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How to manage staff holidays for small businesses

Managing staff holidays can be challenging, especially for small businesses as the teams are smaller and arranging cover can be difficult. All workers are entitled to paid annual leave, therefore you will need to be prepared to have staff off from work for four to six weeks per year. Successfully managing staff holidays helps to create a happier team, boosting the productivity of the business.


One of the main goals when managing staff holidays is to ensure that you are not understaffed or overstaffed. This can help you avoid any complications and potential damage to your business, especially if the problems occur regularly. The aim is also to be fair and make sure that you try your best to accommodate your staff, whilst keeping the well-being of the business in mind. Ensuring that you have a happy team will only benefit you in the long term.

Following these tips will help you effectively manage staff holidays for your small business.

Create a holiday policy

When you start hiring for your small business you need to create a detailed holiday policy. The policy needs to highlight the main terms of taking annual leave. Some of the things you should consider highlighting in the policy include:

  • Length of the notice that needs to be given before any holiday requests are put in.
  • Holiday needs to be requested and is not guaranteed.
  • First come first serve basis.
  • Specifying any dates that holidays cannot be taken.
  • Maximum consecutive days off allowed.
  • Giving out and receiving holiday forms.

Holiday form

You should create a holiday form that you can keep the record of all the holidays requested, approved, holiday taken as well as the remainder of holidays left for the remainder of the period. Make sure you clarify when the holiday year starts and finishes. You may choose to set the annual leave from the beginning of the year to end (January – December), or you might set annual leave between the financial year (April – March).

Say no when you need to

You need to be firm and if you cannot afford to have someone taking leave during a certain period, then you have to say no. You have to find the balance between keeping your staff happy and making sure that your business does not suffer as a consequence of annual leave. Also make sure the ‘first come first serve’ rule is very clear, especially on popular dates for annual leave. Some dates can be extremely busy for your small business and it may require the whole team to be present. For example, retail stores are busy over the festive period. So you might want to let your staff know that holiday cannot be allocated during those times.

Plan ahead

You should hand out holiday forms a couple of weeks, or even months, prior to the year starting. It is likely that your staff won’t book their entire leave so early on, but if they book some, it can give you time to plan ahead. Planning ahead can involve creating schedules that will ensure that your daily operations are not disrupted. Encourage staff to book their annual holiday early to ensure a smoother process for both you and them.

Keep organised

As a business owner and leader of the business, you need to make sure that you are keeping organised. It is advised that you keep a record of all the holiday information as a hard copy as well as online. This will ensure you can easily access the documents when you need to. Additionally, you might also want to book in your holiday in advance, setting an example and preparing those who will be most affected by your absence.


When it comes to annual leave, of course you have to put your business first and make sure that there is no damaging disruption. However, you still need to do all you can to accommodate your staff. For example, if a member of your team is a parent they may want time off during school holidays. And although you can’t let them take leave during the festive period, you might let them take time off during the half term or summer holidays instead. This will show your staff that you genuinely care about them and their needs. Having a happy and satisfied team will ultimately benefit your business — look after them so they can look after your business!

More on keeping your staff motivated.

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