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How to manage an influx of vacation requests

July 30, 2020
By Kristina Vassilieva

(Mariusz Blach/Adobe Stock)

Many workers have delayed taking time off during the pandemic due to travel restrictions and health and safety concerns.

As a result, many are left with accumulated vacation days that they will most likely want to use up as the year ends.

Employees cramming in all their vacation time into the last few months of 2020 can turn into a problem for management, leading to staff shortages, denied requests and unhappy workers.

Here’s what employers can do to prevent conflict surrounding vacation requests and still ensure that workers get time off to rest.


Encourage workers to use their vacation time

To help space out workers’ vacations, managers can encourage staff to schedule their time off sooner rather than later.

Staff should be reminded to practice self-care and take time off from work to focus on their well-being and personal life.

Many may be holding off on taking vacations because they work remotely and are already spending most of their time at home.

Employers can point out that they are still working and that taking breaks is important for a good work-life balance, regardless of their working arrangements.

Use your company policy

Employers who are anticipating an influx of vacation requests towards the end of the year can do a few other things to prevent consequences for their business.

Remind staff of your company policy on vacation time, including the following points:

  • how much vacation time staff are entitled to
  • how staff are expected to submit requests
  • how far in advance requests should be made
  • whether staff are allowed to carry over vacation to the next year
  • whether workers can take time off at the same time
  • how requests will be approved.

As an example, managers can ask their employees to start planning their vacations for the rest of the year and submit their requests as soon as possible to ensure they get approved.

If the company policy does not permit multiple employees to be off at the same time, staff should be reminded that requests will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis or based on other reasoning specified in the policy.

Direct vacation requests away from busy periods

Businesses that rely on peak business periods or seasonal demand can also implement vacation blackout periods or use incentives to direct vacation requests away from these times.

Blackout periods forbid vacation requests during a specific period to prevent staff shortages and scheduling problems.

However, implementing a blackout period during, for example, the holiday season when staff want time off to spend with their families can lead to a negative response and lower morale.

Businesses should consider blackout periods as a last resort, give staff notice many months in advance and try to keep the period short.

Try to accommodate workers’ requests

As an alternative, employers can ask employees to list several vacation times in advance and rank them in their order of preference.

This will allow managers to compare all vacation requests at once and make it more likely that workers will get their first choice, or at least get their second choice if their first cannot be accommodated.

Incentives, such as additional days off, for taking time off during less busy periods and allowing staff to carry over vacation in excess of the statutory minimum to the next year are other ways employers can spread out employees’ vacation.

When approving requests, employers should strive for a balance between the needs of the business and what workers want.

Requests should be dealt with in advance, based on the company policy and should apply fairly to all workers.

Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.

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