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Smart holiday schedule for companies in 6 steps

Summer, sun, holiday schedule! All companies know it: The days get longer and the annual discussion among colleagues begins: Who can take time off when and for how long? What regulations need to be considered? Who will take over the responsibilities, and how will ongoing projects be affected by holiday planning? For employers, good preparation is essential to avoid conflicts.

That’s why we will explain exactly what you, as an employer, need to consider in holiday planning. And then we will show you how to create an efficient holiday schedule for your company in 6 steps. Let’s get started!

Holiday Planning: What employers need to know

As an employer you should have a clear understanding of your employees rights, before you start thinking about efficient holiday schedules. We have collected the most common questions and answers regarding holiday planning according to labour law:

When can the employer schedule holidays?

Labour law clearly favours employees when it comes to holiday planning by the employer. In general, as a supervisor, you have the right to determine the holiday period, but you must always consider the employee’s preferences beforehand. In summary, one-sided holiday planning is only allowed if the employee agrees. According to the Federal Labour Court (BAG), you are also only allowed to unilaterally schedule a portion of the available holiday.

Can the employer mandate company holidays?

Even when planning company holidays, the employer must consider the wishes of the employees and cannot schedule all the days off they are entitled to. There must also be a justifiable reason for the so-called company holidays. For example, if a doctor takes holiday and his/her employees have nothing to do as a result. Seasonal company holidays, such as between the holidays at the end of December, are also a popular practice. However, the timing and duration must be announced at the beginning of the year, and the employer may need to involve the works’ council in the decision.

When can the employer reject holiday requests?

If there are operational reasons, such as many team members being ill or an important deadline approaching, the employer is not obliged to accommodate the employee’s holiday requests.

Do parents automatically have priority during school holidays?

According to labour law, parents with school-age children have priority when scheduling holidays in the company, but not automatically. As an employer, you need to weigh whether your employees can all take time off simultaneously or whether you should apply the priority rule for parents instead.

Are employees allowed to transfer days off to the next year?

In general employees must use their entire holidays in the current year. However, if you as an employer give your approval, you can make alternative arrangements with your employees. Furthermore, transferring days off can be justified by operational or personal reasons.

Can approved holidays be cancelled retroactively?

If you have already approved your employee’s holiday planning, you can only withdraw your approval as an employer in exceptional cases. Any cancellation costs that may arise must then be borne by the company.

Can an employer ask their workers to come back from holiday?

In many European countries this is an absolute no-go. Even if you discuss this with your employee beforehand, such an agreement might not have any legal effect. Although, sometimes some urgent operational reasons might justify an exception. Check with your HR department or research the local regulations on your government’s website.

Step-by-Step Guide for efficient Holiday Schedules

  1. Implement a central holiday schedule system
    Say goodbye to Excel spreadsheets for holiday planning in the company, and especially to an analogue calendar! Spreadsheets cause confusion and privacy issues, whilst chaos is practically guaranteed with a printed holiday schedule in the company kitchen. Even in small teams. Instead, try digital holiday management with suitable software. Ideally you combine time tracking with holiday planning in one tool and utilize additional features for clear approval processes for incoming holiday requests. This way, employees can track their working hours as well as holidays and always keep an eye on their remaining time off.
  2. Establish rules
    Communicate all internal regulations for holiday planning in the company to your employees. It is best to document the guidelines in a general handbook for your employees and refer to it regularly. Determine, who is responsible for approving holiday requests and whether the request via the software is sufficient or if a prior verbal agreement with the supervisor is necessary. Also, clarify how you want to handle absence notifications or stand-ins. But how many employees are allowed to take time off at the same time? A rule of thumb is that for every 8 full-time employees, only one full-time equivalent (FTE) can be on holiday. Depending on the workload and company structure, you can deviate from this rule, of course.
  3. Align company goals and project planning
    Chaotic holiday schedules can jeopardize the success of projects and business goals in your company. Ensure that your employees are informed early enough about key periods and upcoming projects. Furthermore, establish that individuals with critical roles should hand in their holiday planning as early as possible and make necessary preparations for their absence. This applies, for example, to managers or individuals responsible for a core element of the business. In general, it doesn’t hurt to encourage your employees to plan their days off as far in advance as possible. The principle of “first come, first served” usually suffices as an incentive to do so. Do you want to introduce a deadline or minimum notice period for holiday requests? This can work, but your employees are not obliged to adhere to it.
  4. Create space for flexibility and fairness
    What should you do if a spontaneous holiday request comes in? Instead of strictly rejecting your employees wishes or getting stressed about the chaotic holiday schedule in your company, you should create space for flexibility in advance. Have a look at your calendar at the beginning of the year and review your employees’ past holiday plans. When are seasonal peaks? When are holidays taking place, and are there any bridge weekends where your workers might want to take extra time off? Use this information when planning projects and, if necessary, hire short term staff for popular time slots during the holiday seasons. This will give you enough leeway so that you don’t have to automatically reject a spontaneous holiday request. Instead, you can assess the individual situation and try to adjust your resource allocation. Is the request still too last-minute? Unless your employee asks for time off because of an urgent personal reason, you can also simply say “no.”
  5. Plan your stand-ins and resources
    Get an overview of the areas of responsibility of all your employees. With this information, you can create a plan and determine who the second or third responsible person is for each specific area. These employees should then coordinate with each other during holiday seasons, so they can stand-in for one another. In small companies, the stand-in doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same team. For example, a sales manager can pick up the phone for customer service and take notes for their colleague in support while they are on holiday. However, it is important to understand that this solution requires well distributed resources and adequate preparations. The sales manager can for example schedule fewer customer meetings in advance, to have time for their stand-in tasks alongside daily operations. However, note that this interdepartmental coverage works well only for short periods.
  6. Review and optimize the holiday scheduling process
    The holiday season is over, but there were still some tight spots despite all efforts? Analyse exactly what went wrong. Seek feedback from your employees and consider their suggestions for improvement. This way, you can continuously optimize holiday planning in your company based on experience. Conduct these process reviews and updates regularly, like once a year or even semi-annually.


Here’s a summary of the most important points to keep in mind when it comes to holiday planning in your company:

  • Always keep the rights of your employees in mind when creating a holiday schedule. If necessary, seek information from your HR department.
  • Get an overview of seasonal peaks, upcoming projects, holidays, as well as the distribution of competencies and responsibilities within your team. This allows you to adjust resource allocation and workload in advance and establish efficient rules for stand-ins.
  • Plan for buffers or hire seasonal staff to make holiday planning for your employees more flexible.
  • Embrace digital holiday management. With a multifunctional time tracking tool that integrates holiday schedules, you can also establish clear approval processes for tracked work hours and leave requests. This ensures maximum insight in all your data.

Start your free trial subscription with TimeChimp today and make holiday planning for your company easier and more efficient than ever before! No payment information or commitment required.

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