Planning Your Holiday Cover | Holiday Hiring Tips

Covering staff during Christmas and summer holidays can be a strain on your business – and a headache for HR. Read our tips on how to plan for seasonal cover.


When running a business, handling annual leave requests can be difficult to get right – and a headache for HR. Typically, most employees, especially those with families, will take their annual leave during the summer and Christmas period, which can leave your company understaffed during peak trading times.

What’s the best way to plan seasonal cover for annual leave? Not sure how you should deal with holiday hiring? Try our tips to help take the stress out of handling holiday cover in your business.

Managing Holiday Requests

With penalties for parents taking children on holiday in term-time, and the burden of childcare costs and availability during school breaks, an influx of annual leave requests for the summer months and the Christmas period is inevitable. Having a documented and well-communicated annual leave policy in place is essential for managing annual leave fairly. A good annual leave policy can also enhance your employees’ sense of work-life balance, which in turn helps with employee retention.

When creating your policy, here’s some things you should consider:

  • Restrictions: Are there any times you need to restrict annual leave? For example, if you’re an accountancy firm, you might choose not to allow leave to be taken between the end of March / beginning of April, your busiest period in the year.
  • Notice Period: Have you set a notice period for annual leave requests? Allow enough time to be able to check and approve leave requests, so you can consider the business needs first. You may want to specify a longer notice period for submissions of leave of over one week, for example, with a shorter period allowed for requests for only a couple of days leave.
  • Length of tenure: Does annual leave increase with years of service? This is not mandatory, but many businesses choose to reward long-serving employees with additional days of annual leave.
  • Part-time Employees: Consider part-time and casual hours employees; their holiday entitlement should be pro rata.
  • Number of Employees: Consider the maximum number of employees that the business could cope with being on leave at the same time. You may wish to impose a limit; this should be clearly documented in the policy and communicated to employees and managers.
  • Digital Holiday Planning Tools: Consider using digital tools to manage absences at the workplace. This empowers your employees to plan their time off easily, allows managers to approve and track leave requests and allows you to foresee any potential staffing bottlenecks that may occur well in advance due to the holiday season.

Once your annual leave policy is in place, you need to plan how you’ll deal with cover requirements during the holiday periods. Broadly speaking, there are two approaches:; using your business’s internal resources, and seasonal hiring.

Utilise Your Existing Employees

For several reasons, the best cover for periods of annual leave tends to come from your current employees. They know your company’s policies and procedures and have been trained to your standards. That’s why it’s important to specify a minimum notice period for leave requests, so you can have enough time to arrange internal cover.

It’s a good idea to provide training for when cover is needed. Certain teams may be able to cope with a temporarily increased workload during holiday periods, and employees should provide thorough handovers for their colleagues prior to going on leave. Other roles, however, particularly those front-of-house - such as reception – will need cover at all times. As part of your on boarding process, provide some training for these roles, to ensure employees are confident and capable when providing cover for their colleagues. Companies can also actively partner with their employees when recruiting seasonal workers - some companies even offer incentives to employees who find them seasonal workers.

Sometimes, utilising your existing employees to cover annual leave may not be practical, and during especially busy periods you might need additional resource. In those instances, you’ll need to look at hiring seasonal staff.

Holiday Hiring Tips

It is not uncommon for companies to make the bulk of their revenue during the holiday season, and businesses can struggle to hire the right amount (and standard) of seasonal staff to meet their needs. Because of this, competition for workers during holiday periods can be high, especially in areas where the talent pool is limited. Here’s five tips to help you make seasonal hiring a success.

1. Get started early

Beat the competition and start planning your seasonal hiring well in advance. Consider whether casual or contracted staff would be more beneficial, the seasonal periods you need to cover, and how many new hires you’ll require. The more time you can allow for the recruitment and training process, the better – not only does starting early give you your pick of the best candidates before they’ve made other work commitments, itbut it also helps you avoid the hassle of rushed, last-minute interviews and training as you approach the holiday period.

Keep a record of the people who have worked for you seasonally before. Reach out to them when you need extra help. Re-hiring the same people will give you several advantages including their familiarity with your business, its operations, and your existing teams.

2. Prepare your resources

Before listing the roles, consider the resources you’ll need to dedicate to the hiring process. You will need to evaluate the applications, schedule the interviews, process the hiring paperwork for all your new staff. This could mean juggling your already stretched resources (if staff are on annual leave).

For this reason, many companies choose to enlist the help of recruiters to manage the search, hiring and selection process for their seasonal staff. Not only does this reduce the stress and impact on your internal resources, but it also gives you the peace of mind that experts are managing the process for you.

3. Attract the right people

If the competition for seasonal staff is high, attracting quality talent can be a challenge. Online job listings are a great way to reach a wide audience, while targeted ads allow you to further match with relevant job seekers. Make it clear the role is seasonal, and specify any shift patterns. Social media can also be a good way to publicise your seasonal roles and connect with prospective candidates, and allows your audience to share your listings with their connections, broadening your reach and saving you some of the legwork.

Consider assessing soft or transferable skills while hiring seasonal workers. You may find plenty of candidates with exactly the soft skill your business needs, even if they do not have relevant work experience. Read our guide on how to assess candidates for their soft skills as well as how they fit in with your company’s culture.

That said, it is not always practical to hire from scratch every year, or allocate significant budget into advertising for your seasonal roles. That’s why many businesses choose to partner with specialist staffing companies who have existing databases of experienced and vetted workers.

4. Onboard your seasonal staff

Don’t forget the importance of onboarding your holiday hires; get them up to speed as soon as possible on the role, any technology of processes they’ll need to work with, and ensure they feel like a valuable part of the team. Investing in onboarding your seasonal staff thoroughly is worth it; not just in terms of competence and productivity, but you could save on further training and recruitment costs by re-hiring them for future cover.

5. Have a contingency plan

If you have hired seasonal workers to cover for some of your regular employees, remember to train some of them for multiple roles. This can make a huge difference to your staffing needs in case a temporary or permanent employee on duty is unable to work due to illness or other reasons. You may also consider partnering with a staffing agency who may be able to provide you with a replacement at short notice.

Check out some of our other employer guides:

Hiring? Adecco can help put the right people on your team and give you the support and resources you need to keep them there. To learn more, contact us today.

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