Here we are again at the beginning of the summer season (at least in the Northern Hemisphere!), with our thoughts turning to vacation plans we may take in the next few months. Plus, we look forward to such things as summer holidays, visiting friends and relatives, and outdoor sporting activities. What fun it is to think about the possibilities! But, are you ready for the ramifications of what the staff in your workplace will be doing? What if one day several people are on vacation, another staff person is suddenly seriously ill or has to depart to care for a critically ill loved one, and on top of that you receive another leave request because an employee has an unexpected visit by her parents? What will you do? You can easily see that a major problem can occur. Your office will end up being short-staffed and unable to carry out its mission unless you plan ahead with good leave management and COOP plans.
Wait . . . COOP? How does a Continuity of Operations Plan come into play here? Although a COOP may primarily be aimed at major work disruptions that last many days, such as natural disasters, a comprehensive plan should also cover shorter duration disruptions. This includes days when the organization is insufficiently staffed to maintain reasonably normal operations due to any cause, including the use of leave by employees. I therefore recommend that a COOP include, even if just by reference to HR policies (like a leave management plan – see below), a section on steps the organization will take to ensure that the workplace has adequate staff resources.
A well thought out and clear leave management plan is a key tool in keeping the office staffed properly and enabling the proactive coordination of leave use. A leave management plan addresses these questions:
· Under what circumstances may employees ask for each type of leave (annual, sick, etc.)?
· When can leave requests be made (no earlier than x date, for example)?
· What criteria will the approving authority (which could be a supervisor, or the other members of a work team) use to review leave requests?
· What circumstances constitute an emergency leave request that may be given priority (even over pre-existing requests)?
· Are current and projected leave balances relevant?
· What priorities should be used (for example: seniority, date received, or adequate coverage)?
· May the employee appeal a denial?
Having good leave management and COOP plans in place is not sufficient, however. Care must be taken to have organizational staffing efforts that hire and retain well qualified and trained staff (an excellent outline of strategic workforce planning can be found in the NACM Core at https://nacmcore.org/curriculum/workforce-management/). A critical part of workforce planning is the cross-training of key duties between an adequate number of staff to enable employees to be absent. And, do not forget that all of these plans ultimately fall under having comprehensive Internal Controls to mitigate organizational risks (see https://courtleader.net/2019/02/13/risky-business-part-one-who-needs-internal-control-everyone-does/).
Now that we have all of these plans and procedures in place, it’s time to put those vacation plans into action! Have a wonderful summer!