Dealing with holiday requests at popular times

Aug 18, 2014 | Time Off Work

There are always going to be some times in the year which are very in demand in terms of holiday requests, like Christmas, or school summer holidays. So how can you ensure you deal with multiple requests fairly?

The key is to be transparent about how decisions will be made, so that no one is disappointed and expected their holiday to be agreed. You have a number of options you can use for arrangement of holiday requirements at popular times as follows:

First come first served

This is obviously very clear and as long as it is followed strictly, will avoid having to physically refuse holiday requests. However if you have a situation where you have several staff all likely to want the same dates off, you may find people trying to book earlier and earlier in advance.

You can specify an earliest date you will consider holiday requests, typically the first day of the holiday year, however you might need to be prepared for a queue outside your door, and should make clear whether email/telephone requests will be accepted to avoid conflict.

Be careful though – if holiday dates are very in demand you may find staff who work part time and are not due to be at work on the day holiday can be booked lose out and feel aggrieved, and as part time staff are more likely to be women, there is a potential indirect discrimination issue there as well.

Giving priority to certain groups

Some organisations operate a system whereby priority for holiday booking is given to categories of staff, sometimes those in more senior roles, and sometimes groups who perhaps have more restrictions on their personal circumstances, such as parents with school-aged children.

There is a risk, however, that staff who do not fall into these categories resent this preference, especially if there is no objective justification for the preference given (as with senior staff being the category. At least most people would see the reasons behind preference being given to parents even if they do not agree with it).

Also bear in mind that some staff may have their own reasons for being restricted to those times, such as a partner or family member who is a teacher, or has similar restrictions on their holiday.

Rota system

This can work well, if you have a team or group of people who all want time off in school holidays each year, or all want Christmas off, having an arrangement whereby they take turns to pick their dates. Of course if staff leave they might miss “their” turn, and it may be that the system needs rejigging as your team evolves.

Having a sensible conversation

If you have a relatively sensible, cooperative team, perhaps the best way of arranging these popular holiday times is to have a sit-down conversation about it. Ask everyone to come with their preferences and restrictions, and discuss together what can be worked out to suit everyone as far as is possible.

Of course in some circumstances this may not be possible, and may need to be combined with a bit of a rota, but if you can achieve this, it’s the best way of allocating popular holiday times with the minimum of fuss and disappointment and will help keep your team motivated and feeling supported and valued.

If you have any further queries and need some advice, do get in touch.