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Vacation Planning: Is it too early to plan?

April 16, 2018 | Workforce Management

The American workforce receives some of the least vacation days in the world, and research has found that in spite of the little time-off afforded to the U.S. workers, many are reluctant to even take that time away from their jobs. Some believe that taking a vacation might jeopardize their job, while others think it will create problems for employers. Whatever the case might be, planning for vacations and holidays in the manufacturing sector is a business practice that is best performed early in the year. In fact, how can you plan your production if you don’t have a plan for absences in general, and vacation periods in particular?

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You can’t.

It's never too early to plan your employees' vacation/s. But there are a few practices that you can implement to ease the stress that results from workers doubling and tripling-up on vacation requests for similar weeks – a common occurrence in manufacturing. As with most business practices, it begins with a policy; make certain your Vacation Policy is written, communicated and adhered to with a high-degree of consistency. Your policy will need to answer questions like:

  • How much vacation time do factory workers receive?
  • How far in advance MUST employees request their time-off?
  • What are the blackout dates and what are they determined by – holidays, seasonal production demands, new product launches? 
  • Who approves the requests?
  • How do Federal, State and local laws affect vacation requests?
  • Can employees rollover the vacation days from one year to the next?

These, and other policy questions, must be clearly addressed and communicated to all of your workers.

If you have 50 or more workers in your factory, you’re going to need some sort of automated workforce management software to coordinate your vacation and holiday requests. In today’s manufacturing environment, where there are worker shortages and issues regarding the availability of quality employees, there’s just no way to track employee scheduling without time and attendance software that includes a vacation planning component.

Because the best and most qualified workers will always gravitate to a company that is respected and renowned for a fair and transparent vacation policy, as opposed to a company that is either disorganized or lacks consistency in their policies, you’ll want vacation planning software that accurately tracks and coordinates all aspects of holiday and vacation time-off. If your shop is unionized, you’ll particularly need vacation planning software to remain in compliance with the rules and policies outlined in your worker agreements.

The sooner you’re able to look at the big picture of where absences might impact your business throughout the year, the better prepared you’ll be to plan your production schedules. Knowing in advance that a millwright might not be available in your factory for a 10-day period might be a cause for concern, but at least you’ll have time to plan for their absence. Similarly, if your most skilled cutline operator is off the factory floor for a week, will you be able to replace their production speed with one person or will it take two people?

In any event, plan holiday and vacation absences as early as possible. Eliminate the old-school methods of tracking and recording through spreadsheets and convert to automated time and attendance and absence management solutions with vacation planning applications, and by all means, revisit your written vacation policies to avoid confusion and possible violations throughout the year.

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Originally published April 16, 2018, updated April 16, 2018
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