Many companies may begin to fret when St. Patrick’s Day approaches, especially this year as it falls on a Friday. While much of the population are out on the streets celebrating the day, companies are caught up trying to cover annual leave. Ensuring everybody is cross trained and doublechecking if employees’ holidays are not overlapping are just some of the many things employer’s look out for when organising annual leave.

What is Annual Leave?

Annual leave is the time in which employees are entitled to take off work which is paid. It is also known as ‘holiday entitlement’ or ‘holiday leave’. Many people use their annual leave for holidays, while others may have to use it for family matters.

Depending on the company’s policies, different days may be offered to people from different companies. However, the standard leave is 21 days and notice must be given in advance of which days you want off.

As Patrick’s Day is on a Friday this year, the majority of the country will have an extra-long weekend.  Apart from the specific celebrations of Patrick’s Day, it signals for many companies the marker whereby holiday cover needs to be planned within the office for the summer season.  This means doublechecking that two people are not out of the office on holidays at the same time and also that everybody is fully cross trained.  Companies do this so that they can minimise the impact of staff being on holidays, while continuing to provide a seamless service to their customers.  Everybody needs to take time out for holidays, and ensuring that each person’s work is fully covered while they are away means that they do not return to the office with a large backlog awaiting them.

According to the CSO statistics in 2012, 90.7% of SME’s in Ireland are micro-enterprises. i.e employing less than 10 people. Given the large number of companies who fall into this category, it would be reasonable to assume that a lot of careful planning needs to be done in advance of the holiday season in order to minimise the impact of the relevant staff being on leave.

Tips for Ensuring Annual Leave is Covered

As previously mentioned, companies need to be preared for annual leave, ensuring that employees are corss trained and employees’ holidays are not overlapping. However, there are also additional methods to ensure the company runs smoothly while employees are on their time off.

  1. Outsourcing — One of the most effective ways to ensure work is covered during the holiday season is to outsource the work to a third-party. Many companies have been established to lend a hand to those who may need a phone answering service or a virtual office. These services can be used to help free up staff so they can take holidays or as a means of providing extra resources.  If planned in advance, it is a seamless way of boosting your human resources for the holiday period and ensures that your customer service standards do not suffer.
  2. Overtime — Arrange for employees to do some overtime for the duration.
  3. Contract Workers — Take on contract workers for St. Patrick’s Day or the summer period.
  4. Make plans well in advance of the holiday season to facilitate training.

What Other Advice is There for Covering Annual Leave?

Work Life Balance

From an employees perspective, it is important for them to know that plans are in place to ensure they can take a complete break from work.  In an era when technology allows us to stay constantly connected, exactly the opposite is what we need when we are on holidays from work.  Promoting a healthy work life balance is a positive initiative which employers should incorporate in their companies work schedules.  Ensuring that mechanisms are put in place to facilitate employees taking a complete break from work while on holidays will benefit both staff and their companies.  Employees will feel the benefit of escaping the demands of work and will perform better on their return as they will feel more refreshed and ready to take on the daily challenges.  Sometimes we can see our work in a new perspective when we take a break and maybe we can identify a better or quicker way of doing something.

Cross Training

Cross Training is a strategy which is extremely useful in small companies where there are a small number of people employed in a company or department.  Each person trains one of their colleagues on how to do their job and comprehensive training notes are documented to ensure a step-by-step process can be followed by the person learning the role.  Cross training can form part of a crisis management strategy so that in the event of an employee suddenly falling ill or leaving the company, there is always someone else who has knowledge of their work.  Cross Training can also provide the opportunity of seeing how certain employees might advance within the company and exposure to a more in-depth knowledge of their companies products or services.

Although Cross Training can bring many benefits to SME’s, it should only be used in conjunction with other strategies by which the department/company workload can be shared.  If it results in employees having to do two jobs simultaneously then it will cause resentment and will not get the support it needs in order to be a success.

If You Fail to Plan – You Plan to Fail

This is a well known motto which was originally attributed to Benjamin Franklin (but more recently linked to Roy Keane) and is very relevant in relation to planning for holiday cover within the SME sector.  Planning your resources well in advance of the holiday period will ensure that employees and employers alike can each achieve their desired outcomes i.e. a good work life balance and reliable business continuity.