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Scheduling summer vacations in the most fair and efficient way

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A reader of the Forum section of our free HR Weekly e-letter recently posed this question: “We’re going to be incredibly busy this summer. What’s the best way to schedule vacations without employees complaining?” Here’s how some HR professionals replied:

Require advance notice

“In the case of two or more employees requesting the same time off, management determines who gets it based on seniority and length of advance notice. Also, for one to two days’ vacation, we require three days’ advance notice. For more than three days’ vacation, we require three weeks’ notice—no exceptions.” — C.L.P.

Ask for employees’ help

“Your employees are your number one asset, so allowing them to take their earned vacation when they want it will go a long way. Try discussing the situation with them first. A personal request from you for cooperation on vacation schedules will be met with a more positive attitude than simply publishing a new policy.

“If you need to make rules, tell employees how many people you can afford to have off at certain times. Letting employees cooperate with one another on this issue will allow the cream to rise to the top. Then, make sure you thank those who do cooperate.” — Mary C.

First-come, first-served

"Set up a schedule now of blackout days. Or, inform all that only two employees (or whatever you designate) are able to take off at any given time. Provide it on a first-come, first-served basis. I’ve done this, and employees talk to those who already have the time slot off to see if they could trade.” — Amy

Set the tone early in the year

“Create a deadline at the beginning of the year (Jan. 31) for submitting vacation requests of durations of X amount of days or more. Warn employees that vacations are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis and only one person from a department can be off at a time.

“Set guidelines for how and whom they need to communicate information to before they go on vacation so important aspects of work are not missed.” — Janelle G.

Seniority rules

“Rather than using a first-come, first-served basis, try a seniority ruling. That seems to be the only fair way to me. I work in a unionized environment, so employees must have extended vacations (two weeks or more) in by the end of February. Following that, it’s based on a first-come, first-served basis.” — Patty

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