One of the trickiest jobs for managers in small businesses can be knowing how to manage holiday, vacation, and annual leave requests. Juggling all the different requests plus changing demands during your own business' changing seasons can be chaotic, especially when you risk being understaffed.

While Findmyshift’s built-in features like annual leave and vacation requests, and holiday tracking can help, there is more that needs to be done to ensure your business keeps running smoothly while certain employees are away. With that challenge in mind, we present our key lessons for managing employee vacation requests and absences.

Have a clear annual leave request policy for employees

By ensuring you have a fair, transparent, and well-understood policy in place from the beginning, you will make the job of handling leave requests far simpler. While obvious rules exist, like providing at least 28 days for employees working a standard 5-day week, you should also have in-house guidelines for how leave should be managed.

It is normal to specify a minimum notice period which employees must adhere to when it comes to submitting holiday requests. The longer this is, the more time you will have to plan for cover. Whatever notice you decide to ask for, encourage employees to book even earlier if you’re operating a ‘first come first served’ basis when considering requests.

Evaluate your staffing needs

Employees don’t have enshrined rights to decide when they take their leave, so if your business has certain busy periods that you need to keep full-staffed, you can operate a ‘blackout’ policy where holiday can’t be taken within defined dates. As with any leave restrictions, be sure to communicate this to employees before they start booking holidays!

For other periods, you may be able to handle a certain number of absences and still operate normally. Work out how many employees can be on holiday concurrently without causing a significant reduction in your service and cap the number of holidays you can cope with at once.

Get managers’ dates and cover fixed early

Managerial absences are often the hardest for small businesses to cope with, as they require higher-level replacements and more delegation of responsibility. With this in mind, ensure you and your fellow managers sort your own holidays well in advance. This will allow you to evaluate chains of command to work out who can cover for you, so that you don’t end up without a skeleton crew of junior employees.

Add everything to the same schedule

It can quickly become a real headache trying to balance and manage absences across multiple rotas, especially if you’re using pen and paper schedules or non-coherent systems that don’t automatically update to reflect changes. Keeping a single source of truth allows you to easily view all planned holidays and requests so that you can make decisions in an instant.

Online systems like Findmyshift allow you to view the latest version of your rota and any upcoming leave, and will reflect changes as soon as they’re made. It’ll also calculate remaining allowances automatically, allowing you to predict who might be planning a holiday even before they’ve told you!

Communicate clearly

Communication can be the difference between a smooth leave request process and all-out war in the workplace. This is rarely more true than when rejecting leave requests. Be sure to always clearly communicate your reasons for doing so, citing the relevant policies if necessary.

In Findmyshift, managers can use the message sent along with declined requests to explain their reasoning and avoid arguments. The messaging and noticeboard features complement this functionality by allowing you to discuss changes through the site, keeping all your communication handily in one place.

With a clear policy and knowledge of who you need and when, we hope these tips, Findmyshift features, can make the process that bit easier.

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.