7 tips for preventing employee vacation scheduling nightmares
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7 tips for preventing employee vacation scheduling nightmares

Jason just announced that he got a great deal on tickets for his vacation. And Emily dropped a vacation request on your desk this morning. And now, Melanie is talking about her planned summer cruise. You’re happy your employees are looking forward to summer vacations – until you look at the dates and realize that they’re all for the same week in July. Now what?

Conflicts will happen, it’s inevitable. At some point two or more employees are going to request the same vacation days. And only one will be able to go. So what’s an employer to do?

Handling employee vacation scheduling and leave conflicts can be a nightmare. But some advance planning and some clear policies can make it easier to manage.

Getting a hold on employee vacation planning

First, accept the fact that you can’t please everyone.

Next, consider the following actions to minimize problems with both vacationers and those who will cover for them while they’re gone.

  1. Discuss your employee vacation policy during the hiring and orientation process and provide employees with written vacation policies and procedures. Highlight the peak work periods during which vacations may be prohibited or restricted. If there are any conflicts with major religious holidays or prior commitments, discuss them at that time to prevent surprises later on.
  2. Clarify management’s right to rearrange employee vacation schedules to meet in-house demands and changing market conditions. But be careful not to use this to unduly restrict employees from prime vacation periods.
  3. Set a deadline for submitting vacation requests that gives you enough time to project how employee absences might affect production schedules and delivery dates to resolve any conflicts. Depending on your business, this could be anywhere from a month to a year in advance.
  4. Prepare for the absences. If colleagues will cover vacationers’ jobs, make sure those taking time off provide a summary of work in progress, major responsibilities, key contact information, how to access related files, and other pertinent data to meet crucial deadlines. Provide a checklist of needed items to help soon-to-be vacationers focus on what they need to set up/leave behind.
  5. Parcel out vacationing employees’ duties among several colleagues. This action keeps one unfortunate soul from having to do the work of two.
  6. Offer premium pay, bonuses, or other employee incentives to those who agree to work during the most popular vacation periods when too many employee absences could be bad for business.
  7. Allow workers in identical positions to trade off vacation dates among themselves, so long as it won’t jeopardize production schedules or quality of work.

You may wish to monitor the results with an employee vacation tracking system of some kind to make sure the trading was fair to all members of the staff, and that age, gender, ethnic or religious factors are not being used to favor certain people.

What you need to do now

  • Consider vacations, sick leave and other kinds of employee absences when you’re planning your staffing levels.
  • While there is a temptation to run on a skeleton staff in tight economic times, you may run into coverage issues when employee attendance is low during prime vacation season, flu season or during other periods of high demand.
  • Develop a good system for employee vacation tracking and planning, so you can make clear choices about needed staffing levels for any given workweek.
  • Make sure your employee vacation policy describes when and how vacation time may be taken, and how disputes over high-demand days will be handled.

What is TrackSmart?

The QUICK & EASY way for small businesses to track employee vacations, sick time and other time off.
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