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Keeping effective tabs on your employees’ leave

Keeping effective tabs on your employees’ leave
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Keeping effective tabs on your employees’ leave
Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells by Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells
Director - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells

Sandhya Iyer of The HR Dept hasn’t got resolutions for herself – but she knows what she’d like to see the businesses she works with commit to in 2020. It’s a simple commitment but one that could be hugely effective: businesses need to ensure they log employee leave accurately and that their staff know exactly what sort of leave they can take and when.

What I’d like to see my clients doing in 2020

Though I tend not to believe in making New Year’s resolutions, I do have a wish-list of what I would like to see my clients do in 2020 to make their job and mine a lot easier. The devil is always in the detail - and the data. That’s why I’d like to see small businesses appreciate the importance of HR-related data in managing their workforce’s absences from work. January commonly heralds the start of a new leave-year, so what are some of the issues this might throw up?

Is that a sickie or not?

The first quarter of a new year is - understandably given the weather - a period when business-owners face the reality that more of their staff will be off sick, and more often. Frequently, when I sit down with my client to address the black hole named Staff-Sickness Leave, the thing that causes most hassle is lack of data. The person who is responsible for logging days of absence needs to have a clear understanding of the various categories of ‘leave’. Logging something as ‘general absence’ doesn’t do anyone any favours and leaves me in a very tricky situation when it comes to helping a client – the data needs to be detailed and specific!

How do I categorise my leave?

The answer to this question comes down to your operations and needs. As a bare minimum, ensure you have clear definitions in your handbook or policies for what constitutes sick leave, unauthorised absence, annual leave, dependent-care and compassionate leave. Some companies also allow ‘buy-back holiday schemes’ for their staff – this is certainly an option, as long as you have clear policies on how and when such schemes are applicable. You also need to ensure the 12-month period that covers annual leave is clearly defined (eg, from April to April, or whenever). Are your staff aware of those dates? They need to be!

To carry forward or sacrifice?

One question that comes up often within the small business sector is whether annual leave can be carried forward. If no, what happens to untaken annual leave? If yes, for how long can it be carried forward before it expires? If carrying leave forward is an option for your employees, you may be faced with a staff member who’s built up a lovely ‘stash’ of unused annual leave, which they might decide to utilise in one go. Will you and your business be able to cope should that happen?

In general, if you offer employees the opportunity to carry leave, the guidelines surrounding that offering need to be very clearly outlined in your policy. The alternative, if employees don’t know where they stand, could be lost time and some very stressful HR situations for your business.  Note, too, that annual leave untaken because employees say they’ve been bogged down with work and annual leave untaken due to sickness are two different situations. You will need a very clear action plan as to how you’d deal with either situation if you are to avoid any possible claims down the line.

All the above considerations explain why it’s so vital for small business to capture their absence data accurately. It’s not only about managing your operations, but about maintaining camaraderie within your team and, of course, ensuring you adhere to the law. It’s a complex area, with plenty of other issues to cover. Let’s keep it simple here, though, as we ease ourselves into the new year. If you make one simple change, ensure you and your staff capture absence data swiftly, accurately and effectively.

Ensuring you and your staff are up to speed with the implications of your annual leave offering could be vital to your success in 2020 and beyond. Consider staff training and a cost-effective HR toolkit as ways of handling the issue if you’re not sufficiently on top of it already.

MEET THE EXPERT

Sandhya Iyer is the director of the HR Dept, helping small- and medium-sized businesses in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent. A graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, she works with business owners, entrepreneurs and managers to prevent people problems and help them get the best from their staff.

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