At this time of year, when employees will be taking staff summer holidays, it is essential that firms plan ahead to ensure business is not disrupted, writes head of enterprise at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Clive Lewis.
It is not only employees that must write lists and make plans to prepare for staff summer holidays, the small businesses they temporarily leave behind must be equally prepared for the departure of workers to ensure the business does not suffer whilst employees enjoy their well-earned break.
It is essential to make plans early for the holiday period and be flexible with staff to ensure morale is not affected. If the summer is a peak time for your business, it is vital to consider staff availability.
Check how busy you were over the same period last year to start the planning process and make sure you are aware of when employees wish to take staff summer holidays to ensure you are not understaffed at any one time.
Think about which tasks need to be carried out during this period and distribute them accordingly. Consider deadlines that need to be met and check whether certain tasks can be dealt with earlier or later, depending on the return date of a particular member of staff. If need be, arrange necessary cover to ensure business runs as smoothly as possible during staff summer holidays.
Eight tips for coping during staff summer holidays
(1) Plan ahead to avoid payment delays. During the summer you will have staff away – but so will your customers. So getting cash into your business is critical.
(2) Make sure staff complete a proper handover, and in enough time. Staff involved in raising sales invoices and chasing customers for payment must properly brief the staff standing in for them – especially on commitments made by customers regarding payment.
(3) They must also be aware of how to follow up customer queries regarding sales invoices so that disputes are resolved quickly.
(4) Make sure invoices are still paid on time, otherwise you could damage your credit rating and limit your access to supplies on credit.
(5) If the person authorising payment is away make sure that someone else can authorise it in their absence. The same applies with cheque signatories.
(6) Make sure that suppliers or customers are aware of any alternatives to their regular contacts to ensure a smooth handover, ensuring that stand-in staff can access a list of contact details for suppliers and customers.
(7) Systems for recording and forecasting cash flow need to be maintained in the finance director’s absence.
(8) Debrief people when they get back – this will enable them to get back “up to speed” after their holiday.
Businesses must ensure that cash continues to come in during staff summer holidays. Firms must examine their debt collection and bill paying procedures, as well as making sure proper safeguards are in place while staff are away, so that they’re not caught short.
It is important to ensure employees are fully aware of your procedures for staff summer holidays, make sure they know when they have to let you know that they would like to take their summer break and ensure they know how much holiday they have left out of their annual allowance.
In addition, be sure to give employees plenty of notice about who is away and when and brief them on any additional tasks they may have to take on. To ensure morale is maintained, try not to pile too much work on anyone and be aware that they have their own workload to get through.
Ask each employee to set up an appropriate email auto-response and to write a comprehensive handover before they leave. This should include details of who will be responsible for what and where they are up to with certain tasks.
Encourage employees to tie up as many loose ends as possible before they leave. The more they get through, the less the rest of the team will have to worry about.
Remember, a complete break is important for the wellbeing and morale of staff. They should come back feeling relaxed, reinvigorated and ready to deal with their jobs again.
Equally, if you ensure you plan ahead and make sure business is not disrupted through staff availability you are sure to have a stress-free summer.
Clive Lewis is head of enterprise at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
750,000 UK micro business owners miss out on summer holidays to work
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