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How to manage vacation time on the farm

  • 2 min read

Getting away from the farm for a break, much less an extended vacation, can be a challenge. Add in family dynamics, and it gets even trickier.

Jennifer Wright, Senior Human Resource Advisor and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist at the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, says family members think they should be able to take a vacation when it's convenient for them, regardless of the season.

“There can be a feeling of inequity between family members about how much time is taken, when it’s taken or who has priority to prime vacation weeks,” Wright says.

To help avoid the tension that can arise around what should be a fun and relaxing time, Wright offers the following advice:

Develop formal processes

There will be fewer issues if vacation days, blackout dates and instructions for booking time are clearly outlined.

Develop formal processes, such as an organizational chart and job descriptions, so roles, responsibilities, and who reports to who is clearly defined and communicated. You should also have human resources management policies in place, even when working with family.

“Having policies and procedures provides a framework that supports equitable decision making,” Wright says. “With vacation time, there will be fewer issues between employees if designated vacation days, blackout dates (like harvest) and instructions for booking time are outlined.”

Create clear communication

Set expectations around time off over the summer months before hiring workers. It will help you successfully manage the issue once vacation time arrives.

If possible, implement a vacation calendar in advance. It makes it clear when people are coming and going and allows for proper coverage to maintain operational requirements.

“Employers are legally required to provide vacation time to employees,” says Wright. She adds that time away from work is essential for positive mental health.

Access helpful tools

CAHRC has developed the AgriHR Toolkit, which provides information on management practices, including HR policies around vacation time and leave, for any size of a farm operation.

Bottom line

It can be challenging to schedule vacation time on the farm. Implementing formal processes, such as organizational charts and communicating using tools like a vacation calendar, puts everyone on the same page, so vacation planning doesn’t become a time of stress.

Article by: Trudy Kelly Forsythe