on what that employee does. For some roles, it should be possible for the rest of your team to pick up extra tasks to compensate for the vacationing employee’s absence.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to ensure that all the covering team members are sufficiently briefed about their roles during the specific time period. A quick meeting on the first day of the vacationing employee’s leave of absence should be sufficient to help reduce stress and maintain optimal productivity among the remaining employees.
However, some employees perform roles that are too large or too specialist to be adequately covered by the rest of the team taking on more tasks. In these cases, you have two options:
- Hire a freelancer as temporary cover for the vacationing employee.
- Outsource the work of the vacationing employee to an agency.
Either should work well, and can allow you to plug the gap — so to speak — until your employee returns from their time away.
5. Other Possibilities: Special Programs
Finally, let’s turn our attention to employee vacation programs that you may want to consider.
The first option is known as “Paid Time Off,” and involves combining all employee days off into one allocation:
- Sick days
- Personal days
- Vacation days
There are pros and cons to PTO programs, so it is wise to consult your business advisors for the most optimal approach.
Option two – You may want to consider implementing a vacation buy-sell program. This allows you, the employer, to “buy back” any vacation time that employees have not used.
These programs can be surprisingly popular. You may think that no member of staff would willingly give up their time off, but reality says differently. Reality check: over 50% of employees do not take all of their vacation days.
It’s easy to see why this type of vacation policy could be popular. However, it worth noting that while most “buy-sell” programs operate as genuine “buy-sell,” in that employees can buy more vacation time if they wish, this is far less popular than the “selling” of unused vacation time.
Both options are worth considering if you’re looking for a new and interesting way of approaching vacation policy ideas in your business.
The ideas above should help you to formulate a robust, workable plan for the management of employee vacation time.
Implementing these ideas should help ensure that your business operations are always able to continue smoothly and your employees are content with how vacations and time off are both managed and distributed.
As a result, your entire team should enjoy a happier, more functional working environment.