Blog>Human Resources

Who should HR give annual leave to for Christmas?

Evgeniya Ioffe - December 15th 2023 - 6 minutes read

As the festive season approaches, HR faces the complex dance of juggling annual leave requests—a task that intertwines the joy of the holidays with the intricate web of company needs and employee expectations. In this comprehensive guide, we unravel the tapestry of challenges and solutions HR professionals encounter in steering the Christmas leave schedule, offering insights and strategies to craft equitable policies, prioritize with precision, and foster a culture of understanding. Whether you are seeking to refine existing practices or build a robust framework from scratch, join us in navigating the holiday leave labyrinth with finesse and fairness, ensuring that peace and goodwill prevail not just in spirit but in the workplace operations as well.

When it comes to coordinating holiday leave over Christmas, the surge in requests can lead to a complex puzzle for HR professionals. Not only must you ensure that the company's operations are sufficiently staffed, but also that employees' desires for time off are respected. A pro-active approach is vital, with a clear annual leave policy that outlines the company-wide stance on leave during this period. This policy should be communicated early on, detailing any restrictions and the rationale behind them, and should include submission deadlines for leave requests. Moreover, explaining any predetermined shutdown days and carry-over policies eliminates ambiguity and sets the stage for a transparent, stress-free leave management process.

The principle of fairness is paramount during the Christmas period, and implementing a first-come, first-served policy for holiday requests can ensure equality among staff. This approach mitigates the potential for dissatisfaction by providing a straightforward and impartial system. While some employees may have specific preferences due to school holidays or family traditions, a clear, universally applied policy ensures that everyone understands the criteria and has equal opportunity to submit their requests in a timely manner.

In navigating these requests, HR must also clarify expectations around the operation of the business during the festive season—considerations such as whether the business will close early on Christmas Eve or operate with a skeleton crew between Christmas and New Year. Such transparency allows employees to plan accordingly and encourages them to reserve some of their annual leave for mandatory shutdown days, if applicable. By preempting bottlenecks and scheduling dilemmas with these clear directives, HR can effectively mediate between individual and organizational needs, fostering a culture of mutual respect and cooperation.

Crafting Equitable Leave Policies for the Festive Season

When establishing leave policies for the Christmas season, HR should craft a clear, comprehensive approach that addresses both the inevitability of numerous requests and the need to maintain critical business functions. A common strategy is to adopt a first-come-first-served model, which is inherently equitable as it avoids favoritism and sets clear expectations. However, it could disadvantage those who are less proactive or have specific constraints that limit when they can take their leave. To mitigate this, some companies implement rotational systems or ensure that everyone has a fair chance by blacking out certain peak days for all but essential staff.

Transparent guidelines are essential for a smoothly operating leave system during the festive period. HR should articulate any restrictions openly, explaining their rationale to the workforce. For instance, if certain business-critical periods necessitate a no-leave policy or if there's a cap on the number of employees that can be absent from each department concurrently, these details must be outlined with clarity. Ensuring that all employees understand these parameters helps to maintain operational continuity without causing unexpected disappointments.

Furthermore, it's crucial that HR balances employee sentiment with the operational needs of the company. They must ensure that everyone is aware of the holiday operations, such as any early closures or mandatory workdays between Christmas and New Year. Communicating the nuanced balance of business needs and staff expectations can preempt conflicts and facilitate a more harmonious holiday season. This dialogue also enables employees to align their personal plans with the company's schedule, fostering a culture of mutual respect and consideration.

Prioritizing Operational Needs and Employee Fairness

In navigating the complex waters of annual leave during the festive season, HR departments must delicately balance the company's operational needs with fair employee leave practices. To ensure essential services and departments remain functional, setting limits on how many employees can be out concurrently becomes imperative. Communicating these restrictions clearly is crucial; employees must understand that policies are not to undercut their holiday plans but to maintain a skeleton staff that upholds the business's operational integrity. This could mean implementing a cap on the number of staff absent from a particular department at any given time, ensuring the company is always adequately resourced.

When the demand for leave exceeds the company's capacity to operate effectively, alternative methods such as a lottery system or alternating holidays might come into play. These systems help in distributing leave opportunities equitably, particularly when a first-come, first-served basis proves inadequate due to a high concentration of requests. In such scenarios, these systems, while random, can alleviate feelings of inequity, as every employee has an equal chance for their desired time off. Nonetheless, HR must underscore that these processes are fair means of managing leave during high-demand periods.

Operating a transparent approach in leave allocation not only quells potential dissent but also instills a sense of fairness amongst employees. It's imperative, however, that HR professionals emphasize the potential of adjusting the approach based on evolving business needs. Enabling employees to submit preferences well in advance can foster a culture of forward planning, while the knowledge that leave is granted in an equitable fashion—whether on a first-come-first-served basis, through lottery, or a rotational system—can go a long way in maintaining morale and a positive workplace atmosphere during the bustling holiday period.

Encouraging Employee Understanding and Cooperation

Effective communication serves as the backbone of employee comprehension and cooperation, especially during the festive season when holiday leave becomes a high-demand commodity. HR must deploy clear and consistent messaging regarding leave policies, their underlying rationales, and their implementation. Transparency about the operational necessities that inform leave restrictions can engender trust and promote an understanding that policy decisions are not arbitrary but grounded in the company’s needs. Additionally, this clarity can preempt grievances by debunking any myths about favoritism or unfair practices, ensuring that every employee feels they are being treated equitably.

Creating channels for open dialogue is just as critical as the dissemination of policy information. Allowing employees to voice their concerns and questions about Christmas leave enables HR to address any misunderstandings directly, and grants staff a sense of being heard and valued. Not only does this interaction provide the opportunity to clarify policies, but it can also help identify common issues and expectations that could be addressed in future policy revisions. Moreover, it showcases the company's willingness to listen, reinforcing a positive work culture where input from staff is appreciated and respected.

In navigating the potentially choppy waters of holiday leave, a strategy that combines clear communication with opportunities for dialogue lays the framework for a positive work environment devoid of conflict. By openly sharing the reasons behind leave limitations and actively engaging with employees, HR can foster a collaborative atmosphere. Employee cooperation is often a direct result of understanding, and through this proactive approach, HR not only empowers employees with knowledge but also aligns individual expectations with company capabilities, thereby mitigating the risk of dissatisfaction and ensuring a harmonious festive period for all.


In this comprehensive guide on managing annual leave requests for Christmas, HR professionals are provided with insights and strategies to navigate the complexities of balancing company needs and employee desires. The article emphasizes the importance of establishing fair leave policies, prioritizing operational needs, and fostering employee understanding and cooperation. Key takeaways include implementing a clear and transparent annual leave policy, considering a first-come, first-served approach, setting restrictions and communicating them effectively, and encouraging open dialogue with employees to address concerns and maintain a positive work culture.