We’re now well and truly in holiday season, and whilst we all love a nice break, for managers, handling employee leave requests can cause a few headaches. But don’t despair, PJW’s experienced HR professionals have made a list of their dos and don’ts when it comes to holiday requests, to make the summer season a breeze.


Manage Annual Leave

  • Be consistent and fair in how you treat all leave requests – and the best way to achieve that is to have it all written down in a clear annual leave policy. This can set out things such as a minimum notice period when asking for time off, to give managers time to arrange cover, and can set out what happens if a request is approved or declined.
  • Have a leave calendar – it can be an old-school wall planner with different coloured stickers, or a high-tech web application that pulls information from your leave request system automatically. Either way, making it easier for staff to look at colleagues’ leave plans can only be a good thing, as you’ll find they often naturally work around each other or, alert you to potential clashes early on.
  • Encourage employees to take their annual leave, and plan ahead. Doing so should avoid problems with untaken leave at the end of the leave year, but it can also help to maintain your employees’ health and motivation. Reminders at 1-2-1 type meetings are a good opportunity to keep the topic on the agenda, where you can discuss how much leave the employee has left outstanding.
  • Monitor the situation. If it’s made part of your regular line management responsibilities, this should happen without too much additional effort. But ensure that your line managers periodically check their employees’ annual leave balance and remind staff that they need to use the holiday up by the end of the leave year.
  • Speak to any employee who has not taken any holiday or submitted any holiday dates by for example the middle of the holiday year to nominate holiday dates as a matter of urgency.
  • Ensure that managers set a good example – by taking leave, and not talking about being “too busy to take a holiday”, employees will do the same.



  • Allow employees to build up too much time owning. This issue is two-fold. On a practical level, it’s not ideal to get to the end of the leave year and have many employees all off at the same time because they need to use their leave before year end. Ryanair got in a mess for this very issue last year when, for a 6-week period, they had to cancel 40-50 flights a day as they didn’t have enough pilots because they were all on holiday at the same time! The human cost of employees hanging on to their annual leave entitlement is also a consideration. If they don’t take regular leave, you’ll have employees who are tired and possibly not working to their potential because they are in need of a rest. And you might want to ask why your staff aren’t booking leave. Employees may feel that they have too much on to take annual leave, or feel that taking it at certain times during the year could put their job at risk, neither of which are an ideal situation.
  • Make staff feel guilty about taking holiday. As mentioned above, sometimes staff can feel worried about taking leave, even though they are contractually entitled to it. So encourage staff to book leave – the more notice you have, the easier it is for departments to plan around it.
  • Leave things ‘til the end of the leave year. Be proactive in your leave monitoring, don’t wait until near the end of the leave year before looking at whether employees have taken all their holiday or not – because it will be too late to resolve it then.
  • Try not to get into a pattern of paying staff in lieu of holiday. In the same way, don’t allow staff to continually carry forward holiday. This just exacerbates problems, causing difficulties at the next end of leave year, it’s much better to encourage staff to take their entitlement of leave, for their own wellbeing.


Good management of staff leave can go a long way towards preventing unplanned absences and improving overall employee engagement. With our dos and don’ts, you should have a good basis for keeping your company’s annual leave in check, but if you’d like support to get policies and processes in place, we’d love to help so get in touch.