Vacation Policy to Help with Scheduling

Your small field service business encourages employees to submit vacation requests in a binder that sits in the employee lounge. Employees write down the date of the vacation requests and walk away content knowing they have a week or two to get away from the daily grind of fixing air conditioners or sculpting front lawns.

However, employee content immediately turns to discontent when small business owners forget to schedule vacations according to employee requests.

Every field service business owner must include a vacation policy in a worker’s benefits package. Paid vacations act as a reward for the hard work put in by dedicated members of your field service team. For landscaping and lawn care business owners, scheduling vacations is a no brainer. You set employee vacations during off-peak times of the year. For HVAC and general contractors, scheduling employee vacations presents several potential issues.

Start with Legal Mandates

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) dramatically changed the way small business owners handle vacation policies. Although the federal government doesn’t require employers to give workers time off for vacations, the FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off every year. This landmark piece of legislation allows employees to take time off for a number of reasons, including maternity leave and family member care. Small field service business owners should stay abreast of federal vacation mandates as Congress moves closer to establishing both minimum length and employee eligibility requirements.

View Employee Vacations as a Benefit

Far too many field service business operators consider employee vacations too costly for tight budgets. Whether you run a snow removal business or lead a team of residential cleaners, you should always consider employee vacations an indispensable part of your benefits package. Human resources expert Steve Kane says employee vacations should comprise one part of an employer’s paid time-off program. “You have to put your benefits strategy into perspective,” said Kane. “Are you setting a vacation policy to create a rewards structure, to minimize costs, or to be competitive? Those are all worthy things, but they may lead to different conclusions. An employer has the option of giving employees two weeks off for the first year, three weeks off after five years, and four weeks off for 10 or 15 years. But, those are just some common schedules; some employers say two weeks for everyone.”

Kane emphasizes that employee vacations play an important role in recruiting the best talent within the field services industry.

Employee Input Matters

Employee’s request time off for a wide variety of reasons. One of your HVAC employees wants to visit Yellowstone National Park in mid-July, while another employee needs time off in December to spend time with family during the winter holiday season. Ask employees to submit vacation requests at least six months before the requested time off. Employee input also matters for establishing your vacation policy. What works for one field service business doesn’t work for another business operating in the same community. Steve Kane suggests putting at least two vacation policy options up for a vote. “If you provide the middle option of, ‘I’m indifferent,’ then you can potentially increase the percentage of employees who are happy with the result,” Kane said.

How to Make Your Vacation Policy Successful

It’s one thing to offer a vacation program for your field service business employees. It’s quite another thing to implement the program flawlessly. For example, you should consider implementing a “use it, or lose it” vacation policy that encourages employees to take time off each year. Establish a deadline for vacation requests and honor those requests based on employee seniority. Field service business owners must also consider the vacation status of part-time employees. “For some stores, their bread and butter are part-time employees,” Kane said. “I think it’s a general rule that employers whose workforce is part-time often tell employees they won’t accrue vacation for working 20 hours a week or less.”

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