Vacation Season is here! Best Practices for an Effective Time-Off System
With Spring Break underway and summer on the horizon – do you know how your organization manages time-off for employees during vacation season? Have you checked your policies and procedures to make sure time off requests are handled properly and to verity how your organization handles overlapping vacations?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) employers are not required to pay for time not worked such as vacations, sick leave or federal or other leave. Instead, these benefits are matters of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative).
If you are an employee of an employer that offers paid time off for vacations and or other leave, there are policies and procedures in place you will want to be aware of – especially because there isn't a one size fits all policy your organization must follow.
Most organizations that offer a personal time off system for all leave purposes, or vacation leave and sick leave systems, typically award time off based on your employment status, job level, your title and years of service with your company. Some organizations have a first come – first serve policy, while others may require approval from your manager to ensure there is adequate coverage while you are away. Whatever your organization's policy may be regarding time off for vacation, sick, or personal time, it's important for employees to be aware of the policy and procedures for taking time-off.
If you are an organization that offers time off for vacations and otherwise, the following best practices may help manage personal time off requests and overlapping vacations:
- At the time of hire, ensure employees understand your organization's personal time off and vacation policy and procedures.
- Explain the time frame for employees to submit vacation requests so that you and they can see how absences could impact patient care, customer service and/ or deadlines.
- Have a vacation request log that shows employees who have already scheduled for time-off – list the policy and procedures as part of the log.
- When possible, consider having employees attempt finding coverage for their assigned shift prior to granting time off.
- Explain management's right to approve or deny vacation requests if employee does not have enough accrued time in the "time off" bank to cover their time. This is often an important consideration for organization's that offer health and dental benefits to ensure benefits are paid for with appropriate employer/employee contributions.
- Also explain management's right to approve or deny vacation due to demands, deadlines or scheduling conflicts.
- During the "busy season" offer incentives for employees who work during that time. For example, if you know you are busy the week prior to the 4th of July and know several employees are planning summer vacations, you could consider offering an extra vacation day for those who work that week.
- If you are going to be "short-staffed" due to lack of shift coverage, consider a performance bonus for those who are working their assigned shifts.
The importance of communication
Once your personal time off policy is in place, communication is essential to ensure the success of the policy. Both employers and employees have a responsibility to communicate when considering personal time off and vacations.
If your organization maintains an environment where communication is encouraged, it may prevent employees from feeling like they need to call in sick to take time off.
Employees should feel encouraged to communicate their time off requests and empowered to find coverage for their shift. And management should feel encouraged to communicate their organization's personal time off and/or vacation policy and ensure reasonable steps are taken to fairly manage employees' personal time off requests.