How Can SMEs Give Staff a Fair Deal on Holidays?

May 8th, 2017

holidays. managed offices to rent

It’s a common problem – half your staff want to take the Christmas week off, or, because they have children, ask for the same school half-term weeks in February or October.

How can you accommodate their requests, and still continue to run your business efficiently and effectively? And if not everyone can realistically have the time off they are requesting, what should you do? At Basepoint, as a leading provider of managed offices to rent, we are aware that holidays are likely to be a particular issue for smaller firms, given the number of staff they operate with. Here are some top tips to help ensure a minor problem does not grow into a major one.

Have a Policy – Staff need to know from the outset what their holiday entitlement is. To make sure everyone is clear about how this will work in practice, it is helpful to advise them on when they should take their leave, and how much in one go. Some companies allow a maximum of two weeks at a time, with more available only by special request. Other firms ask you to take at least a week by the start of the summer holidays. Another potential grey area where it is helpful to be clear is whether holidays can be carried over from one year to the next.

When faced with several holiday requests for the same day or week, it is generally simplest and regarded as fairest to operate a ‘first-come, first-served’ policy. However, the most important thing is to have a policy, which should be written into a document or staff handbook – as well as individual staff contracts – and make sure everyone knows about it.

Have a Holidays Board or Diary – You could have a wallchart in the office which everyone can see and mark their requests on, or a diary to put names in or a holiday spreadsheet which everyone can access at their computers or workstations. Making it easy to see what holidays have already been booked means that, if the maximum number of requests has already been reached for a specific day, they have no excuse for not knowing the situation.

If there are problems in arranging leave, it’s best to encourage staff to resolve the issue before it escalates. Keeping track of holidays from one year to the next is also helpful. It makes it easier to ‘play fair’ if you have accurate records.

Be Flexible – If you get a lot of requests for time off at a particular time of year, then it could be a good idea consider employing someone else on a temporary  basis to plug the gap. This would have the welcome effect of giving someone new valuable work experience, potentially with a view to a full-time job later. You could also consider allowing existing employees to work part-time, or from home, on a temporary basis; or, if you don’t do a lot of business during the period in question, you could temporarily close down altogether. This is something many SMEs do between Christmas and the New Year.

Be Compassionate – There will be times when you have to make short-term staffing arrangements to cover for things like a child’s sickness, or the funeral of a close family member. Compassionate leave policy can be written into the company handbook if necessary, but the important thing is to treat staff fairly.

Know the Legal Position – The legal holiday entitlement will vary from employee to employee. For example, if a staff member is employed for a five-day week, they are entitled to 28 days’ leave; if they do a three-day week, it is 16.8 days. This figure can include Bank holidays, as employees have no statutory right to take a Bank or public holiday off. In addition, employers can specify the times when workers can take their annual leave (for example, during a Christmas shutdown). By the same token, employees who have  been with you for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, and you are required to assess their requests in a “reasonable” manner.

Owners of SMEs need to know their exact legal position to avoid any chance of being accused of discrimination by staff. If you do not know where you stand, you can get advice from organisations such as UK arbitration service Acas.

If your company is based in managed offices to rent in one of Basepoint’s business centres, you can access experienced business mentors via our MiBase service for guidance on all kinds of issues affecting SMEs, including dealing with staff holidays. There are also many opportunities to network with other small companies and give one another support and help. Our centres are in locations including Chepstow, Folkestone, Haywards Heath and Broxbourne.