How to Create a Time-Off Request Process for Your Team

March 27, 2019 | 1,086 views

How to Create a Time-Off Request Process for Your Team
How to Create a Time-Off Request Process for Your Team

Everyone occasionally wants or needs some time off from work responsibilities. And sometimes the requests come all at once — especially during holidays and busy seasons. Manage your staff’s time-off requests fairly and clearly to avoid staff shortages and have employees return to work happy from their days off. Set up a clear request process for hourly employees that everyone understands while keeping a few key points in mind.

Know Your Business Calendar

Every business has peak days and seasons. If you run a restaurant, for example, you probably need all hands on deck for Mother’s Day. If the business is a movie theater, certain dates and holidays are especially busy. Learn your business ebbs and flows to create blackout dates, if needed, that are not available for time off, and be sure that everyone knows and agrees to these dates.

Is It Even Legal?

Each part of the time-off request process helps ensure that employees know their options. But first, know your legal requirements. If the company offers paid time off, the accrual of hours and rates that are paid must follow state and local laws. But even if scheduled days off are not paid to employees, have a simple but very clear process so that you can manage work levels efficiently.

You Want it When?

Last minute requests cause chaos for the whole team, so establish a reasonable policy for time-off requests by setting a minimum lead time that makes sense for your business. Most hourly employee schedules need a couple of weeks in advance at a minimum. If employees know the requirements, the process will be smoother. Of course, last minute requests will happen, but they should be the exception.

Create a Formal Submission Method

Whether it’s email, a handwritten form, or a self-service app that employees can access on their phones, a formal submission is important. No verbal requests or scribbled notes. Just a simple but solid form that provides all the data: start and end dates for time off, reasons, if another employee has agreed to cover the shift, etc. Some scheduling apps include a great deal of flexibility based on your parameters; employees can submit requests remotely and managers can approve from a mobile app. Having a self-service option adds ease to the process for employees and managers.

Who Gets Priority When There’s an Overlap?

Generally, for hourly employees, this is a first-come first-served process. However, reasons and employee history should be part of the decision to be fair. A medical issue, for example, may take priority if the timing is unavoidable as it might be for a scheduled medical procedure. Or an employee who frequently requests time off may not get priority if someone else ask for the same day off. This area is clearly more subjective for a manager and will include decision-making based on equitable treatment of employees.

A consistent, written, time-off request policy allows employees to schedule time off easily and helps businesses manage labor resources wisely.


Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007, and 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.  

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