How can I stop staff from asking for last-minute holidays?

What measures can I put in place to prevent employees from either asking for last minute holidays or calling in sick? We always receive a spike in requests when the weather is good.

Many employers have contractual provisions in place which set the rules around how employees should request their holidays, and this often includes a notice period that staff should stick to when they want to ask for holidays. These notice periods vary but a common example is one week’s notice for odd days of annual leave. This should therefore deter employees from making last minute requests but should they still do so, you can refer them to the rules and point out that they have not followed procedure.

If you do not have such rules in place, you still have the fall back position that legislation provides you with to be able to refuse the request.

Employers can also explain to staff that operational reasons mean that they cannot take the annual leave at the time they have requested it, for example, if you have a maximum threshold for annual leave in the department/organisation eg only five people can be off at the same time, and you have reached that threshold, there is no room for more annual leave and you should tell the employee this.

You cannot prevent employees from phoning in sick but you can implement a format of absence monitoring in an attempt to drive down non-genuine illness. Firstly, rules which require staff to phone and speak to you personally to inform of their illness make it harder for staff to lie, rather than sending a text message, for example.

If staff know that they will not be questioned about an absence, they are more likely to be willing to ‘pull a sickie’. Implementing a system of ‘return to work interviews’, where staff have to explain their absence upon their return, may again make it more difficult to lie. Keeping track of absence enables you to notice patterns and excessive absence can trigger a disciplinary procedure.

Further reading on holiday pay

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Peter Done

Peter is the founder and group managing director of Peninsula Business Services, established in 1983.

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