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News and updates from the team at WorkSmarter.

The School Holidays Are Nearly Here

Should You Prioritise Parent Holiday Requests?

Kathryn Webb
Kathryn Webb Worksmarter Team
Being a working parent can be a juggling act and many don’t feel able to take annual leave outside of the school holidays. 
Although holidays taken during termtime cost significantly less, those who want to opt for these cheaper breaks will soon be subject to higher fines. 
New rules are being introduced for the next school year in a bid to improve pupil attendance. Fines will rise to £80 per child, per parent, per absence, for anyone taking their children on a term-time holiday without the school’s permission. 
As well as trying to fit in time away with the kids, finding childcare to cover the long summer holidays can be tricky. If plans fall apart, as they sometimes do, the logistics become a nightmare. 
Treating Staff Fairly
This raises an important issue…how do employers ensure every member of staff is treated fairly when it comes to annual leave requests? 
There are several approaches an employer might take when conflicts surrounding holiday leave requests occur. These could include:
·      First-come, first-served
·      Priority for parents
·      Take turns 
·      Leave teams to work it out among themselves
·      Use a random method to decide
None of these approaches are ideal, and the last thing managers want is to be accused of unfair treatment or for resentment to build between colleagues. However, the reality is that sometimes first choice requests can’t be met. 
As an employer, effective holiday leave management is a crucial part of organising your business. Although a responsible employer will do their best to consider personal circumstances and facilitate staff work/life balance, it may be hard to cover absences especially during busy periods.  
No Right to be Prioritised
Employees have the right to take their full leave allocation within a set holiday year. 
While most employers are sympathetic to the specific difficulties working parents face, there is no right for them to be prioritised as this could be seen as unfair treatment towards other staff. 
An employer can refuse or cancel a leave request, or restrict when leave can be taken, but should have a good business reason for this - for example, if it would affect productivity during busy periods.
If a holiday is refused or cancelled by the employer, they must give a specific period of notice. Read more from Acas.
Avoid Potential Conflict
Balancing the needs and wishes of individual team members should be handled sensitively and accommodated where possible.
Creating an annual leave policy helps to ensure consistency and fairness across the company and avoid potential conflict. 
In their policy, employers can set out annual holiday entitlement in writing, outline the procedure and details for requesting/taking this leave, and make it clear how certain issues will be dealt with if they arise. 
Additional Solutions 
The UK has around 13 million working parents, making up a significant proportion of the UK workforce. Helping this cohort balance their working lives and parental responsibilities makes for a more productive workforce. 
Employers can consider offering a range of other options to take the pressure off and help parents manage work during school holidays:
·      Allow staff to work from home if their job is suitable.
·      Parental leave 
·      Offer flexible working arrangements/schedules
·      Help with childcare costs, such as holiday playschemes
·      Reassessing/prioritising workloads 
·      Support from line managers 
Holidays really shouldn’t be a hassle and WorkSmarter makes managing your staff leave so easy. Our intuitive, simple system adapts to suit you and helps you stay compliant. Find out more.
Take a quick tour with one of our friendly platform specialists. 
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