Failure to make up shortfall ends up costing much more

by Astrid Wilson20 Aug 2012

In the majority of cases HR does not bring in additional labour to cover the staffing shortfalls caused by annual and long-service leave, a new survey has found.

The research found that time and budget constraints mean that managers and employees are often left to pick up the work of other colleagues, increasing an already heavy workload. Some 70% of HR professionals delegate tasks to other employees in order to manage the workloads of employee’s on leave, and more than a third said the line manager would be expected to assume responsibility. Just 17% of HR directors put the employee’s projects on hold altogether in order to avoid overloading other staff members.

Notably, there were distinct trends in how HR manages the issue in small, medium and large organisations – a quarter of HR managers in medium sized firms take on additional labour, as against 13% and 8% in small and large sized businesses respectively.

Yet the lack of holiday cover leads to stress and anxiety for line managers, Phil Booth, director, OfficeTeam said. “Managers have to perform a balancing act in which essential work is completed without overtaxing a team that may already be stretched too thin. Holidays can place further pressure on other team members, increasing the chances of stress and anxiety, so it is interesting to see the popularity of different strategies for managing workloads depending on the size of the business,” Booth said.

Top tips for juggling leave requests

Balancing leave requests with business constraints is nothing short of a juggling act, and often HR may feel like the meat in the sandwich. In order to minimise the impact of staff taking leave with those left with extra work, consider the following actions:

  1. As we enter the warmer months you may experience an increase in leave requests – consider sending out a reminder to staff about the peak work periods during which leave may be prohibited or restricted. If there are any conflicts with major religious holidays or prior commitments, discuss them in advance, (and at orientation) in order to prevent nasty surprises.
  2. Spell out management’s right to rearrange employee leave schedules to meet organisational demands and changing market conditions. But be careful not to use this to unduly restrict employees from taking leave during school holidays and peak times.
  3. Set a deadline for submitting leave requests that gives you enough time to plan for absences and delegate workloads as necessary. If there is a scheduling conflict, be sure to explain how and why it is unfeasible.
  4. Be prepared – ensure those taking time off have provided a summary of their work-in-progress, major responsibilities, key contact information, how to access related files, and other information which may be required.
  5. If taking on temporary labour to make up the shortfall is unfeasible, ensure duties are parcelled out among several colleagues to avoid one person being lumped with the work of two.
  6. Where possible, consider incentives for those who agree to work over the most desirable holiday periods.

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