Moving on from last weeks topic, into our final deep dive into absence management in the legal sector, we’re looking into planned absence and tools with which to best manage this absence type.
As with unplanned absence, there’s the obvious need to have a vehicle for accurately tracking and approving planned absence, whether that be a simple vacation or something more specific like family leave or maternity leave.
Tracking and approving planned absence ranges from simple outdated paper and spreadsheet processes all the way to automated self service software which rapidly speeds up the process of holiday booking.
In the legal sector in particular, there’s a real need for transparency, and the ability to quickly see who is in and who is off, to help plan workflow effectively. One particular element for legal firms to take note of when managing planned absence is minimum staffing levels.
Minimum Staffing Levels
Advanced absence management software gives you the opportunity to split employees into teams or departments, whilst also offering the ability to set holiday limits within these teams or departments. For example, a key case team within a legal firm may have a long running case, whereby at least 3 people out of 5 are required to be in the office at a time.
So, if two people from within that team have already booked time off, minimum staffing levels would automatically reject a request from a third team member, whilst alerting them as to the reason and advising booking a different date.
Minimum staffing levels are definitely best practice when managing absence, however it’s incredibly difficult to implement and keep track of without an automated, intuitive system.
Minimum Staffing Levels Illustration
In the below example, three fire marshalls have all requested 18/10/2018 off on holiday, however minimum staffing levels dictate two fire marshalls must be in the office at any one time. Because of this, the third person to request holiday on that day has had their request rejected.
Planned Absence: Long Standing Stigma
Along with the long working hours and stress associated with working in the legal sector, there’s also a nod towards taking too much annual leave, and the detrimental effect that could have on carreer progression.
No matter what the industry, people tend to feel a pang of guilt when booking a two-week break, ‘what will I come back to?’ ‘what if my colleague got a big break while I was away?’ ‘I wonder what has been said in meetings without me?’.
It’s safe to say as employees we’ve all had some degree of these feelings at one point or another, the key is to not let this flow into an epidemic whereby empoloyees are not using leave and are becoming burnt out due to a lack of breaks.
Of course, the best way to combat these feelings, and actively encourage employees to take breaks, is to ensure they feel their department is resourced well enough to cope with their absence.
Some firms may think encouraging long term breaks or lots of short bursts of planned absence as counter intuitive, however giving employees time to relac and unwind away from work is one of the most sure-fire ways to help reduce unplanned absence caused by stress, exhaustion and mental ill health.
Underutilised holiday allowance
A rather frightening stat above, that in some way highlights the fact that holidays are going underutilised in all industries, not just the legal sector.
One thing an absence management system brings that can help with this is visibility for all. Having clear visibility of holiday allowance at the click of a button is far more likely to encourage thinking about taking that holiday, rather than having to send an email or make a phone call to HR and annoy them by asking your remaining allowance…. before even thinking about having to fill out a lengthy form and submit a request!