HR Strategy: How to Manage Vacation Requests

desk calendar to manage vacation requests

You want to support employees by providing the opportunity for work/life harmony… But you also have customers to service and a business to run. Sometimes it is difficult to manage vacation requests around popular vacation times, especially during the summer months and other holiday times throughout the year.

That’s why we’ve put together our best tips, suggestions and best practices to help you strike the right balance based on your organization’s typical activity model.

“Peak and Valley” Employers

Peak and Valley employers have historically predictable increases and decreases in activity level throughout the year. For example, tax preparation firms, landscaping companies and the like. If you find your business to be a “peak and valley” employer, some strategies to manage vacation requests include:

1. Black-Out Dates

They’re not just for airline reward miles! Some employers list black-out dates in their Employee Handbook’s Vacation Policy. This makes it clear that there are certain dates for which employees may not request vacation. Remember, employees generally prefer to know ahead of time about black-out dates so they can plan accordingly. Therefore, try to be up-front and include this information in your written Vacation Policy.

Top Tip: Need help putting together a new or updated employee handbook? Our team can help create a completely compliant handbook tailored to your business. Contact us to learn more!

2. Forced Use During Slow Months

Alternatively, you may choose to enact a policy requiring employees to use all or a specific amount of vacation during slow months. For example, if your workflow significantly decreases in the first quarter of the year, you could state in your vacation policy that employees are required to use at least half of their annual vacation allotment during this time period.

3. Incentives for Use During Slow Months

If you prefer incentives rather than prohibitions, consider offering incentives for employees to use their vacation during slower months. For example, you may allow employees to use four vacation days and get one free for vacations during designated “slow periods.”

manufacturing steady workflow employers

“Steady Workflow” Employers

Steady Workflow employers have a fairly consistent workflow throughout the year. For example, certain manufacturing or telecom employers. Their biggest challenge is when multiple employees request vacation time over the same dates. (These are generally popular vacation periods such as summer, Christmas week, etc.) As a “Steady Workflow” employer, you can strategically manage vacation requests by incorporating:

1. Decisions Based on Seniority

Some organizations allow employees with more seniority to elect their vacation days earlier or have precedence when it comes to vacation requests.

2. Decisions Based on “First-Come, First-Served”

Some organizations opt to approve vacations strictly based on when the request was submitted.

3. Shared Online Vacation Calendar

This method is a way to implement the “first-come, first-served” system, but places more responsibility on employees. Simply post a vacation calendar on your company’s Intranet and list how many employees the department may have out on vacation for any one day.

Then, have employees fill in their vacation requests on the calendar, knowing that if the maximum number of employees have already requested the desired dates, they will need to select different dates.

Top Tip: You can easily manage PTO requests in SDP Connect. Need a more robust vacation management system? Ask us how SDP Time gives your employees access to view their accruals and request time off, and notifies employers when requests are submitted for approval!

seasonal shutdown closed sign

“Seasonal Shutdown” Employers

Seasonal Shutdown Employers have certain periods during the year in which all or a portion of operations close. Generally, the best strategy for seasonal shutdown employers is to force the use of vacation during these periods.

Employers are permitted to designate vacation time based on the needs of the organization, and employers who close for certain weeks during the year often use this method of vacation management. For example, if the organization closes for the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the company may require all employees to save five days of vacation time to use during this period.

What do you think?

Whatever decisions your organization makes to manage vacation requests, we recommend you clearly communicate the company’s policy and the reasoning behind it so employees can plan accordingly. Clear communication and consistent application of the vacation policy are crucial to avoid potential morale problems or exposure to discrimination claims based on the administration of the organization’s vacation policy.

How does your HR department manage vacation requests? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check us out on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for even more HR tips and tricks.

Photos by Александар Цветановић,, and fotografierende from Pexels

benefits, business, HR, management, timekeeping

Related Posts