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Managing annual leave during the school holidays

For most families, the school holidays kick off this week.  This means various things to different people; be it summer holidays, keeping the kids entertained for 6 weeks or (for me) quieter roads during rush hour.  For employers, the school holidays in particular can be a difficult time.  Many employers face a high volume of holiday requests, especially from those employees who have children of school age.

So, how do employers successfully and fairly manage an influx of holiday requests during this time?  Here we bring you our top tips to ensure your business runs smoothly.

1. Ensure you have clearly defined rules regarding holidays.  Many employers have a holiday policy in their staff handbook, but we’d suggest rules regarding holidays are included within your contracts of employment.

2. Ensure any limits on holidays are clearly defined.  So, for example, do you want to limit staff taking no more than two weeks’ leave at any one time?  Or, are there particular busy months or periods for your business where (save for in exceptional circumstances) you limit all holidays during that period.

3. As a general rule, we’d suggest you deal with holiday requests on a first come, first served basis.  Do however be wary of any conflicts that may arise between staff if one particular member is prohibiting other staff from taking a particular period off year on year.

4. If you have a small business or department, be clear about how many staff will be permitted annual leave at any one time.  Try and agree between the team who will take holiday and when, ensuring everyone is treated fairly.

5. Ensure you have a documented process for booking holidays, whether it’s using a holiday request form or sending an email to the relevant managers.  This ensures there is documentary evidence of all holidays requested.

6. Make it clear to staff that holiday bookings should not be made until a holiday request has been approved.  Remember, as an employer, you have a right to decline a holiday request so employees should not be committing themselves to any arrangements until holidays are approved.

7. If you’re declining a holiday request, make sure this is for genuine business reasons.  If a staff member has incurred costs through booking a holiday before their request is approved, these costs are not the employer’s responsibility.

8. Monitor staff who look to add to their holiday entitlement through unpaid time off.  Employees are only entitled to unpaid time work in an emergency to care for a dependant so you do not have to agree to unpaid time off other than in those circumstances.

Here at SCE Solicitors, we are experts in helping businesses manage their employees.  If you have any queries about holiday entitlements, other staff issues or would like to discuss how we can be on hand to assist you with all your employment law needs, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Jennifer Hoult
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