21st May 2024

How to Balance Annual Leave Requests and Prevent Employee Burnout 


Ruairi Guckian, founder of GHR Consulting outlines a strategy for dealing with annual leave and burnout.

As summer approaches, employees eagerly anticipate booking their well-deserved holidays and submitting annual leave requests. In Ireland, employees are entitled to four weeks of annual leave each year.

Effectively managing these requests is crucial for promoting employee well-being and preventing burnout. However, despite these entitlements, many employees fail to utilize their allocated days, leading to potential productivity losses and increased stress levels. On the other hand, it’s common for a number of employees to book holidays simultaneously, leaving some employers understaffed during certain periods, such as summer and Christmas, resulting in business disruptions and operational problems.

Understanding Holiday Habits

  1. Holiday Hoarders
    Some employees postpone taking leave until the end of the year, risking burnout and often missing out on their full entitlement.
  2. Refresh Rushers
    Other employees use their leave entitlements early in the year, potentially leading to burnout as they have no annual leave remaining for the latter part of the year.
  3. Crowd Followers
    Certain employees tend to book leave during peak periods, contributing to understaffing and increased workloads for those remaining.

The Importance of Balanced Leave Management

Neglecting to monitor leave balances can result in operational disruptions, increased stress levels, and wasted leave days. It’s essential to have a clear view of your team’s remaining leave balance to avoid potential issues such as staff burnout, understaffing during critical periods, and unused annual leave. Encouraging annual leave not only enhances employee happiness and reduces burnout but also boosts productivity.

Reasons Your Team Might Not Be Taking Annual Leave

  • Heavy Workloads: Overwhelmed employees may feel unable to take time off due to workload pressures.
  • Negative Perceptions: Some businesses view holidays negatively, leading employees to take as little leave as possible.
  • Schedule Conflicts: Busy periods may discourage employees from requesting leave.
  • Lack of Notice: Some businesses require a month’s notice for absence requests, which may not always be feasible for employees.
  • Employee Bravado: Some employees perceive taking leave as unnecessary and may not utilize their full holiday allowance.
  • Holiday Rollover: Allowing leave carryover can incentivize employees to postpone vacations.
  • Employee Capacity Concerns: Staff may hesitate to take leave, fearing negative impacts on business operations.


Strategies for Encouraging Leave Uptake

  1. Implement a User-Friendly Leave Request System: Facilitate vacation planning and approval, simplifying the process for employees and employers alike.
  2. Revise Holiday Policies: Consider alternative policies, such as:
  • All annual leave days should be agreed upon with your manager at least 4 weeks in advance, and any holiday period exceeding 5 days should be agreed upon at least 3 months in advance.
  • If no holidays are taken by the end of August, management will start allocating holidays.
  • Management reserves the right to reject holiday requests from people in the same department at the same time.
  • All annual leave must be taken within the leave year and may only, in exceptional circumstances, be carried forward (up to a maximum of 5 days), which must be taken by the end of the first 3 months of the following year.


Effective annual leave management requires a proactive approach to address employee needs while ensuring operational stability. By fostering a culture that values rest and implementing supportive policies, organizations can optimize employee well-being and productivity.




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