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  • Lockdown exit plans: How to handle the sudden spike in holiday requests

Lockdown exit plans: How to handle the sudden spike in holiday requests

It’s great news that international travel might be back on the cards soon, but you can’t have everyone off at the same time. We explain how to handle the holidays and keep your people happy.

First published on Friday, Feb 26, 2021

Last updated on Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021

6 min read

We’re finally starting to see lockdown measures ease all across the UK. Some younger children went back to school in Scotland and Wales this week, and Boris Johnson announced England’s roadmap out of lockdown—which included international trips potentially being back on the cards from 17th May.

And with light at the end of the tunnel, it’s no surprise that the nation has started thinking about sun, sea and sand, and booking up flights and holidays quicker than you can say Factor 50...

Flight and vacation bookings skyrocketed

In the hours that followed the PM’s announcement, airlines and travel firms saw an enormous surge in bookings. easyJet said flight bookings by UK customers for the summer season went up by 337%, and summer holiday bookings went up by 630% compared to the week before.

Tui and Thomas Cook also saw holiday bookings soar. Tui, the largest travel company in the world, said that bookings for summer holidays in Greece, Spain and Turkey from July onwards were the highest they’d ever been in a night, with the bookings up by 500%.

BrightHR saw holiday requests soar…

And our BrightHR data backs this up, too. The day after Boris Johnson’s press conference there was an 853% increase in holiday requests on the BrightHR system, compared to the year before, and the following day holiday requests were still up by 647% compared to the previous year.

What if everyone wants the same time off?

Whether you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, it’s likely that you’re going to see a spike in staff holiday requests as the lockdown measures ease.

And while it’s been a long road getting here and you don’t want to be that boss, you might have to find a way to manage holidays in your business if all your staff want to book annual leave for exactly the same time. Here’s how you do it:

First off, is it legal to say “no”?

Technically, yes. The Working Time Regulations 1998 states that employers do have the right to refuse an employee’s holiday request—but you should have a good reason.

So if your employee’s followed the correct procedure, has enough annual leave to take, and the business is sufficiently staffed, then it’s good practice to grant their holiday request (or explain why you can’t).

Can I say “no” if it would leave me understaffed?

This is a legitimate reason for denying an employee’s holiday request, but it’s not quite that simple. You need to make sure you’re dealing with all annual leave openly, fairly, and in-line with employment law.

If you grant some people’s holiday requests and deny others’ then you could be at risk of an employee making a discrimination claim. So, how do you get it right?

Put a clear annual leave policy in place

Set out a clear annual leave policy, which tells your employees such things as how many people can be off work at the same time or during busy periods in the business. For example, if your business is in the hospitality sector, you might choose to limit the amount of time your people can take off over Christmas if this is a busy time for your bar or restaurant.

It can also help to have a first-come, first-served system in place. Sure, it’s a straightforward approach, but it’s one that works. And then if someone requests a holiday at a time when other employees have already booked time off, it’s clear why you have to tell them “no”.

Communicate your annual leave policy in employee contracts

Make sure your staff know where they stand when it comes to booking holidays. Contracts should include:

  • The amount of annual leave they get.
  • Whether you pay staff extra for working certain days (such as bank holidays).
  • How they can book time off.
  • How much notice they need to give you.
  • Any days they need to reserve annual leave for.
  • Whether they can carry over annual leave into the next holiday year.

And if you don’t already have annual leave policies in place? Don’t worry, our handy template tells you everything you should include.

Remember the new holiday carryover rules

Don’t forget that the holiday carryover rule has changed as a result of the pandemic. The new rule states that all employees can carry over statutory minimum leave to the next two leave years if they can’t take time off in the current leave year because of the impact of coronavirus.

This could be a big help in making sure you don’t have too many people off at the same time, because staff no longer have to rush to get their holidays booked in case they lose their entitlement when the leave year refreshes.

How to handle disappointed staff

We know, the last year has been tough and your staff have worked hard, so you don’t want to be the boss who says “no”. So if you can’t grant all holiday requests, remember there are other ways you can support staff and keep your business running smoothly through the summer months.

Such things as flexible hours, working from home, staff benefits, reward and recognition programmes, or even summer social events (if we’re allowed!) can help you keep your staff happy and your business running smoothly over the holiday season.

Make holiday leave a breeze with BrightHR

If you’re not already a convert, it’s time to transform your people management with BrightHR’s smart staff holiday planner.

It calculates staff holiday entitlement for you, lets you approve or decline requests at the click of a button, and alerts you of any potential holiday clashes before they happen, so you never need to worry about having too many people off at the same time. And you can do all of this from the BrightHR app, too…

To see how our staff holiday planner makes managing holiday leave a breeze, book your free demo today.

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