Setting Up Your Time Off Policies
When there are a thousand and one things to be done to build your business, writing up your HR policies can seem like a non-essential task, but as your team grows it’s important to have policies in place.
While your business is important, life is going to throw all kinds of other challenges at your team. By having a clear time off policy, you can make them feel confident enough to take their holiday entitlement or compassionate leave when they need it, safe in the knowledge that they’re in line with company expectations.
It might even be a powerful recruitment tool. A generous time off allowance can be a compelling reason to take a role, and you’re more likely to work hard if you know you’re ramping up to a well-deserved rest. So writing your time off policies down and having that available for both the team and future hires to reference makes sense all round!
Here is a quick guide to some of things you should consider including in your policy:
Annual Leave Allowance
There are two main elements to this. First things first, you need to make sure you’re legally compliant with all the mandatory minimums. Here is an article with helpful advice.
Then you can decide on an annual leave policy that actually works for your team. As you decide on this, there are plenty of important questions to ask: do you really want to be giving the minimum? How much is too much? What are the other businesses across the UK doing?
(If it helps the average amount of holiday taken in the UK is 25 days per year).
Holiday Notice Period
This is often overlooked, but is an important thing to consider.
The general advice from the government website is that the minimum notice given for any annual leave should be twice as long as the amount of holiday the team member wishes to take (for example, two weeks notice for one week of annual leave requested).
Importantly - this is something that can be specified in an employment contract if your company requires more notice around annual leave, perhaps to manage staff numbers or plan projects.
Whatever holiday allowance and notice period you decide on, you’ll need to ensure that there are always enough resources in the office to keep the business ticking along smoothly.
Sensible HR policies ensure that no two members of the same team or same seniority level are on leave at once.
In most cases, business follow a ‘first come, first served’ policy, with team leaders or managers taking responsibility for approving or denying holiday requests. Be sure to avoid disappointment by making this policy clear - which also has the added benefit of encouraging individuals to request their time off with plenty of notice.
Bank Holidays & Public Holidays
See this guide to bank & public holidays.
Carrying Over Time Off
Inevitably someone in the team won’t take all of the annual leave allowed to them.
Having an outlined policy on what happens with this time off can actually be useful in encouraging people to take that well earned rest, particularly if the team know from the outset that they’re unable to carry that holiday entitlement forward into the new year.
Making this one crystal clear is crucial. The last thing a Team Member wants to be thinking about during a significant life event is what their work’s policy is around taking time off.
Make sure your policy is accessible to all team members so they can access it in case of an emergency.
There is no statutory right for paid leave after a bereavement, so you decide how you treat your team members in this important moment. Make sure your compassionate leave policy reflects your business values, and while you should be flexible depending on circumstances, never just make it up as you go along.
Maternity & Paternity Leave
These policies deserve their own section, as they’re important to cover in detail. They won’t be covered here - but you never know when you’ll need to have something in place!
Important Company Dates
Legally an employer cannot refuse to let their team take time off - it’s a legal requirement.
However, when they take that leave is open to the company’s discretion.
If there are times where a business is particularly busy then an employer is legally able to restrict time off around that period. This can include mandatory attendance days, like annual meetings or conferences. Be sure to give people plenty of notice, and ideally block them off through your holiday request booking system, just in case someone isn’t paying attention.
Wrapping It Up
HR policies are part of growing up as a business. When a team is small, it’s easy for time off policies to be treated in an informal manner.
But as the team expands documenting HR policies and procedures is important, particularly for things like compassionate leave.
Beyond the obvious - it is a chance to show off your values as an employer, which can be a competitive advantage in an ever more competitive recruitment market.