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How to Manage Time-off Requests

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Taking time off is as good for your employees as it is for your business. At every time of the year, and especially during the summer and holidays, you should revisit your time-off request policy to make sure it’s still relevant.

After all, you don’t want to be stuck short staffed because of a miscommunication. In order to avoid this unfortunate situation, lock down the way you handle time-off requests and make sure that each and every one of your employees understands it.

Before you get to enjoy the positive benefits of taking time off, you’ll have to determine the method of managing time off requests that works best for your specific business needs. The number one factor to keep in mind is that your policy must be fair in order to keep employees happy, even when you inevitably have to reject someone’s request for time off.

For any effective time-off request policy you’ll need a cut off date. Maybe you’d like two weeks notice for each request, but always encourage employees to request days they need off as far in advance as possible, so that you can rethink your schedule with plenty of time.

After the timing of time-off requests, you’ll also need to spell out the format and be sure that employees include their reasoning for taking the day off. Will a text message, email, or Post-It note do? Optimize the process so that you can keep requests organized and respond to each employee within a reasonable amount of time. Let employees know the best way to check in on the status of their time-off request. This is especially easy if you use an online portal or scheduling software.

Lastly, if there are some high volume days when you can’t approve any time-off requests, make these mandatory days known to employees as soon as possible so that they can plan accordingly. Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to set up your policy in case of time-off request overload.

First Come, First Served

Under this method, the earlier an employee submits their request, the more likely it is to be approved. Once you understand how many employees you’re likely to need for each day, you can approve up to the maximum time-off requests as they come in. This will incentivize employees to give you plenty of notice and help you avoid headaches that come from a sudden influx of requests.


If you have a group of employees that have been with you for various amounts of time, you may want to put the most tenured employees at the front of the line when you have too many time-off requests. Say you’re open on the 4th of July, but half of your workforce has asked for the day off in advance. Once you do your labor forecasting, whether that’s by hand or you have a workforce management software handle it for you, you’ll have a better understanding of how many employees you’ll need on site. Align your employees based on how long they’ve been on your payroll, approving the most tenured employees first until you reach your limit. Make sure that your employees know how you decide who gets time off when there’s high volume. This will decrease the chance that they’ll become disgruntled.

Reason for Time-Off Request

Say you can only allow one more time-off request, but you have two lingering that were submitted on the same day by employees who have both been with your company for the same amount of time. One employee needs to fly to Denver for her brother’s wedding, while the other wants to go to see a new movie on opening night. Unfortunately, the second employee is going to have the see that movie another day.

Also, keep track of how often employees request time-off and what their reasoning is. If there is reason to believe that an employee may not be telling the truth or has asked for too many days off, speak with them about it before making your final decision.

Closing Thoughts

Time-off requests can be tricky for any business with hourly workers, but the key is to be transparent in your process. Otherwise, it’s possible that an employee could call in sick on that day, or worse, not even show up. These situations are best avoided by communicating your specific time-off request policy early and often to decrease the chance that you’ll be running an understaffed restaurant or business when you need your employees the most.

What time-off strategies work best for you? Share your method in the comment section.

Want to streamline time-off requests? IceHrm can help. Get started for free.

Managing Time-Off Requests FAQs

What Types of Time Off Can Employees Request?

Employees have the option to request various kinds of time off. These typically encompass vacation time, paid sick leave, and bereavement leave. Other forms include maternity or paternity leave, time off for jury duty or voting, unpaid leave, military leave, and leave for emergency childcare situations. The specific rules and eligibility for each type of leave might differ, depending on the company’s policies and the applicable local laws.

How Should a Time-Off Request Form Be Structured?

A standard time-off request form generally contains fields for the employee’s details such as name and role. It also includes the specific shifts, dates, or times for the proposed time off, alongside the reason behind the request. The form should provide a section to indicate if a replacement worker is available, and spaces for managerial approval or rejection, including the reasons behind such decisions. It’s essential for both the employee and manager to sign the form.

What Are Some Reasons Employees Might Request Time Off?

Employees may seek time off for a range of reasons. These often include desires for vacation, personal time, or sick and medical leave. Requests may also be for religious observances, sabbatical leave, bereavement, parental leave, jury duty, or military commitments. Employers are expected to assess these requests impartially, aligning with both the company’s policies and relevant legal standards.

How Can Time-Off Requests Be Managed Efficiently?

For efficient management of time-off requests, establishing a transparent policy and an effective approval mechanism is key. Employers can track these requests through various methods such as paper records, spreadsheets, emails, or more sophisticated tools like scheduling applications or HR management systems. It is essential for the organization to handle these requests promptly, benefiting both the individual employee and the business as a whole.

Why Is It Important for Employees to Take Time Off?

Taking regular time off is essential for maintaining employee well-being and the health of an organization. Employees often return from their time off feeling rejuvenated and more committed, which can lead to enhanced productivity and loyalty. Companies that support time off can attract skilled professionals who prioritize work-life balance and flexibility. On the other hand, a lack of time off can increase stress and dissatisfaction among employees, potentially leading to burnout.

What Should I Do About Last-Minute Time-Off Requests?

In handling last-minute requests for time off, a case-by-case approach is advisable. Flexibility may be appropriate if the request is infrequent and doesn’t significantly impact operations. However, regularly accommodating such requests for certain employees could result in uneven work distribution and potential workplace issues.

How Can I Manage Time-Off Requests Fairly?

To ensure fairness in managing time-off requests, various strategies can be employed. These include a first-come, first-served basis, assessing the reasons for requests, giving precedence based on previous requests, or considering employee seniority. Such methods are useful in addressing conflicts when multiple requests overlap.

How Can I Better Organize Time-Off Requests?

Organizational improvements for time-off requests can be achieved through a standardized submission process, such as a designated app or form. Maintaining a systematic record, possibly in a folder or spreadsheet, and marking dates on a calendar, can further enhance organization.

What Should Be Included on a Time-Off Request Form?

An effective time-off request form should capture essential information like the employee’s name, job title, department, and the specific dates or times requested off. Including the reason for the request may also be beneficial, contingent on the company’s policy.

How Far in Advance Should Time Off Be Requested?

The advance notice required for requesting time off varies, often influenced by business necessities. It could range from several weeks to months, facilitating better planning and workforce management.

Under What Circumstances Can I Deny a Time-Off Request?

Denying a time-off request may be necessary if it conflicts with the established policy, appears to be an abuse of the system, or occurs during high-demand periods when other team members have already secured approval for their requests.

How Often Can Employees Take Time Off?

Time-off policies vary, with some allowing as-needed requests and others setting limits, such as monthly or quarterly. The key is to find a balance between accommodating employee needs and maintaining operational efficiency.

What Are Blackout Periods When Employees Can’t Request Time Off?

Blackout periods, typically during holidays or peak seasons, are critical for businesses to communicate. These are times when restricting time off is essential to ensure sufficient staffing and uninterrupted operations.

How Many Employees Can Take Time Off at the Same Time?

The number of employees who can simultaneously take time off depends on factors like business size and team dynamics. Establishing explicit guidelines on the maximum number of concurrent time-off requests is important for effective workforce management.

What Happens With Overlapping Requests?

Handling overlapping time-off requests often involves a first-come, first-served approach. Other possible criteria include evaluating seniority, role, or the frequency of previous requests. Consistency and clarity in applying these criteria are vital to avoid perceptions of unfairness.

With  Icehrm, our HR software, every module has been designed to help organizations manage their HR processes effectively and engage their employees.

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