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CareersTravel suitcasePolicies are a necessary evil at an organisation but they do serve a purpose. They provide structure, a semblance of order and, if applied properly, remove the need for discretionary decisions. Policies evolve over time to reflect current laws and practices; forward-looking companies use them more as guidelines rather than as a set of binding rules.

Let us take a look at leave policies. There is a legal requirement to provide workers with annual leave. How you write up your policy is a different matter. Do you stick to the legal minimum or do you benchmark yourself against companies similar to yours? Do you insist on leave being taken in one go or are employees allowed to break it up for their convenience? Is the leave period inclusive of weekends or does it include working days only? Do you allow employees to carryover leave? How many days and for how long?

When articulating your leave policy, perhaps you could use a ‘purpose’ statement to introduce it. You could state why the company thinks taking leave is important to the health and well-being of employees – it allows them to refresh themselves and spend time with family. This could also be a way to reinforce or revise your carryover policy to ensure leave is properly managed.

From an organisational perspective, there is a liability that accrues if leave is not taken. Besides that, you provide junior colleagues a chance to officiate for seniors as part of their development. In financial institutions, there is a practice of mandatory leave as part of their internal control procedures.

For the employee, there is the opportunity to accumulate a lot of leave that can be     encashed at a later date (at a higher salary). Best practice usually allows up to 10 days to be carried over into the next year; this must be used by the end of March or be forfeited.

Lastly, leave management is a line manager issue; HR will continue to be the custodian of the record – hopefully while using a modern, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

– Leon Menezes
The writer is a senior HR practitioner, professor-of-practice and executive coach.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 25, 2014.