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Business owner handling holiday time off requests

7 Ways to Handle Holiday Time Off Requests

As the holiday season approaches, from Thanksgiving through New Year's, it's a time when people in the U.S. come together for holiday celebrations and religious events. For many people, It's a time of happiness, joy, and quality time with loved ones.

During these special moments, employees may need time away from work for various reasons. These reasons may include annual leave, maternity leave, or bereavement leave. It's crucial for employers to keep track of the number of days employees request off to ensure smooth scheduling.

For employers, especially those who experience their busiest times during the holiday season, it's also the time when they receive numerous requests for paid time off (PTO), such as vacation leave. Balancing the need for time off with maintaining productivity can be a challenge. The question is, how can you manage employee requests for PTO fairly and efficiently?

Don't worry; we're here to help. We've gathered seven practical tips to guide you in handling holiday time off requests effectively and gracefully. These strategies will assist both your employees and your business in enjoying the holiday season to the fullest.

1: Blackout holiday leave

One approach is to simply disallow time off requests during a specific period. This might make more sense in certain industries than in others.

Let's take retail as an example. In the retail industry, the holiday season is usually the busiest time of the year. So having all employees available and working is incredibly important to meet customer demands and keep things running smoothly.

However, it's equally important to ensure your employees still have the chance to take time off for rest and personal commitments. So it's a good practice to make sure there are plenty of chances to request time off outside the blackout period. This ensures fairness and helps maintain a positive work environment.

To keep things clear and fair, it's crucial to have clear guidelines in your employee handbooks. Your handbooks should clearly explain when this blackout period occurs and the exact steps employees should follow to request PTO. This way, everyone is on the same page, and the process becomes more straightforward for both you and your employees, further creating an organized and fair environment.

2: Require advance notice

If you do allow time off, the last thing you want is to be juggling last-minute requests. Let employees know they must submit their leave requests by a certain date, even if it’s weeks or months beforehand.

To simplify the process, provide clear instructions on how to write a vacation request effectively in your employee handbook. This way, employees will know exactly what to include and how to format their requests correctly.

Following this approach, you give yourself enough time to plan and manage the workforce effectively during the holidays. It also helps employees understand the process, making it easier for everyone involved.

3: Determine a fair way to allocate time off

There are different ways to decide who gets time off during the holidays. One simple way is to use the "first-come, first-served" approach. This means that the first employees who request time off and meet the requirements get approved. The approach is easy to understand, and it encourages employees to ask for time off early so they don't miss out.

Another way is based on seniority, which means the employees who have been with the company the longest get their preferred times first. However, if only senior employees get the time they requested and others never do, it can lead to resentment or bad feelings among the team.

There's also the option of selecting by a random lottery. This way, fairness is ensured for everyone as chance determines the outcome. Remember, whatever method you choose, make sure it follows the rules set by federal law about how to allocate time off fairly.

4: Maintain a resource pool

Having a backup plan, such as a resource pool, is a smart option during the holiday season. It means having an established group of people you can call if you need extra help. These groups are most commonly contractors, temporary workers, or part-time employees. They provide you with backup employees when businesses are overwhelmed with customer demand.

But here's the catch: it can take some time to find and train these backup employees. If you don't have a backup team already, make it a New Year's resolution to start building one next year. Building this team can be especially useful when you're offering PTO, and it becomes even more important if you have unlimited PTO.

5: Incentive holiday shifts

Give employees a positive reason to agree to work holiday shifts. For example, you can offer a holiday pay differential or let them take comp time after the holidays. You can also offer other treats, such as gift certificates to restaurants, spas, movie theaters, etc., to reward employees for working on otherwise undesirable days.

It's important to give employees a positive reason to work during the holidays. You can do this by offering them good reasons to agree to holiday shifts. Here are a few ways you can make holiday work more appealing:

  • Holiday Pay Boost: Offer employees extra pay for working on holidays

  • Comp Time: Let employees take time off after the holidays to make up for their hard work during the holiday season.

  • Special Treats: You can sweeten the incentive by offering gift certificates. This could be to restaurants, spas, movie theaters, or other enjoyable places.

These incentives make employees feel valued and appreciated for working during what might be considered less desirable times. It can boost morale and make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone on your team.

6: Be flexible

During the holiday, it's a good idea to be a bit more flexible with your schedule, allowing your employees to enjoy some personal time. Even if your company typically sticks to strict schedules and doesn't allow remote work, consider making some exceptions during this special time.

For instance, you could allow your employees to adjust their work hours or occasionally work from home if it's practical for their role. This flexibility can help them better manage their personal commitments and enjoy the holidays without work-related stress.

Additionally, you can promote a culture of understanding and cooperation by letting employees find their own replacements or swap shifts. This not only helps them meet their personal needs but also creates a sense of teamwork and support among your workforce.

7: Formalize your policy

If your company doesn't have written policies to manage holiday leave requests, now is the perfect time to create them. These policies will bring clarity to both your employees and you on how to handle time off during the holiday season.

As you craft these policies, consider covering the following aspects:

Leave Request Procedures

Clearly outline when and how employees should submit their PTO requests. Make it clear that employees must request vacation time in writing, ensuring a clear subject line for easy identification and efficient processing.

Approval Guidelines

Decide how you will determine approvals for holiday leave requests. Will it follow a first-come, first-served approach, based on seniority, or involve a random lottery? Maintain fairness and transparency when choosing a method.

Holiday-Specific Details

Address the unique aspects of holiday leave, including how employees can utilize their PTO banks, the management of paid sick leave, and the procedure for requesting time off on specific dates, such as Christmas Day or New Year's.

By formalizing these policies, you establish clear expectations and procedures, reducing confusion and ensuring an equitable and organized approach to handling holiday leave requests. This proactive step can contribute to a more harmonious and stress-free holiday season for both your employees and your business.

Ready to simplify PTO management and boost your business's year-round success? CoAdvantage, a leading Professional Employer Organization (PEO), dedicates its HR services to small and mid-sized businesses. Our expertise covers HR administration, employee benefits, payroll, compliance, and more.

Learn how we can assist in creating a successful HR system that manages PTO requests and supports business growth. Contact us today to explore your options and take the first step toward a smoother holiday season and a prosperous future.