How To Effectively Manage Employee Time Off Over Christmas

How To Effectively Manage Employee Time Off Over Christmas

2 November 2023

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After the school summer holiday months, Christmas and New Year are typically the time when you will have the most requests from employees to take time off.

Naturally, at this time of year, many people want to take time off to spend with their family and friends. Some people may need to travel long distances, or some may decide to spend Christmas abroad to enjoy some winter sun or hit the slopes for a spot of skiing. With three bank holidays falling closely together, plus weekends on either side, employees can take off an extended period of time without using up much of their annual leave entitlement so it’s an attractive period to request time off.

In this blog, we explain how you can effectively manage employee time off over Christmas to ensure your business runs smoothly over this crucial period.

Establish a clear holiday request policy

A deluge of holiday requests all for the same or similar dates can cause major headaches for employers, as they try to balance the needs of their business with helping their employees enjoy time away from work and achieve a positive work-life balance. That’s why it’s crucial as an employer you have established policies and practices for holiday requests which are applied fairly and equitably. You might even include them in a contractual clause if you feel the need.

An employer’s approach to managing employee time off over Christmas will to a large extent be determined by the industry or sector in which they operate and the demand for their services at this time of the year. How an employer in the retail or hospitality industries handles annual leave requests over the festive period is going to be extremely different to a professional services business or a company involved in the construction sector.

If you operate in an industry that has its peak business period at Christmas, then you may state in your contract and policy that staff will not be permitted to take any annual leave at this time of year between certain dates. As long as staff are given the statutory minimum amount of annual leave entitlement, and have the opportunity to take that leave during the remainder of the year, this methodology is perfectly acceptable and legal to meet the needs of your business and its clients. By operating in this way, you are then negating this issue entirely and everyone knows where they stand.

Utilise HR software

Alternatively, if your business takes a more standard approach to holiday requests, by using an HR software system employees can see if colleagues already have time booked off and managers can track requests. If the company policy is first come, first served, then there is a clear audit trail of who asked for time off and when they asked so that there can’t be any accusations of favouritism or undue bias.

It might be that some employees would prefer to work over Christmas and are happy to be in when others are off. If you have more staff requesting leave than the business can withstand though, and the same people always manage to get their requests in first to take Christmas off, this can breed discontent and disharmony among your team. In those cases, it can be worth employers at least trying to intervene and mediate if needed to try and give at least everyone some time off or to put in place a policy or rota. That way if a member of staff took Christmas off in one year, then other staff would have the opportunity to take that time off the following year as a priority and this should allow staff to feel they are being fairly treated.

Consider operating a temporary shutdown

The in-between option is that in some cases businesses will operate a temporary shutdown over Christmas for a designated number of days and in that case again everyone gets the same amount of time off. How such a shutdown works will again depend on each company.

Some will state in their contracts of employment that the days included in their shutdown period are additional to the standard entitlement and that they are not deducted from an employee’s annual leave entitlement. Others will set out in their contracts that the shutdown days are to be taken from annual leave entitlement and that employees must save sufficient days to cover this period or if they don’t, it has to be taken as unpaid leave. Again, as long as the terms of how the shutdown will operate are established and communicated to staff then businesses can take the approach that suits them.

Get in touch to learn more about managing time off over Christmas

As with any potential source of conflict or dispute, having a clear and consistent approach to managing employee time off over Christmas will serve you well. Make sure that employees know and understand the rules, policies and contractual expectations and if disputes do arise then use your grievance policy to address them.

If you’d to learn more about managing your employees’ time off over the festive period, or you’d like to see how our HR software can help, be sure to contact us today. Alternatively, why not sign up for our FREE 30-day trial to see for yourself?


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