How Should a Scrum Team Handle Holidays?

The holiday season is upon us and rather than doing another post about my goals or new years resolutions I thought it’d be interesting to look at how a Scrum Team should handle the challenges of having so many people off at once.

What should a Scrum Team do if a large proportion of the team are on holiday at once? Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

There are two sensible approaches towards Scrum over holidays when a significant proportion of the team are taking holidays. The first is to stop sprinting and resume in the new year. The team won’t set any Sprint Goals and anyone who is working will “make themselves useful” through tacking tech debt, process, or L&D type work. It’s passable… but I don’t like it.

The second option is to look at what exactly Scrum provides us with. Firstly, Scrum states that the next Sprint begins as soon as the previous one expires. There is no concept of breaking sprints in the Scrum Guide and the expectation is that a team will continue to run sprints from the day they’re formed (or adopt Scrum) until they’re either dispanded (or select another framework).

Instead we should look for an achievable Sprint Goal with at least one potentially shippable Increment which meets the Defintion of Done. This should be agreed by the entire team (or at least everyone who’s available). Therefore, rather than abandoning Sprints or Scrum altogether over the holiday seasons the team should look at what is achievable in the limited amount of capacity which will be available. Even if the goal is to fix a single typo then that is acceptable. As long as there is a single team member working at all then there should be a feasible Sprint Goal, the trick becomes looking at what’s realistic and possible during that time.

Do not be tempted to compromise. Whatever the increment should be it must meet the team’s Defintion of Done. Don’t “develop but not test” or “code but not merge”. Look for a single, simple improvement to the product which can be delivered in that time. Even if it’s only a simple bug fix.

With that suggestion I’ll leave you as I’ve got family stuff to do. This post is due to go out on Monday so if you celebrate Christmas I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if it’s your New Year coming up then I wish you all the best for it.

Thanks for reading and see you in 2022!

What You Need To Know About Holidays and Sickness

Everyone gets stick right? And it’s not unreasonable that you’re going to want to spend some time off to go on holiday (current Covid situation aside). All companies have slightly different procedures for managing absence, in this post I’m oing to talk about my experience over the majority of UK companies. Your company will almost certainly be slightly different, those are the differences you need to understand during your first fiew days.


Nobody wants to get sick, but it does happen. In my experience most companies in the UK which hire software developers will have a certain number of paid days of sick leave. This is often not contractual, but layed out in a handbook somewhere. How many days varies massively from company to company and it’s often worth trying to understand ahead of time.

Almost every company I have ever worked for expects you to call your manager if you wake up feeling too sick to work. Some are happy with a message but you should always understand what these procedures are before the inevitable day when you wake up full of cold and can’t drag yourself into work.

Everyone gets sick, but it’s worth understanding your company’s procedures before you do. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

Many companies use a system called The Bradford Factor to assess sickness. This is a calculation which calculates a score. Companies often have a threshold of what score they’re willing to accept before they stop paying sickness days. It’s worth being aware that the system weights number of occurrences far more severely than number of days. So someone taking every Monday off sick because they’re feeling a bit hung over would score far higher than someone who caught a nasty bug and was off for a week. I should stress very clearly though – sickness policies are a benefit designed to support employees who genuinely aren’t feeling well so they don’t feel financialy pressured into spreading germs around the office. They’re not free days off because you’re feeling a little worse for wear after a late night.

Planned surgeries and procedures are often handled slightly differently and you should discuss what options are available. Some companies may support you. Others may ask you take some (or all) of the time as holiday.

One of your tasks in the first week at your new company should be to understand exactly what the policy for sickness is.


Let’s assume that coronavirus is a thing of the past and we’re all flying around the world to ski and relax by swimming pools.

Most UK companies offer a number of paid days off. You are legally entitled to Bank Holidays (or a substitute day) and will often have a number of days which you can book whenever you wish. In the UK the minimum is 28 days, but you should expect that 8 of those are the bank holidays. However, some companies may offer 25 + 8 or even more. It’s not uncommon for employees’ holiday allowances to increase the longer they remain with a company. It’s worth remembering that you take 5 days off each week as most software companies don’t work weekends.

When this virus is over we can all go back to enjoying holidays we enjoy. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Usually you have to book holidays and have them approved by your line manager. It’s usually good etiquette to give as much notice as possible. The typical rule is to give as least as much notice as the time you’re intending to take but personally if you’re planning on taking a week or more I’d encourage you to give as much notice as warning. It’s rare for managers to refuse holidays unless there’s a good reason, especially with lots of notice.

A few final points – always make sure you understand when the holiday calendar starts and finishes (your first year’s holidays will probably be pro-rata’d). If you can carry over any untaken holiday into the next year and if there are any conditions, and what the company’s rules are over Christmas time. It’s not uncommon for offices to shut and companies require employees to save several days of holiday for the gap between Christmas and New Year.

Hopefully this has been helpful and has given you an idea of what to expect. As I said at the beginning of the post expectations will vary from company to company and hugely as you move around the world. I can only speak about my experience in the UK. You should always try and understand the sickness and holiday policies of your company as soon as possible. Before joining ideally, but for various reasons it’s probably not something I’d ask in an interview – perhaps a good question for a recruiter?

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post and follow me on Twitter.