Managing employee leave has its challenges no matter how many of them there are but it becomes especially tricky when you’re short-staffed. The good news, however, is there are a few strategies you can employ to make things easier on your HR department. With that outcome in mind, let’s look how to handle employee leave when you’re under-staffed:

Plan ahead

The best way to manage employee leave is to plan ahead as much as possible. This can largely be achieved by asking staff for sufficient notice when requesting time off. What’s more, you might ask for different amounts of notice for longer holiday requests, while needing slightly less for a couple of days or so.
Aware that their annual leave request could be denied if they don’t get it in before their colleagues, employees will make plans further ahead – making things easier for management and HR.

Secondly, you can make use of a centralised staff leave planner: That way, staff can simply log on and see who else has booked time off before requesting their own.
Best of all, the combination of these two ideas could become self-policing: In time, employees should check the central holiday schedule first, far in advance of their proposed time off, before requesting it.

Pay attention to staff calendars

Make a habit of frequently checking staff calendars for upcoming holidays. Ideally, you’ll check each month for a snapshot of which employees are due to be away and, if necessary, have a look again at the start of each week as a reminder.
By doing so, you’ll have greater awareness of your employee’s holiday plans and, as much as possible, can sync them with upcoming projects and events. This will help you decide whether to approve or deny holiday requests, based on which other employees, with a similar skillset or responsibilities, have already booked time off.

Encourage taking leave

Encouraging your employees to take their full holiday entitlement throughout the year is useful for managing employee leave for two reasons: Firstly, if staff spread their annual leave out, you’re less likely to receive a glut of requests at once (some of which you’d probably have to deny). This is especially important for those with a lot of holiday saved up – and every company has at least one employee that has a tendency to let their annual leave pile up. In such cases, you may have to request that they take time off, especially if you know there’s a busy period coming up you’d prefer they weren’t away for a large chunk of.

Secondly, by encouraging staff to take days off more often, they’ll recharge their batteries and are less likely to take a sick day – for which you have no notice and can’t plan for. This is a crucial consideration when you’re short-staffed, as your employees are already picking up some degree of slack and some of them having to call in sick would only worsen the problem. Well-timed, regular breaks can help to prevent this.