Vacation time off requests during the holiday season

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Q:  Every year, I hope to take time off around the holidays.  Every year, my request is denied.  Everyone else in the company seems to be able to take time off.  Why? They have family out of state.  Or they have small children.  Or their kids are home from college.  This seems very unfair to me.  How is this usually solved?

A: Most companies have some type of system for permitting employees to take time off.  Sometimes it is seniority.  Those will the longest tenure with the company might have “first dibs” with respect to their first choices.  Sometimes it might be based on business needs.  For example, if your department or area might be exceptionally busy at year-end, then very few can take time off.  Sometimes it might be a rotating system.  You might be able to take the week around Independence Day, but others are unable to take this week.  Or you are able to take time off at year-end in 2020, but not 2019.

There should be some understandable system so employees are able to comprehend why a vacation request is being denied.  Significant planning is required for many vacations.  Many employees have to pay for flights, hotel or vacation home rentals in addition to coordinating with others, so confirming which week (or weeks) is essential.

I would ask your supervisor why others seem to receive this week off, but you are not.  Ask about this week now for next year.

Based on what you have shared, I agree with you.  If others are receiving this week off, because they have to travel or they have children, this does seem a bit unfair.  Employees without children, or those who remain local, should also be given the opportunity to take this time off, assuming there is not some other business need.  Some employers have exceptionally busy year-ends, which limits the number of employees who can take vacations during the last week of the year.  Think about the airlines or many retail establishments.

Most leaders will try to develop a time off calendar, which balances business needs with employees’ requests for time off.  If one employee seems to get the most desirable weeks off repeatedly, then other employees may perceive favoritism.  How the final vacation schedule lands may not be perfect for all, but employees should feel that it was arrived at in a reasonable manner.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.