WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). Send your questions to:

One of my staff has accumulated 32 unused leave days. He wants to carry these forward or have them bought-out. Should I?

No. A message along the lines of "get a life" might be more appropriate.

Having just returned from a great holiday travelling through the Three Gorges in China, I find it hard to imagine how anyone cannot take their leave. Travel is one of the glories of life: it broadens the mind and refreshes the spirit. Absence of leave is a sure sign of potential problems about work management or stress.

The first point to make is that leave is an annual entitlement and, unless you have something written differently in your staff code, it needs to be taken in the year concerned or lost. Some staff codes might make arrangements for a discretionary carry over of a limited (usually around 5 days) period of leave. But it would be most unusual to offer or agree to buy-out leave entitlement and would set an extremely bad precedent.

How has this happened? You really need to establish the circumstances that have led to this worrying state of affairs. Then you are going to have to have a hard chat with the person concerned and get to the bottom of why there is so much leave untaken. If there was a particular reason - an intensive project, for example - then there should have been agreement in advance to postpone the leave.

There is some responsibility on you for ensuring that leave is taken.

It is not just a question of agreeing to leave requests. You need to ensure staff take leave, at sensible and appropriate times. Sometimes this might mean pushing someone to ensure they take their leave. You certainly don't want to be encouraging a work culture where it appears unacceptable to take holidays. It would be worth you looking at your staff codes to see if it covers eventualities like this. If it does not, then change it.

In this particular case, I would have a discussion to see how you can fit in some reasonable periods of leave, on a planned basis, over the next say two years. It might be worth discussing if your member of staff wants to take a break to study. There are a lot of short leadership and management courses available which will benefit your staff member. It also gives him an alternative to travelling abroad or forcing himself to stay at home.

Depending on whose fault this is, you might want to do a deal on how much leave is carried forward and how much lost. And, for goodness sake, check that the situation is not happening elsewhere.

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