6 Basic Rules for Requesting Time Off from Work

Life is full of surprises. At some point, a member of your team will probably have to request time off from work, whether it is for a few hours or several days, to attend to an emergency or take a vacation.

If you don’t have rules for requesting time off, this could create a lot of confusion and miscommunication among your employees. Some might just leave a sticky note on their supervisor’s desk or send a message just when they are about to go on leave rather than go through an established procedure. This isn’t ideal for workforce productivity. The managers are usually left cleaning up the mess and organizing schedules to ensure normal business operations run uninterrupted. 

Here are six basic rules for requesting time off from work to ensure the process goes smoothly:

Rule #1: Track the number of time off requests

Every business has employees with diverse personalities. Some are extremely hardworking and always volunteer to pick up any extra shift they can. Others appear to always have an “emergency” every other week. Such employees can be a liability to the organization since they are undependable.

As such, it is important to limit the number of time-off requests an employee can lodge. For instance, you may want to restrict time-off requests to 20 days per year, but not more than 2 time-off requests in a month. To stay organize, you should use time and attendance software to track the number of time off requests.

Rule #2: Set deadlines for time off requests

Establishing deadlines is an important rule for requesting time off from work when a business is at its peak. Set a specific time frame within which employees can submit their time-off requests and determine whether you will have any off-limit times of the year where requests will not be approved. Every employee must be aware of this time frame.

Consider rewarding employees willing to work during the high-intensity season or other periods that are infamously notorious for time-off requests. You could choose to offer bonuses or any other form of compensation you deem fit.

Rule #3: Manage overlapping requests fairly

Sometimes, you will receive multiple time-off requests from different employees, all for the same time period. This is especially the case during the holidays and in the summer. How do you determine who gets to go on vacation without appearing to favour some employees over the others?

This is where rules for requesting time off from work will come in handy. Some of the most common overlapping request policies include a first-come-first-served basis, the reason for the request, and level of seniority, employee flexibility, and managerial discretion.

Rule #4: Make the rules clear to everybody

Institute a clear and simple time-off policy in your company. Once a new employee joins the organization, provide them with a copy of this policy so that they are aware of the rules for requesting time off. Also, make the policy as accessible as possible to the employees and management. Mention it in your hiring interviews. This not only facilitates easy planning by management, but it also shows that you respect your employees and value their time.

The time-off policy should indicate how requests should be submitted, when employees can or can’t take time off, how early a time-off request should be made (ideally 2 weeks prior), and how often one can make such requests. It might also state the terms for paid or unpaid leave and any other consideration that’s specific to your business. In case updates or changes are made to the time-off policy, inform all the concerned parties to avoid future issues.

Rule #5: Create a standardized method for requesting time off

Imagine trying to sort out time-off requests submitted through handwritten notes, texts or in-person meetings, which may or may not be planned. Pretty exhausting, right? Chances are you also won’t remember all these requests. This is why you need to establish a standardized procedure for making time-off requests.

Whatever form the procedure takes, it should be fairly easy. The submission process should also be ideal for everyone. The request could be in the form of a paper slip or a request form containing details such as the employee’s name, date of request, time-off requested, and reason for time-off, employee’s signature, manager’s signature, approval/denial confirmation and date of approval or denial of the request.

If handling a large number of employees, consider using online templates or apps to manage employees’ time-off requests.

Rule #6: Allow shift trades if there’s a demand

Depending on the nature of your business, you could allow employees to find their shift replacements in the event they need time off. This will ease the whole replacement process, reduce management involvement and make employees feel like they have some sort of control or independence in the work environment.

However, be careful as this flexibility could end up inflicting more harm than good. Ensure employees understand the criteria to use when seeking a replacement. Moreover, communicate the same to the relevant manager for approval and only finalize the trade once it has been signed off.

About Author

Justin is a journalism student from Ottawa, Canada. Since a young age, he has felt a passion for writing along with a knack for asking curious questions, which guided him into his current path today.