Written by KATHRYN HATHAWAY

The sun is out, the sky is blue… but there’s still a lot of work to do! While most of us look forward to a long summer holiday, the August rush to the sun, sea and sand can cause headaches for employers and for those left covering for colleagues who are on annual leave.

Particularly in small to medium-sized businesses, scheduling annual leave and covering for those who are off can be a stressful experience – and in some cases that can lead to holidays not being taken at all. Research by ACAS found that only around half of UK employees take all of their annual leave allowance, with the average employee taking just 77 per cent of the holiday they are entitled to.

Worryingly, of those who did manage to get away, 44 per cent said they still worked while away from the office, with 13 per cent saying the boss had been in touch during their break.

These concerning figures may not be purely down to the demands made by employers but could be a symptom of “presenteeism” – where staff feel they must be available even at times when they should be enjoying a well-earned rest.

The importance of a healthy work-life balance is well-documented, and employers have a duty to ensure that holidays are not a problem for those who are going away or for those who are left behind.

A healthy workplace culture will encourage staff to use up their holiday entitlement, while reaping the benefits of a happier, better rested, more engaged workforce. Here are some tips to a hassle-free summer holiday period:

Have a detailed holiday policy

Many arguments over leave can be avoided with a watertight, well-communicated holiday planning policy. Making this clear and sticking to it all year round will help take the sting out of the summer. Make sure your staff know what the policy covers – for example, how many employees in the same department can be off at the same time? What’s the approval process? How much notice is needed? What’s the pro rata calculation for part time staff? What’s the maximum number of consecutive days a staff member can book at one time?

Plan, plan, and plan!

Good planning is vital in all aspects of staff management, and essential for handling holiday requests. Multiple requests from employees can quickly pile up, and if they are not properly managed then problems can come back and bite you.

Find out which method suits your business best – that might be anything from an old-fashioned wall planner to a sophisticated computer system that allows employees to log in and manage their own leave against rules set by the employer.

Lead by example

Staff will take their cues from managers – so they should make sure they practise what they preach. If you’re the boss, make a point of using your holiday entitlement in full and being “off the grid” as much as possible.

Be sympathetic

Even with the best will in the world, summer can leave teams less well-staffed than they are at other times of the year, and this can leave employees stressed. As you should all year round, be sympathetic and work with staff as much as possible to spread the workload. This might mean delaying non-essential projects until September, bringing in temporary staff as holiday cover, or offering paid overtime. Make sure those employees who are affected by increased stress take their own holiday entitlement and get their time in the sun!

To find out more about holiday entitlement, contracts of employment, or the improvements you could be making with Reality HR on your side, give us a call on 01256 328 428.