Ten Ways to Manage Multiple Vacation Requests During the Holidays

Written by on November 18, 2019 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues


The holidays are a time that people like to relax and spend time with family. Unfortunately, this can prove problematic for employers who are sure to get multiple requests for vacation around this time of year. Telling an employee that they cannot have their preferred days during the holidays can be an uncomfortable conversation, and if not handled well, it can lead to alienating good team members.

The following are ten ways that employers can handle multiple vacation requests during the holiday season:

1.  First come, first serve.

This is a common practice for companies that must juggle multiple vacation requests. It is rarely a standalone policy however as there are usually other factors that must come into consideration.

2.  Seniority.

Granting vacation requests based on seniority is a traditional method, but this too is rarely a standalone policy. For example, in many cases it will be more critical to have a more seasoned employee in the office or on the shop floor than it will be to have a junior employee.

3.  Managerial discretion.

Sometimes there is nobody more qualified to make decisions about vacation requests than an employee’s immediate managerial team. The managerial team knows what needs to be done on any given day and which employees need to be there to ensure that the work does get done.

Immediate managers may also be more aware of the personal needs of the employee – needs which the HR office may not be aware of.

4.  Organizational need.

There may be times when certain essential employees must be present to help keep the organization running smoothly. If employees are turned down for vacation requests for this reason, it is important to communicate with them the reason. While an employer might not be able to grant one particular request for vacation, they should look for other ways to recognize these essential employees for their efforts.

5.  Rotating schedules.

Some employers such as hospitals, nursing homes, emergency services, etc. must have employees working even on the holidays themselves. One way of dealing with this scenario is to keep track of who worked which holiday and ensure that employees don’t have to work the same holiday every year. If possible, give employees the ability to trade holiday shifts.

6.  Team decision making.

If the organization has a small, close-knit team then one way to empower your employees is to let the team make decisions about who gets to take what days off. This option may require some oversight from HR or upper management at least in the beginning stages.

7.  Industry specific demands.

Are you in an industry that is especially busy over the holiday season? Such companies should make sure that employees are aware ahead of time for any vacation request blackout periods.

8.  Union contract.

If your organization has a union contract that outlines how vacation request are to be handled, the decision making is more or less done for you. While objective, this method is often less flexible in extenuating circumstances.

9.  Deadline driven.

Many employers, knowing that they will get multiple requests for vacation during the holidays, have a deadline by which all such requests must be in.

10.  Shut down.

Finally, there are many companies that avoid conflicting requests altogether by having a “shut-down” around the holidays so that all employees can spend a few days with their families. Shut downs can be with or without pay.

Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. Whether you are an employer or an employee, we can help. Contact us to see how.

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