Lay down the law on when staff can take vacation leave

Issue: Productivity takes a hit when key employees take vacation at key moments.

Benefit: You can legally tell employees when they can take vacation leave.

Action: Make sure your policy spells out vacation blackout dates, plus explains proper vacation-request procedures.

Even though vacation leave is a mainstay of basic benefit packages, employers are not legally required to offer paid vacation to employees.

But, realistically, no vacation time would probably equal no employees.


Still, that doesn't mean you have to approve every single vacation-leave request. Don't be afraid to set limits on when employees can take it. You're free to set your own policy on blackout dates.

Best bet: Always try to match your policy to the special needs of your business based on the industry and market you serve.

For example, if yours is a seasonal business, say, a landscaping contractor that brings in the bulk of its annual sales during the summer months, it's wise to reflect that in your vacation policy. You could, for instance, offer employees two weeks of vacation a year but require them to schedule it during nonpeak months when business is slow.

Make sure your policy states that the organization's needs take priority, so vacations may need to be rescheduled or requests denied. The policy should also explain: 

  • How far in advance employees should schedule vacations. 
  • To whom they should submit requests. 
  • How much time is accrued and how much can be taken in one stretch. Most organizations base the number of vacation days on employee's tenure. 
  • Whether seniority comes into play in conflicting requests. 
  • What happens with unused vacation time at year-end. 

Final note: Expect employees to ask to tack on a few extra vacation days this year. Reason: Nearly half those polled in a new OfficeTeam survey said the biggest mistake they made with their last vacation was taking too little time off.