Vaccination rates are high, COVID cases are lowering, and workplaces are experiencing an unprecedented amount of PTO requests. Employers are managing employee time off requests for reasons like long-delayed family visits and vacations, as well as delayed weddings or family reunions. MP’s HR services team shares six tactics that will assist employers in prioritizing the 2021 rush of PTO requests. Employers may utilize them singly or in combination. Employers may also want to use particular methods of prioritization during this current period of competing employee vacation requests. (The only caveat is that employers will need to update their PTO policy or create a temporary one if they will be deviating from the normative policy and procedures.)
1. Scheduling vacation requests as a team:
If employers have a small team (or teams) it may be effective to have everyone discuss PTO requests and plans together. This will assist everyone in ensuring that business needs are covered, and employee needs are addressed when possible. This tactic may also help foster employee engagement. It will make employees feel empowered, valued, and heard by their managers.
2. Prioritizing by tenure:
This is a common tactic. Employees may not push back significantly because it won’t surprise them. It’s worth noting that one pitfall of this strategy is that it may discourage employees with less tenure. This could have a long-term effect on employee retention.
3. Prioritizing by needs or deadlines of the business or organization:
Based on the nature of the work, a business or organization may need certain employees during designated busy seasons or holidays. Similarly, an organization may have deadlines they’re obligated to meet. To be successful with this strategy, employers should let employees know as soon as possible that all requests by essential workers during designated times won’t be accommodated. Employers should also add a notification of this in the employee handbook. Managers may have an easier time finding coverage for hard to fill schedules when offering an incentive to work those shifts.
4. Utilizing a rotating schedule:
Employees will push back less if their PTO requests are approved or denied based on a rotating schedule. If employees are able to predict what their manager will do, they are likely to be less upset by the decisions and depersonalize them. This tactic places blame on the rotation, not on the manager who makes the decision or the employees whose requests were favored. This approach will assist managers in scheduling employees more efficiently, as well.
5. Allowing managerial discretion:
This may be one of the most common methods for prioritizing vacation and PTO requests. It could be done concurrently with tactic number three. The only drawback to this strategy is that it leaves room for a manager to make decisions based on their biases. MP’s HR compliance experts urge employers to train their managers on how to avoid discrimination based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Title Nine. Additionally, states with paid family and medical leave may have discrimination protections that managers must be aware of when approving or rejecting PTO requests.
6. Implementing a temporary shutdown:
In some cases, employers may prefer to implement a temporary shutdown. Employers may not want to utilize this strategy if they are struggling to overcome financial struggles. However, if it’s affordable, this would be one way to show employees appreciation after a difficult year. Shutting the office down for a week in the summer or for Labor Day may be a way to improve employee engagement and retain employees, especially at a time when employers are having difficulty hiring.
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