Archive for April, 2012

Vacation Scheduling or Bust

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Do you proactively manage employee vacation schedules? Do employees book vacation at the last minute – and tell you the flight is already booked, and you feel guilty saying no? Do longer-term employees book the coveted vacation times?  What’s your organization’s current liability of banked vacation time?

Many union Collective Agreements set out the vacation scheduling process. Typically selection is based on seniority and senior employees select their first ‘block’ of vacation. Someone with 5 weeks’ vacation may want one week at year end, so that’s their first choice. Then, once all staff have made a first choice, the cycle begins again for second choices. This provides a fair framework where everyone benefits.

Non-union worksites have much more flexibility, but often lack processes for the selection process.  This causes problems including: employees not taking minimum vacation periods; longer-term employees taking all the most desired vacation times; carrying over vacation to the next year with no plans to take it that next year; higher vacation needs in the 4th quarter, at a time when business results often ramp up to year end. This is unnecessary business pressure that must be managed.

Here are some core tips to build a process where everyone benefits:

  1. Develop a policy that meets the needs of your business, and staff. See what will work best with your valued staff. This may include a black-out period for an annual business deliverable; or, a ‘must-take’ time when your business takes a week off at year end; or other clause to best manage the business.
  2. Ensure a percentage of vacation eligibility is scheduled and approved by the end of the first quarter. The end of the 2nd quarter have 90% of vacation booked. Some individuals can get so wrapped up in your business they neglect time off, and stress has its toll.
  3. Encourage employees to plan time away to refresh, travel, or some other enjoyable endeavor.
  4. If you provide a banking option to the next year, set parameters, whether it’s when the vacation must be taken in the new year (1st Q?), or the maximum amount that can be in the bank from year to year. Keep in mind when an employee exits the organization, you’ll be paying out any unused vacation at the current year’s rate


Schedule and manage using an equitable process. Life’s busy, and employees will appreciate your effort to help them manage their well earned downtime. One business pressure checked off. Priceless.