How to Handle Holiday Vacation Requests

Bob, Susie and Mike all want to schedule their remaining vacation days for the last two weeks of the year. All three can’t be out of the office at the same time, and the decision must be made about who should be granted time off.

Allowing workers to book their remaining vacation while keeping your business running smoothly can be a daunting task. As another year draws to a close, your employees may be scrambling to schedule their holidays, not wanting to forfeit their paid days off. As a result, you may be faced with the challenge of approving last-minute employee vacation requests while making sure core business duties are covered.

If this is the case, here are some tips that can help:

1.  Plan ahead. Ideally you should have a year-long vacation plan in place to ensure that your office is sufficiently staffed and employees can take their paid time off when they would like. Pledge to be better prepared in 2012.

2.  Communicate. Sit down with the affected employees and explain your dilemma to them. Most people understand and appreciate the need to ensure the business is functioning well, and that not everyone from a work team can be simultaneously absent. Maybe Bob’s extended family is in town for the first time in a decade, but Mike’s plans are flexible so he is willing to concede to Bob. There’s a good chance your employees will solve the issue themselves, and you won’t be in the position of having to force one of them to remain at work.

3.  Be flexible. Your staff members are entitled to their paid time off, but they cannot all take it exactly when they’d like. Forget the “use it or lose it” vacation policy and extend the deadline by several weeks or months. The offer may appeal to one of your workers, and someone might be thrilled by the chance to postpone their time off.

4.  Be random. If your employees cannot come to a resolution on their own, draw a name from a hat or flip a coin. This will ensure that no one feels slighted or discriminated against. “The goal is to avoid last minute surprises or disappointments,” says Insperity Senior HR Specialist Rick Gibbs.

It’s also important to know your rights regarding religious affiliation and the right to time off. Though many people believe that their employers must grant them leave for religious observance, there are some limitations.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not require employers to accommodate an employee’s vacation requests based on religious beliefs and practices if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employers’ legitimate business interests such as:

  • Excessive administrative costs
  • Diminished efficiency in other jobs
  • Infringement on other employees’ job rights or benefits
  • Workplace safety impairment
  • Co-workers having to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work
  • Accommodations that cause conflict with another law or regulation

Ideally, any problems with overlapping vacation can be resolved without any hard feelings, and you and your staff can work together to ensure it doesn’t become an recurring issue.