Run out of time to use your leave days – again? Do this.
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(Credit: Alamy)

Another year over, and somehow it has happened again: you have lots of unused days of leave but no time left to take them. And, half your team is in the same position. Depending on where you work, you may be able to carry those days over to the next year; but quite often, you'll just forfeit them.

Is there anything you can do to ensure this doesn't happen next year?

All or nothing

“Employees stuck with stockpiled vacation days at the end of the year are likely in a mindset that vacation days should be saved for taking long, one or two-week, full vacations,” said William Vanderbloemen, president and chief executive officer of Houston, Texas-based Vanderbloemen Search Group. To avoid this problem, he suggests tacking on a day of leave to a weekend every few weeks throughout the year. “This will ensure [you] are taking [your] vacation regularly, setting a healthy pace of rest, and in turn, minimising the potential of facing burnout,” Vanderbloemen said.  

Law on your side?

Depending on where you live, you may have the legal right to carry your leave over to the next year, according to Southern California-based Brett Good, senior district president with US human resource consulting firm Robert Half. For example, in the US, some states are carry-over states, while others have a “use it or lose it” law, Good said.

It can also vary by country. In Switzerland, the law allows for leave days to be held over for up to five years, while in Singapore no carry-over is allowed. “Talk to your human resources department if you’re not sure,” Good said in an email.

(Credit: Alamy)

(Credit: Alamy)


But, an even better approach would be to plan ahead. “Try your best at the beginning of the year to decide when you’re going to take vacation time and co-ordinate with your boss, so you’re not negatively impacting the business by taking time off during peak periods or important deadlines,” Good said. And, ask about company culture. Is there a preference for employees to take leave in bulk or in smaller chunks? By talking to your boss, you'll “understand what you can and can’t do and take ownership of the process,” he said.

Meet your deadlines

Many companies have time-off calendars. If yours does, ensure you submit your desired holiday dates – and do so before any deadlines pass. That will give you the best chance of getting your preferred dates – and of actually taking them off.

Communication and planning [are] the best way to avoid the end-of-the-year outflow of team members. 

“Communication and planning [are] the best way to avoid the end-of-the-year outflow of team members who held on to precious time off and naturally want to take it — all at once,” said Denver, Colorado-based corporate coach Rosalie Chamberlain, author of Conscious Leadership in the Workplace, in an email.

One way to help ensure you get the days you want is to choose less popular dates rather than those around school or national holidays. It’s unlikely that many colleagues will be vying for those days as well.

Furthermore, many companies have fairness policies around timing employee holiday. For example, if a person has Christmas off one year, then they aren't allowed to take it the following year to allow for others in the team to do so.

Depending on where you live, you may have the legal right to carry your vacation over into the next year.

Bonus points

By not waiting until the end of the year, you’ll also endear yourself to your boss who will most likely appreciate one fewer holiday request at the eleventh hour. “No one wants to be faced with the traditional log-jam of requests as you get nearer to Christmas,” said London-based Oliver Donoghue, managing director of NonStop Recruitment, in an email.

No one wants to be faced with the traditional log jam of requests as you get nearer to Christmas.

One effective strategy Donoghue has seen implemented at companies is to let annual leave allowance start from when the employee joins the company, a move you might consider suggesting to your boss.

“That way not all [the] staff will be looking to take time off around the common busy periods like Easter and school holidays, for example,” said Donoghue.

And, if your company has a large graduate intake, you might suggest that it runs from the individual employee’s birthday. “Unless you have freak luck and all of your staff were born in the same month, this should prevent leave requests from backing up at the end of the year,” he said.

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