What would you do? Vacation policy question

Here's the scoop: We are a small company and our life-blood is picking up industrial waste to be treated. We have four drivers who do these waste pickups. The company is just now starting to run into a problem where multiple drivers want the same weeks off for vacation (for example, the week of July 4th or Christmas). Employees are required to get supervisor approval for vacation time, but there are no time parameters on how much notice they must give. We're trying to decide how to determine who gets to take these around-the-holidays vacations, who doesn't, and how we can avoid the same person always getting to take the weeks off that they want, while others never get a chance. We've got some ideas on how it might work, but I'm interested in any suggestions you might have...


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  • We're a transportation company with 70 drivers & 35 non-driving personnel. At the 1st of each year we send out slips to all personnel to list their 1st and 2nd choices for all weeks of accrued vacation. Then we do a spread sheet to see if any conflicts. If there are, ee with seniority gets first choice. Hope this helps.
  • First come, first served by seniority. Even in a nonunion shop it is good to show that seniority/tenure means something. Once everyone has designated their week(s) and the schedule is set, no one can bump someone else even if they have more seniority. We give our people at least two weeks notice prior to starting the vacation schedule so they can check with their spouse/family for what week works best for them. We of course encourage them to come with alternate weeks if their first choice is taken.

  • We have a policy anything over 2 days in a row needs a minimum of 3 weeks notice and supervisor approval. We have a vacation request form that needs to be filled out and approved.
    We also state that due to our production schedule only so many employees can be off at the same time. So basically it is a first come first serve basis. If we receive 2 from the same dept at the exact time then senority would win out.
  • You have four drivers & three high-demand holiday periods: July 4th, Thanksgiving, & Christmas/New Years. Others may prefer Memorial Day, M.L.King Day, Easter/Good Friday, Labor Day, etc.

    In November tell all drivers (actually all employees) that on Dec 1st, you will post a calendar for the upcoming vacation year. All employees have until Dec 15th to make their wishes known for the coming year. At that point you accomodate their wishes on a seniority basis. The only exception to the seniority rule is that each critical employee (drivers, etc) can only get one prime-time holiday period unless no one else has requested a certain period.

    Just a thought: During the week between Christmas & New Years doesn't your business go down appreciably. Many companies slow down their production during this period, in part due to the high demand for vacation time. I know we do. There might be less industrial waste produced during that period, allowing perhaps two drivers to be off during that period.

  • We are a union facility and have the same issues. To address the problem we have developed a very stringent process regarding vacation requests. Let me begin by stating that vacation renews on an employee's anniversary date so each person is obviously different.

    Our EEs are permitted to request full vacation days up to 12 months in advance. They are required to complete a form and have it initialed, dated and time notation made when it is received by the plant manager. This prevents the "same time" situation. EEs are also required to turn in their own vacation slips and cannot have someone else turn them in. All vacation requests are on a first come, first serve basis. We have also posted notices throughout the plant stating how many people in each department can be off at one time so the employees are aware.

    Due to the popularity of summer vacations we have limited EEs ability to use "single days and half day" vacations between May 1st and September 30th. EEs are only permitted a total of five single day vacations during this period (they are permitted to schedule full weeks of vacation and a full week is defined as any consecutive five day period). Of those five days, only three can be used as half days.

    EEs are limited on scheduling 1/2 vacation days to a period of six months ahead of time.

    In addition, EEs are permitted only five "last minute" vacation days. Last minute vacation days are defined as less than two working day ahead request.

    We came up with this policy as a result of EEs abusing a system that was meant to assist EEs in planning their vacations. While it took a while for the EEs to understand the policy, the majority are very grateful now due to the fact that more people are able to take vacation during the summer.

    Hope this helps.
  • Although I respect seniority as a factor in scheduling time off, it shouldn't be the only factor. If you approve leave based solely on seniority, the same people will always get the prime leave slots.

    At a past employer, we allowed employees to invoke seniority for vacation leave once every two years. The least senior people rarely got their first choice of leave, but at least the same people were not always getting their first choices.
  • We do something similar:
    Vacation time must be pre-approved by your supervisor. Determination of vacation time will be made by the earliest written request. Vacation time will be approved by department on a first come first serve basis. The vacation request form with the earliest date will be honored. Should two or more vacation requests for the same time, such as a holiday period, be turned in on the same date, seniority will prevail in determining the time. Should this occur on a routine basis we will rotate down the seniority chart so that the same senior employee does not always receive the sought after vacation time.
    There is no way to make everybody happy all of the time. Good luck...
  • With our company, any vacation requests submitted during the month of January for the upcoming year are handled on a seniority basis -- at company discretion. By adding "company discretion", this allows us to attempt a negotiation if we have one particular individual who takes all the holidays. Thereafter, any requests submitted are handled on a "first-come, first-serve" basis. This has worked great for our company for a number of years.
  • Here is what I distribute to all staff each year:

    As you all know, we get a number of requests for time off around the time of paid holidays--particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years ("The Biggies"). To the extent requests for time off around holidays, particularly The Biggies, are considered and approved, the highest consideration must be given to maintaining staffing levels so that scheduled PTO does not interfere with our ability to serve our clients. As a result, the number of time off requests around the holidays is necessarily limited and not all requests can be approved. In reality, only a small number of requests will be approved, particularly during the fourth quarter of the year.

    It's always a struggle to consider the requests and feel comfortable that they are being handled in an equitable fashion. I already have requests for time off for time around 2007 holidays sitting on my desk. In the past just a smattering of the same people have requested time off around several (even all) holidays (“Holiday Hogs”). I have counseled the Holiday Hogs in the past and am happy to report that the Holiday Hog is an extinct creature in this office. In an attempt to put some equity in the process, I am sharing the following guidelines with you. Although these guidelines will generally be followed when considering requests for time off around various holidays, keep in mind that there may be exceptions. For example, if two secretaries who have been with the firm for a number of years and who both support attorneys in the same practice area request a week off at Christmastime, it may not be possible to approve both. And just think how the issue is compounded when a floater requests time off, too (yes, floaters get PTO, too). It boggles the mind. While I would like to grant everyone who requests time off the time they request, it simply isn’t possible. Keep in mind that my primary focus must be on maintaining the staffing levels necessary to effectively service our clients.

    Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year's (The Biggies)

    Those PTO requests for The Biggies received before August 1 will be reviewed and PTO will be approved on a seniority basis. In considering the number of PTO requests that can be approved, consideration will be given to expected workloads and associated levels of necessary work coverage. As a result, all requests received before August 1 may not be approved. Requests received on or after August 1 will be handled on a case-by-case basis and those individuals with seniority cannot "bump" an individual with lesser seniority whose PTO has already been approved. Generally, PTO requests by one individual for two or more of The Biggies will not be approved substantially in advance of the holiday. Additionally, an individual who requested and for whom PTO was approved for a particular holiday in the immediately preceding year will be given consideration for PTO for that particular holiday in the current year only after the consideration of other PTO requests. Under no circumstances will a person who has exhausted all PTO be granted time off for The Biggies. If a person has previously received approved PTO for time around one of The Biggies but then exhausts all PTO before The Biggie arrives, that approval will rescinded.

    Other Paid Holidays

    Those PTO requests for other paid holidays which are received up to six weeks before the holiday will be reviewed in light of workloads and PTO will be approved generally on a seniority basis. Like the PTO approval described above, consideration will be given to expected workloads and associated levels of necessary work coverage in order that we continually have the staffing necessary to deliver quality, timely service to the clients. Generally, if an individual requesting PTO was granted PTO for the immediately preceding holiday or for that same holiday in the immediately preceding year, other PTO requests will be considered prior to giving that individual's most recent PTO request consideration. Requests for time off will not be considered when an individual’s PTO balance has been exhausted. If a person has previously received approved PTO for time around one of the paid holidays but then exhausts all PTO before the holiday arrives, that approval will be rescinded.

    As you know, we may call upon staff members who are not fully occupied at a particular moment in time to provide assistance in areas outside their usual work assignment. This is particularly true during holiday periods when scheduled PTO may be a bit more intense than other times of the year. For that reason, overall office staffing is considered in approving holiday-related PTO requests and the final responsibility for coordinating and approving requests is mine and not that of any individual attorney. For that reason, a request received from an individual with the notation "no coverage necessary" must still be considered with all other requests. Basically, this emphasizes the philosophy that while we may work with certain attorneys, we work for the law firm.

    PTO Approvals Generally

    Please refer to the PTO section of the Staff Handbook if you have any questions about how the benefit works. And most certainly talk with me if you have any questions.

    Managing your PTO account is like managing other accounts you may have. You have to keep an eye on the balance. Once the balance is exhausted, no additional requests for time off will be granted. And requests that have been previously approved are subject to cancellation if a PTO balance is exhausted prior to the scheduled time off.

    If you have questions, comments or suggestions, my door is always open.

  • I know of one company that does the early vacation distribution form and it works really well.
  • At the risk of causing a forum uproar...

    If it fits with your company's culture, another idea would be to allow the drivers to develop the system themselves. Set clear boundaries and expectations (minimum staffing levels, notice requirments, supervisor approval requirements, etc.), and ask them to develop a system to manage it. It drives some employee ownership in the process.

    This is an approach that has worked well for many of the workgroups at our manufacturing facilities.

  • This is the only area in which we have a seniority rule. First, we have a calendar that everyone can see the dates different people have requested off. We ask the employees to try to work it out themselves first, i.e. if employee B wants the same time off as employee A they should contact A and ask if their dates are hard and fast and if they could change. A lot of times that works just fine and it reduces the administration for managers.

    If the same people still want the same dates off we first look to see if any of them had the same dates off the previous year, especially around holidays. If they did, they are automatically disqualified from taking those dates off. If there are still people who want the same dates and none took them off, then the person who asked for the time off first gets it. The exception is that a more senior employee can "bump" the less senior employee's request but only up to 60 days prior to the requested time off. That way people aren't bumping people two days before their scheduled vacation and there is still plenty of time for flight arrangements.

    Hope that helps!
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