All bases covered: 4 key areas to consider for a simple time off policy

When we think ‘policy’, we think painfully long process. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are the four key areas to cover for a super simple time off policy that your employees will love.

time off policy

Let’s face it: you don’t want to write a 30-page time off policy and your employees will hate you for making them read it. You just need to cover the key areas and communicate them properly to your team.

Here at Turbine, we’ve got a single, shared page on our intranet for time off information. This week, we’ve put together a list of the four key areas to consider for a simple time off policy:

1. Holidays

In the UK, we’re all entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid relaxation each year – some companies include bank holidays. The standard holiday-year start date is 1st January, but it’s often helpful to align this with your financial year or employment start dates instead.

Alongside this, it’s important to decide on a clear, consistent holiday framework. Here are three common ones:

  • Use it or lose it. Any holiday left at the end of the year is lost. This can work well to avoid massive lump pay-outs to people saving up holiday, and it’s a good no-B.S reminder for everyone to take time off.  However, be aware that this could appear bureaucratic and cause legal disputes if not communicated well to employees!
  • Unlimited. The laissez faire approach to holidays. Here, you’re trusting people to take time out when they need it. Loads of high-profile companies are using this to good effect right now, including Linkedin, Virgin and Netflix. Although bear in mind that you might want to include a minimum amount of holiday to ensure people aren’t overworking themselves.
  • Carry over. If employees don’t use up all of their holiday before it renews, their leftover days carry over into the following year. We use this method at Turbine and it works well as a happy-medium approach for us.

2. Business needs

Even with a holiday framework, when the requests start flooding in it’s often hard to strike a balance between well-being and business needs. However, depending on your industry, you could be proactive and plan out specific dates for time off that work with the business.

  • Busy periods. You might need to block out dates in the calendar where it’s not practical for people to take time off. Or ask employees to put in a few extra hours at certain points in the year. You could offer to balance this with time off in lieu.
  • Quiet periods. On the flip side, many companies need total shutdown over quiet periods (like Christmas, for example) to survive. Here, you can encourage employees to save some holiday for this.

You’re well within your rights to incorporate these things into your time off policy. Just make sure you explain the reason behind your decisions, and give employees enough notice.

3.  Expect the unexpected

Firstly, make sure you know the law on maternity leave and sickness. But also be prepared for other unexpected requests like medical appointments, jury duty and time off for dependents. Although you’d typically deal with these on an individual basis, your approach doesn’t have to be entirely ad-hoc.

The best thing to do here is to identify common ‘types’ of time off that are specific to your company then ask employees to submit requests under these categories. This means that even in exceptional circumstances, time off is organised and under control.

4. Processes

When creating your time off policy, you should evaluate your processes too. How often do you spend your weekends organising everyone else’s time off? Or knee-deep in paperwork, spreadsheet tabs and endless strings of emails?

At Turbine, we use our own cloud-based app for HR admin and all our other paperwork. The time-off management feature works through editable calendars, document uploads, approval pings and quick-fire comments. It’s super simple, eliminates paperwork and keeps all time off requests in one easy-to-view portal.

All on the same page

Manual processes often lead to miscommunication and confusion around responsibility. When it comes to holidays, most employees won’t argue with whatever process you set in place so long as it’s clear to them from the get-go. With cloud-based management, you can store all data centrally and everyone is equally accountable. Effectively, you’re all on the same (web)page and that makes everyone’s life easier.

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