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When staff leave scheduling goes horribly wrong

Adrian Lewis
Working Time Directive

With Ryanair’s business still in chaos caused by the mismanagement of their pilots’ annual leave and Christmas ahead, are UK companies really on top of their holiday planning? Adrian Lewis, Director of Activ Absence offers some advice for UK companies.

A YouGov survey in 2015 found that a third of British workers don’t take all their annual leave – a situation which increases absence rates because tired staff are more likely to fall ill. In many businesses employees won’t have taken their full holiday entitlement for the year, and HR may be in the dark about who is owed holiday.

Some people don’t want to take time off for financial reasons, especially with Christmas coming up, or because of heavy workloads but carrying on without a break can have a detrimental impact on their health and mental wellbeing. Many businesses try to get around this by advocating a ‘use it or lose it policy’ – but this can mean a scramble to take time off before the end of the year, leaving the office under staffed and colleagues stressed as they take up the slack.

There are better ways of managing holidays. Companies must keep track of employee’s annual leave and ensure that people are taking their holidays during the year. This will support good employee wellbeing and reduce the risk of them getting sick or feeling burnt out. Ensuring holidays are spread out over the year and not left until the last minute is also vital, to avoid clashes and too many people off at one time.

As we saw recently with Ryanair having to cancel many flights due to the confusion over pilot holidays, it’s crucial companies have processes in place to manage holidays, so the workplace is properly staffed and people have the chance for a proper break.

What can companies do to ensure they stay on top of staff leave? Encourage people to take their holidays. Managers across the business should reinforce the holiday policy and show that they are keen for employees to take their full entitlement.

A monthly email reminding staff to book their holidays as early as possible could prompt people into taking time off more regularly throughout the year.

Have a robust technology system in place for managing leave. Spreadsheets and paper forms are not ideal, especially if more than one person is able to authorise leave. Plus, for larger organisations with lots of departments it can be difficult to get a company-wide overview with a paper-based system.

Cloud-based absence management software offers a better solution, so that managers can see in an instant who is off when, helping to avoid clashes. It also makes requesting and signing off holiday leave more efficient.

Employers can also use software to set triggers, so if an employee has only taken 50 percent of their annual leave by a certain date, it will be flagged up. This useful tool can prompt managers to speak to the individuals and find out why people aren’t taking time off.

Absence management software can also flag up people who are taking a lot of time off sick. This allows managers to start a conversation and address what is going on.

“With Christmas fast approaching, companies must get on top of managing their annual leave. Absence management technology makes this simple and straightforward, so there really is no excuse for companies not to be on top of their holiday planning.