A holiday policy is far more than just a set number of days of leave allocated to staff. When well-structured, it gives your workforce the flexibility to cover key roles without a drop in productivity and supports and empowers staff when they most need time off. In fact, your holiday policy can be the key to building a harmonious work culture that helps people excel.
So why should you look at rewriting yours?
Understanding today’s workplace
The pandemic forced a sudden and complete shift to working from home for much of the UK’s workforce and while restrictions have now been lifted, a full and permanent return to the office is not yet on the cards.
From a financial perspective, there’s little difference between working from home or the office. WFH employees spend considerably more on utilities, food, and internet costs, but they save almost as much on commuting, fuel, and parking expenses. Depending on an employee’s needs, working from home can be more viable than being in an office, and vice versa.
Only one living cost didn’t change – childcare. This is where updating your holiday policy can make a world of difference to your company and employees.
Managing annual leave in a hybrid workplace
Despite the cost being consistent across home and in-office workers, money isn’t the only resource needed for family care. Time is just as valuable, especially over the school holidays. This is where an outdated holiday policy can really impact a company’s structure.
WFH employees have to split more of their time between work and child care. In-office staff may feel pressure to rearrange their work hours to accommodate school holidays. Both groups may plan vacations and end up applying for leave at the same time.
A spike in leave applications creates disruptions for employers. School holidays also increase an employee’s responsibilities outside the workplace. Combined, one small change can create unnecessary stress for everyone, making workplace burnout more likely.
Here’s how your holiday policy can alleviate pressure for WFH employees, office staff, and the company structure all-round.
Five requirements for effective leave management
1. Types of leave you offer
From a company’s perspective, a leave request means the same thing – unavailable staff. Looking at your policy from your worker’s perspective can make it easier to organise, though. Consider the types of leave your policy offers.
Most fall under one of five categories:
● Annual leave
● Casual leave
● Compassionate leave
● Parental Leave
● Sick leave
Each type comes with specific regulations depending on where a company is based. For example, UK employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. Two weeks of maternal leave is a requirement for new mothers, which can be extended up to one year or include both parents via shared parental leave.
2. Fair scheduling and staggering
Specifying each type of leave included in your policy ensures your company complies with any governing law. It also gives you a guide on the timelines your holiday policy needs to accommodate, and where the pressure points are likely to be.
School holidays will likely mean more annual or casual leave applications. Since these holidays are pre-scheduled, they’re easier to plan for. It helps with staggering leave so everyone gets their mandated time off without depleting the office all at once.
Doing that starts with two essentials: tracking leave and a requesting policy.
3. Tracking holidays and accrued time off
Tracking employee leave is essential to a good holiday policy. Managers shouldn’t just know when a worker is taking time off, they also need to know how much time off employees are entitled to.
Workers start accruing leave days from their first day of employment, so your system must be able to track individual timelines. Similarly, you can use regulations to help you stay on top of maternity leave.
In the UK, the earliest maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Note that employees still accrue annual leave days during maternity leave. A maternity plannerhelps track accrued days and pay associated with maternity leave using:
● Baby’s due date
● Employment status
● Job start date
4. Leave request procedure
Holiday and parental leave are more predictable than sick or compassionate leave, but that doesn’t remove short-notice applications entirely. The ability to plan for an absence is crucial to maintaining a cohesive workplace. For a holiday policy, that means having a leave request procedure.
This procedure should inform workers of when to apply for leave and the eligibility requirements needed. Do they need to serve two weeks' notice for holiday leave? What’s the standard waiting time for approval? What information do they need to submit on a leave application form and who reviews it?
5. Communication and People Management
A leave request procedure forms part of your holiday policy’s communication strategy. The rest of it comes down to what your company communicates to workers regarding holiday leave. Consider what you want your staff to know about leave best practices.
If WFH employees are dealing with kids at home, do you encourage them to make use of the office instead? Does your policy offer compressed work weeks or shorter days to give parents more flexibility without having to take time off? Is everyone aware of how to delegate and hand over work before going on leave?
A better approach to holiday policies
At the end of the day, annual leave management is people management. Tracking systems, procedures, and timelines give a policy structure, but the best ones are centred on people and their needs. If your workplace has changed in the last two years, it may be worth reviewing your holiday policy.
If you would like a review of your policies and procedures, Lodge Court offer a free Health Check where we will discuss your business's HR Management and report back to you with our findings and recommendations. You will also be offered a bespoke package whereby our team will be on hand every step of the way to ensure the recommended changes are implemented quickly and effectively. If you want to find out more, please get in touch with us on 01243 300301.