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Holiday Headaches:
Managing Planned and Unplanned Absence

The holiday season has arrived and with it comes office parties, over-indulgence and holiday requests.  Managing both planned and unplanned employee absence at this time of year can create some real headaches for business owners and managers.

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The morning after the night before

Whether it’s as a result of the Company Christmas party or because of some outside social event, employees can tend to over indulge at this time of year leading to an increase in absence.  It can be very difficult to prove that an individual isn’t really ill but is simply suffering from the after effects of too much alcohol and without any evidence to confirm your suspicions there isn’t going to be much you can do.

When it comes to people calling in sick following the Company Christmas party then there are some steps you can take to protect your business.

  1. Plan appropriately – the easiest way to avoid having to deal with a fragile or absent work-force is to have the Christmas party on an evening when people aren’t expected to work the following day.  This clearly isn’t going to work in all businesses but if you can schedule appropriately then this may minimise the problem.
  2. Set some rules – have a policy that states that, in order for any absence that occurs on the day following the Christmas party to be paid then the employee has to submit a doctor’s certificate.  It’s possible that GP surgeries will want to charge for these as there is no reason for a certificate to be issued for a single day of absence so you may need to cover the cost but you’ll probably recover the cost by the decrease in absence.
  3. Accept the inevitable – if you can’t avoid having the Christmas party on a ‘school night’ then maybe accept the inevitable and give permission for employees to arrive an hour or two later the following day.  You may find that your employees will appreciate the gesture and you’ll have less absence.

Holiday request clashes

So many people want to take time off over Christmas that you can find yourself being Scrooge and having to turn holiday requests down because you’ve already granted other members of the team holiday and you need someone to keep the business running.  So, if you find yourself with competing holiday requests what should you do?

There may be a way to keep everyone happy and you could explore the following:

  1. Can a compromise be reached within the team?  This is obviously the best starting point.  It could well be that people have booked holiday but would be just as happy to work so it’s worth getting teams to try and reach a compromise between them before you step in and dictate the solution.
  2. Can staff work flexibly? If you really don’t need a physical presence in the office then it’s worth considering offering remote working as an option.  Maybe people can provide the level of support needed from their home.  Alternatively, could people be asked to work reduced hours over Christmas?

But what happens when the nice approach doesn’t work and you simply need to have someone in the office?  You may be the bearer of bad news but you just need to be firm in your message.  If you decide that holiday is allocated on a first come first served basis then make sure that this policy is enforced across the business.  If you’ve allowed as many people as you can holiday and receive a late request then it’s unfortunate that you’ll need to say no but that may simply be the case.  You can guarantee the employee will be more organised the following year.


Whilst it will be too late for this year, you consider implementing a Christmas holiday booking policy.  You could give everyone a set number of days that they can take over the Christmas period, set a date for all Christmas holiday requests to be submitted by, consider having a policy where if you are off for Christmas you need to work New Year.  Having a policy in place makes it easier to manage holiday requests.

When it comes to preventing hungover employees, we’re not sure there is much you can do! You may want to send them a reminder of their responsibilities not to be on premises under the influence of alcohol and may want to send some very firm reminders to employees who drive as part of their role around the fact that alcohol can stay in the system for a considerable length of time. You should be able to fall back on your disciplinary procedure if people really are not able to function because of excessive alcohol consumption.

Absence can be a challenging area to manage and we’re more than happy to talk through any challenges you’re facing.  Give us a call on 0203 319 1649 if you think you might have a problem and we’ll run through some options with you.  Alternatively, complete our contact form and one of our advisers will be in touch.

If you’d like help with Employee Absence Management or any other HR matter, contact us on 0203 319 1649 or use the form below.

Contact Us

If you’d like help with Employee Absence Management or any other HR matter, contact us on 0203 319 1649 or use the form below.

Contact Us

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