How To Create a Time Off Request Policy

Managing different types of time off requests can be a headache! Especially if your company relies on paper time off request forms. Thankfully, there is a solution!

In fact, one of the most common questions that new hires ask is related to the company’s time-off policy. That’s because everyone loves having the freedom to take a leave of absence as needed, whether it’s for vacation, illness, or even personal or family problems.

To answer your employees’ questions related to this theme, it’s important to understand the difference between unpaid and paid time off (PTO) and the different forms of it.

A time-off request policy should streamline the process of asking for and granting time off. Your policy should include details about how far in advance requests must be submitted, how often one can request time off, instances when time-off requests won’t be granted, and a way handle overlapping requests.

How to set up a PTO policy and approve time-off requests | Gusto

Why is a time off request policy important?

Time off request policies are important because they streamline the time-off approval process and inform both managers and employees of whats acceptable when requesting vacation days to prevent any confusion or misunderstandings. Before deciding whether to grant an employee vacation time on certain days, you can easily reference the time off request policy to ensure youre following the companys specific time off regulations. This helps keep the workplace productive and prevents it from being short-staffed on certain workdays.

What is a time off request policy?

A time off request policy is a section within an organizations employee handbook that covers the guidelines for employees asking for paid or unpaid leave from work. An effective time off request policy should clearly detail a companys rules when it comes to requesting time off. Information typically included in common time off request policies include:

How to create a time off request policy

You should build a policy thats catered toward the organizations needs, goals and preferences. Follow these steps to create an effective time off request policy:

1. Determine which days are busiest for the company

One of the main reasons companies may build time off policies is to ensure theyre not understaffed on peak days when the business is busy. For example, retail companies may need additional employees to work during the holiday season when more customers are purchasing presents for loved ones. Business offices may require more employees to work extra hours at the end of the quarter to ensure they meet certain quotas.

Work to establish specific days that the company will need more employees to work. Determine how many employees youll need on these days. You can then decide if youll limit the number of employees who can take time off during this period or if youll block out any time off requests for this timeframe altogether. In the policy, clearly list the specific dates and the reasons youre limiting vacation time and requests for these days. This helps employees understand why they may not get this time off approved during this period.

2. Decide how far in advance employees must request off

You should clearly detail how far in advance youll allow employees to ask off. This ensures that department managers have enough time to plan for a team members absence. The number you state in the policy can depend on the needs of the company, how much responsibility the employee has and how many days theyre requesting off.

For instance, if the employee asks for a few days of vacation time and doesnt have any important tasks due on those days, the policy may only require them to ask for this time off a few days to a week in advance. If theyre asking for a week or two of vacation and have pressing deadlines for projects during those days, the policy may require them to request these days off a few months in advance.

3. Outline how many days and how often employees can take time off

The policy should also state how many days off youll grant employees. This number may vary according to factors like the employees department or how long theyve worked for the company. For example, some team members who have served with the company for several years may accumulate more vacation days over time. Detail the exact number youll allow certain employees to take off.

You should also include the frequency employees are allowed to take off. Some companies allow employees to only take off a few days at a time, while others may allow several weeks at once. Determine the needs of certain departments or the company as a whole to help you create this section of the policy.

4. Provide instructions for how and where employees can submit requests

To ensure all time off requests are in one place for managers to efficiently review and approve, write clear guidelines and steps for employees to follow when submitting their requests. Having all time off requests in one place allows you to reference them later and keep track of how many vacation days are left. Places you can have employees submit requests include a:

5. Detail your process for overlapping time off requests

There may be instances where many employees may request time off at once. To avoid being short-staffed on these days, you should have a clear process in place to decide who should receive time off. Have a system established and outlined in the policy to assure employees that the time off selection process is handled fairly. If many employees ask for time off at once, some systems you can use include:

6. Organize employees requests

To assure employees that youre effectively tracking their vacation days and arent misplacing their requests, you should establish an organized process for where these requests are being stored and share this in the policy. Some places you can save and track employees requests and accepted time off days include:

Time off request form template

Use this template to create a time off request form that is easy for your employees to fill out:

Employee Time Off Request


How far in advance should an employee ask for time off?

A minimum of two weeks lead time is a good starting point for most businesses, although you can change that to fit your particular needs. You could also set a date each month after which requests will not be accepted.

How do you manage time off requests?

Please check your info and try again.
  1. Communicate Your Time Off Policies At The Start. …
  2. Set A Deadline For Requests. …
  3. Use Employee Rewards During Peak Times. …
  4. Create A Rotating Schedule For All Employees. …
  5. Track Previous Requests. …
  6. For Flexibility, Allow Employees To Trade Shifts Or Days.

Can my employer deny my request for one day off?

Your employer can generally deny your request for time off if you are using vacation time, paid time off (PTO), or sick time. Paid vacation time or sick time is not legally required in most areas of the United States, so even if you request time away, your employer usually does not have to give it to you.

How many days can you request off at work?

Paid Time Off Under FMLA or CFRA

Likewise, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) states that employers who employ a minimum of 50 employees must permit employees to be out of work for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. The time off is to recover from serious health problems or care for a sick family member.

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