It's time for businesses to think about vacations

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Posted: May 20, 2011 2:41 PM
It's time for businesses to think about vacations

Vacations can be frustrating for a small business owner who's focused on getting the work done. Just when business is picking up, staffers are asking for time off. Even new ones.

In those moments, look at the upsides of vacations. They keep your staff refreshed and better able to produce. And being as liberal as you can with time off helps build staffer loyalty, something you'll need as the job market gets better and many people start looking for new work.

If you're hiring your first employee now, expect vacations to be part of the discussion you have before you close a deal. Even if you have long-time employees, you might want to revisit your vacation policy and see if it needs any changes, especially since the Memorial Day weekend will bring with it the start of summer vacations.

Some things to consider about vacations:

HOW MUCH TIME OFF?

Several factors go into deciding how many days or weeks to give staffers:

_How much time off can you afford to give?

_What's the norm at other companies in your industry and/or your town or city?

_Do you want to give everyone the same amount of vacation, or have employees earn it through seniority?

_How much vacation time have staffers had at previous jobs?

_What other benefits do you offer, including sick time?

If you need advice on how much vacation time to give staffers, talk to business associates. Or talk to a human resources consultant, who can help you find the balance between your productivity needs and staffers' wishes.

CREATE A WRITTEN POLICY

Vacation policies aren't something you should make up on the fly. You need to be sure all your staffers know what to expect and that everyone is treated fairly. Human resources consultants suggest writing down your policy and making sure it's available for everyone to see.

A policy needs to spell out how vacation is earned (unless everyone gets the same amount of time), how far in advance it needs to be requested and how conflicts are resolved. If two or more staffers want the same days and you can't accommodate everyone's request, does the most senior staffer get the time off? Often, staffers will work together to find a solution when there is a conflict, but you need to be prepared to step in if they can't.

Another issue you need to think about and perhaps include in your policy is what happens when a staffer runs out of vacation time but needs more. Let's say a staffer has used up their time, but then has to move suddenly. Do you dock their pay? Or allow them to borrow from next year's vacation? Or just give them the extra time?

You might want to consider employees' other time off needs, such as sick time, as you formulate a policy. Some employers don't differentiate between the two, and instead give staffers what's known as paid time off, to be divided in whatever way an employee needs.

You can find samples of vacation policies online. The Business Owners Toolkit has a sample at www.toolkit.com. You can also find samples at the website for the Employment Law Information Network: www.elinfonet.com/pickedpol/167.html.

PLANNING FOR VACATIONS

If employers dread vacations, it's because they're worried about how the work will get done. Figuring out the answer well in advance will not only relieve your stress, it'll ensure that everything goes smoothly.

The solution usually is to have staffers trained so they can sub for one another. Or you might want to bring in a temp to fill in, which can also be a solution when you have a number of people who want to be off at the same time.

This kind of advance planning will also come in handy when staffers are ill or absent because of jury duty or family emergencies.