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Managing the holiday break – turning off your cellphone

Ani Bennett, December 2013

Holidays offer your employees the chance to recharge their batteries and leave behind the stress and hassle of work, albeit for a short period.

When holiday time arrives, some employees may leave the office wondering how everyone is going to manage without them. Who is going to complete that urgent project and what if that potentially important client happens to call when they are away?

And so some may pack their bags, unable to switch off from work and it is not unusual for people to get headaches or migraines just trying to unwind. Some may sit at the side of the swimming pool clutching their smartphones just in case, and check their emails before going to bed and immediately upon waking. So in reality, do they ever switch off? And when they return to work, are they rested?

So, how can you encourage your employees to switch off on a holiday?

Tips to making the most of holidays

  • If your employee heads up a team, suggest they build time into their schedule to brief their team before they leaves the office, and discusses any outstanding issues or commitments.

Advise her not to just leave the office and think people will know what is in her head or inbox.

  1. Have her give her team a detailed list of all projects in which she is involved as team leader and commitments that need to be met. Ask her to leave instructions as to how these should be handled, and when. This briefing should be a two-way conversation and the team leader should allow time for her team to share any concerns they may need to address in their leader’s absence.
  2. Ask your employees to think through any possible problems that might arise, and plan for contingencies. For example, employees can make sure their secretary or colleagues are aware of exactly what to do during their absence.
  3. Suggest that before they actually leave the office, they make a ‘to-do’ list and do a brain-dump of all outstanding matters to be addressed upon their return, as this will help them clear their minds and relax. The aim of any holiday is to switch off and not worry about what you might have forgotten to do.
  4. If you have employees who are job-sharing, ask them to make sure their colleague(s) are aware of any clients or customers who might wish to make contact. You don’t want to lose business while they are away.
  5. Finally, if team leaders still feel they must be in contact over the holiday break, suggest they tell their teams that they are available in an emergency, but not otherwise, and if the team leader has organised their office, then this should minimise any need for them to be disturbed.

This planning should ensure that your employees have a restful and stress-free holiday where they can switch off their cellphone and stop worrying whether the team can manage without them. Tell them, ‘It can: you are not indispensable.’

Annual Leave Notice

There are important reasons why you should allow your employees to take annual holidays they become entitled to, within 12 months of entitlement.

You have a duty under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 to ensure the health and safety of your employees while at work.

Annual holidays are for rest and recreation; this is made clear in the purpose section of the Holidays Act 2003. Managing your employees’ entitlements so they take holidays at least annually is one simple way you can address potential issues such as fatigue and work-related stress.

Another important reason is the expense of those annual holidays for your organisation. As the value of average weekly earnings is determined by the previous 52 weeks, when an employee is permitted to accumulate annual holidays the value increases as the employee’s earnings increase. The difference in the two values of the annual holiday may be significant.

 You should clearly indicate in your employment agreements when your employees may take annual leave and any preferred mechanisms for resolving disagreements over taking the holidays.

And for the employees who just don’t want to take leave?

You can require them to take holidays. Their entitlement to annual leave has to have arisen first, unless you have a closedown period (such as the Christmas holidays) when you require them to take leave for the period. If they don’t have enough paid leave, you can require them to take unpaid leave.

In order to require an employee to take a part or the whole of those annual holidays you must give them not less than 14 days’ notice. Best practice is to notify each employee individually, and provide details of the entitlement to annual entitlement and the days that it is to be taken on.

While the Holidays Act does not specify as such, notice should be in writing. Unless the employee concerned objects or has not agreed, then notice via email would be fine.

So, switch off work and switch in to a great holiday.


Tauranga Chambers:

Jackson Reeves Lawyers Building
31 Hamilton Street

Waihi Chambers:

Clark & Gay Lawyers Building
61 Seddon Street