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How to head off that annual leave headache

Spring is approaching, and it's the time of year when people's minds turn to planning their summer holidays. Managing employee leave requests can be a headache - even more so than usual in a year which includes both the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.

All employees have the statutory right to 5.6 weeks' paid leave a year, which works out at 28 days for someone working a 5-day week. Part-time workers' entitlement is calculated on a pro rata basis, depending on their hours. However, an employer may choose to give their staff more leave than this - many organisations allow employees to accrue more annual leave over time, or build up extra hours that can be taken as time off in lieu of overtime pay.

The key to effective holiday and leave management is to treat all requests fairly and consistently, and this is best achieved by having a clear policy on requesting leave. It's a good idea to insist that employees give a minimum period of notice when requesting time off, to enable suitable cover to be arranged. Having a holiday planner in a public space in the office can help keep the process transparent and enable staff to plan around each other where possible. Good management of staff leave can go a long way towards preventing unplanned absences and improving overall employee engagement.

It is worth remembering that employees have no statutory right to extra annual leave, either paid or unpaid, and that granting requests for unpaid annual leave are at an employer's discretion. Nevertheless, many employers do allow staff to take unpaid annual leave in certain circumstances, such as to extend a maternity or paternity leave period or to do volunteering work.

Acas runs training courses for employers in managing employee holidays and leave, and managing the impact of the 2012 Olympics. Visit the Acas training and business solutions page for more information.

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