Five Tips for Tackling the Annual Leave Stampede

No matter when your annual leave year ends, you can be sure there are plenty of employees with entitlement remaining. There’s always a mad rush for employees to “use it or lose it” and frustrations can set in if there isn’t enough capacity for everyone to take the time off they want. 

If your annual leave year ends in December, then Christmas can also add to the madness. But fear not, there are a number of tactics you can use to ease the pain for you and your employees.

Make Holidays and Entitlement More Visible

Rather than wait until the end of the year and deal with the panic when employees realise they have time left to take, it’s better to be proactive and make sure they know how much leave they have right through the year.

This can be as simple as emailing all employees at various stages throughout the year, reminding them of how much entitlement they have remaining. For a more automated solution, you could implement a system such as The Holiday Tracker. This enables employees to login at any time, from anywhere and check what holidays they have booked, what they have remaining, and makes it easy for them to make a holiday request.

By making it easy for employees to see their remaining entitlement, they’re more likely to make those holiday requests rather than forget.

Change Your Annual Leave Year

The standard annual leave year implemented by most companies runs from January to December. This can work perfectly if you’re the kind of business that winds down a little for Christmas. However, if December is a busy month then you probably want to avoid the end of year panic then.

Simply changing your annual leave year so it ends in a more appropriate month can definitely ease the pressure. Though it will still leave you with the end of year panic at some point.

One way to spread the pressure is to give each individual their own annual leave year. That might sound crazy but bear with me. By picking an arbitrary year to start their annual leave from, such as the month they started working for the company, or the month they were born, you can be sure that the end of year panic becomes a problem for the employee and not the business.

It might seem like a nightmare to administer, but using a tool such as The Holiday Tracker can make it super simple. You select which month the annual leave starts from for each employee and let the system take care of the rest.

Set a Leave Deadline

One of the main causes for the annual leave panic at the very end of the year is that employees aren’t required to plan any further ahead.

Consider implementing a leave deadline that requires employees to book the rest of their entitlement 2 or 3 months before the end of the year. Couple this with a series of email reminders a month or so before the deadline and you should see a change in behaviour.


The mad end-of-year rush is mainly driven by a “use it or lose it” approach to holiday entitlement. While you don’t necessarily want employees rolling over weeks of unused holiday entitlement, there is some merit to allowing some controlled carry-over.

For a start, you’d want to limit the number of days (or hours) an employee can carry-over. The average among customers of The Holiday Tracker is 5 days. Some companies also apply an expiry date on the carried over days too. For example, you can carry-over a maximum of 5 days, but those days have to be used within the first 3 months of the following year, or you lose them.


Finally, you can always choose to allocate their entitlement for them if they still haven’t requested it themselves. In Ireland, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees have taken their statutory minimum entitlement.

It might seem a bit heavy handed, but employers DO have the right to allocate holiday to an employee. This is all set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998.

In Conclusion

Encouraging your employees to take time off from work may not seem like the most important thing on your todo list.  However, having a plan to ensure employees take their entitlement instead of letting it build up can be massively beneficial to your business.  It’s also great for the productivity of your employees.  It’s been shown that employees who take regular time off are happier, healthier, and more productive at work.

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