Why Workers’ Vacation Requests Might Get Denied in the Coming Months
Advice on how employers should handle vacation requests
Once business returns to normal and travel restrictions loosen in the wake of COVID-19, employers may be faced with the issue of employees rushing to simultaneously use up their remaining vacation days before the end of the year.
Due to the pandemic, many employees have procrastinated in scheduling and taking vacations days either because they’ve had to cancel travel plans or because they don’t feel like they need to take time off if they are working from home. In the coming months, however, employers will most likely encounter an influx of vacation requests and this could negatively impact their businesses.
This is especially of concern to seasonal businesses or those whose peak season happens leading up to the holidays. So, what can employers do to minimize consequences for their business while keeping staff well-rested and happy?
As a first step, employers will need to review the needs of their business and then take a balanced approach when approving vacation requests.
Most importantly, employers must be aware of their legal obligations to workers when it comes to vacation time. Workers must be provided with, at the very least, their minimum paid vacation leave entitlements as stated in the applicable employment standards legislation. Employers may go beyond the minimum standards and give their employee extra vacation time annually, but they cannot give less.
Well-drafted employment contracts should state that the employer has the right to make changes based on the business’s needs. As with any policy update, employers should do the following:
• Notify staff of changes as soon as possible
• Provide a copy of the policy
• Be transparent about new expectations
• Explain the reasoning behind the change
• Be open to feedback
Employers who provide more vacation time than is legally required might choose to reduce workers’ vacation allowance to the minimum employment standards requirement, unless the employee has a contractual right to vacation in excess of the statutory minimum amount. However, imposing reductions or limitations surrounding vacation time can have a negative impact on employees’ morale and productivity.
Instead, employers should seek to make compromises that will be beneficial to all. As an example, management could encourage staff to take vacations now or allow them to carry over vacation time in excess of the statutory minimum amount to next year or a time when it will affect business operations the least. Additional days off can be given to employees as an incentive to do this. For businesses that have a peak season, implementing a blackout period when staff cannot request time off might a be necessary step.
Overlapping vacation requests and staff shortages are other problems businesses could face in the coming months. To prevent the business from suffering consequences, management should remind staff to submit vacation requests in advance and that requests will be approved based on business needs or a first-come-first-serve basis, depending on the company’s policy.
Priority in vacation requests might also be given to staff who have continued working throughout the pandemic as essential or remote workers.
As with any important decision or policy change, employers should maintain open communication with staff and take their opinions into consideration. A fair approach is best for balancing the needs of employees and the business. Measures such as blackout periods or reducing vacation entitlements should be taken as a last resort and employers should be aware of the potential negative consequences of doing this.
It is also important to communicate to staff that company policies may continue to change as the situation surrounding the pandemic is ever-changing and unpredictable. Flexibility, compassion and transparency will be the key to good management and resolving conflicts with vacation requests going forward.
Kristina Vassilieva is a writer at Peninsula, an HR and Health and Safety consultancy serving small and medium sized businesses across Canada. Kristina covers popular HR and workplace health and safety topics, as well as legislative changes, that affect Canadian businesses.