8 essential steps to manage staff time-off in your small business

Small businesses have it tough whenever an employee needs time off. Unlike bigger companies, small businesses have less room to manoeuvre. One person taking a week off to go on holiday can mean your business is left with an entire department missing. It’s clear that having a policy that is well understood by all your staff is critical, but where to start...

Whatever approach you decide to use, make sure it is well documented in your staff handbook and make sure all the rules you set out are fair and they work for everyone. Here are a few things to consider:-

Holiday year

When does the holiday year run from and to? Most people have a holiday year that runs from January to December, but some companies choose to have the holiday year match their financial year (for example, April to March).


Do you have limits on how much time people can take off at once? What’s the smallest amount of time staff can book off, and what’s the longest. Many companies have a lower limit of 1 full day, or a half day. Upper limits are rare, but if it’s complicated to find cover while someone is away, it can make sense to set an upper limit too.


In the UK there are requirements around how much notice staff need to give their employer before taking time off, so be sure that your rules don’t contradict this. You can find out more from the gov.uk website.

Booking and Approval

Define the process for booking and approving time off. All staff should know how to book time off, and who they need to speak to in order to approve a request for leave. Equally, their manager needs a simple way to quickly approve or deny requests for time off. Any requests that are denied should always include a reasonable explanation.

Staff should also have a quick and simple way of letting you know when they are ill. We cover this in more detail in our other article: Keeping your staff safe from the ill hero and Planning for staff sickness.

Busy Time At The Office

Carry over time

Do you allow staff to carry unused leave over to next year? If you do, be clear how many days can be carried over and if there is any limit on their use (for example, do they have to be used within the first few months of the next year). This can avoid a mass exodus at the end of the holiday year, when everyone uses up any time they have left over, but can also discourage staff from taking time off, which isn’t healthy.


Are there any restrictions on several people being off at the same time? For example, in a small business there might only be 2 people dealing with customer support. The company might request that only one of the support staff should be away at once. It might not always be possible to avoid this, but a good holiday booking system (like Team Absence) will highlight any potential clashes to everyone, making it much simpler to work around.

Critical times of year

Perhaps your business needs to place some specific limitations around a critical time of the year (the last few weeks before Christmas can often be very busy for a lot of retail businesses for example). Make sure restrictions are reasonable and clearly understood.

Plan ahead

If you track time off it will be easy to see trends. Some times of year will have lots of people away, and others will have all hands on deck. Knowing this ahead of time will help you prepare. Use your holiday booking solution to generate reports that show you when your peak times will be and plan any cover you’ll need in plenty of time.

What next?

Did you know that Team Absence can help you with most of these issues and is flexible enough to meet almost all requirements of small businesses in the UK. We’d love it if you gave us a try (we have a free trial). Not ready to start a trial? Find out more about how Team Absence can help you to manage staff time-off in your small business.

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