How to Create a Time Off Request Policy For Your Business

Andrew Buck's avatar Andrew Buck March 21, 2022

In this article, we’re going to discuss why a time off request policy is important for your business, and how to structure such a policy.

When it comes to the benefits that employees care about the most, vacation time consistently ranks near the top. If you want to both compete in the hiring market and get the best out of your existing staff, you’ve got provide the option for paid time off.

Your time off request policy will ensure that you can offer a generous amount of paid time off, or be flexible with your leave policy without hurting productivity. Read on to learn more about managing time off requests efficiently in your business.

What’s the Point of a Time Off Request Policy?

A time off request policy sets expectations for how employees request time off (such as vacation, sick leave, personal days, etc).

This achieves two things. First, by setting clear expectations and reducing uncertainty around time off requests, it reduces stress and anxiety for employees.

Second, the company’s time off policy sets up a system to manage time off requests efficiently, ensuring minimal disruption and helping to maintain productivity whenever people take time off work.

This includes making sure PTO requests come with enough notice for managers to be able to cover, and that they go to the right person.

Finally, the company’s policy also backs up managers or supervisors. If a decision-maker needs to decline an employee’s time off request, they can do so knowing that the policy will protect them from accusations of bias or unfairness.

Further Reading: How to set up a Leave Management System for your business.

What Should a Time Off Request Policy Include?

Your employee time off request policy should cover every part of the process for requesting leave. It should do so in a clear and easy-to-follow manner and leave no uncertainty for employees and managers.

(This is true for all policy documents in your business, including your leave policy and work from home policy.)

It should be detailed and include all necessary information, but also not be overly complicated or confusing.

Here are some things the policy should cover:

How to submit time off requests

Start by making it clear how employee time off requests should work.

They may need to send an email to a specific manager, for example. Or if they need to use your company’s leave management software, explain how the process works.

Clearly explain a step-by-step process of how to submit requests. Make it easy for anyone to follow and understand.

Notice required

How much advance notice is needed when submitting requests?

Not all companies will need a huge amount of notice for time off requests. But for even the most agile companies, you generally don’t want employees requesting time off with just a day’s notice.

If you make it clear how far in advance someone should request leave, it’s going to be much easier to decline late-notice requests simply by referring to your policy.

Is manager approval needed?

The policy should state whether approval is needed when an employee requests time off.

For most companies, this is a must. But smaller companies, such as those with unlimited PTO, may treat this more casually. In these companies, time off requests are less of a request and more of a notification to other team members that the employee in question won’t be around on a specific date.

Lock dates

Specify if there are any dates or times of the year when leave is not allowed, such as particularly busy times of the year for the business (e.g. the end of the financial year, or the holiday season for retail businesses).

It’s important these lock dates are clearly mentioned in your policy so that employees know in advance that leave will not be approved for these times.

Why leave may be declined

It’s particularly important to state that time off requests may be declined, and why.

Without this information in your policy, it opens up accusations (whether or not they are valid) of unfairness or favoritism.

State that time off requests may be denied if there are too many leave requests for the same time, or if a person took leave too recently, for example.

This lets you simply point to the policy and avoid things getting personal.

What happens with overlapping requests

The policy should say what happens when more than one employee requests time off for the same time.

State whether it’s first-come, first-serve, if there’s priority based on the length or type of request, employee seniority, or any other reason. This again will avoid accusations of unfairness.

Specific rules for different lengths or types of leave

Length of notice, and other rules, may be different for different types of leave. For example, you can’t expect someone to provide two weeks notice for sick leave, when they don’t even know they’re going to be sick at that time.

The length of the request can be important too. Short notice could be fine if someone wants one day off. But if they plan to take two weeks or a month off, the company needs more time to prepare for their leave of absence and thus longer notice.

How long employees will wait before being notified about their request

Let employees know how long it will be until they can expect to get a response after they’ve requested time off.

When people request leave, they’re usually waiting on confirmation so that they can make plans or bookings for their paid vacation time. If it’s declined, they may need to change bookings, or make shift trades with other team members, which takes time.

Your time off request policy should let them know how long it is until they get an answer. Try and ensure this is prompt – a day or so at the most – to do right by your employees.

Further Reading: Unlimited vacation is the #1 most valuable emerging employee benefit today. Learn this and more fascinating Unlimited PTO Statistics.

Sample Time Off Request Policy

Let’s see an example of what your time off request policy might look like:

ABC LLC Time Off Request Policy

Our employees are encouraged to take time off when they need it, to stay healthy, refreshed and engaged at work.

When you can ask for time off

Request time off as and when you need it. ABC LLC has an unlimited leave policy, which includes vacation days, sick time and personal days.

Please give at least 3 days’ notice for vacation day requests, and as early notice as possible for other time off requests.

How to ask for time off

To ask for time off, use the Leave Management by Flamingo app in Slack. Find the app in your sidebar, hit “Request Leave” and fill out the leave request form.

What happens when you request time off

Your request will be sent to the relevant team leader for review. You will receive a message within 1 day (in the Leave Management by Flamingo app) to confirm if your request has been approved.

A request may be declined when…

If too many employee requests come in for the same day, the team leader may need to decline some annual leave requests. This is done on a first-come, first-serve basis. The team leader will inform you within 1 day if your request has been declined, and contact you to work out other options.

Sample Time off Request Form

Employee time off request forms don’t have to be complicated. Many companies overdo it, making for a time off request procedure with too much friction and work for both the employee and the manager.

All you need is the dates, the type of leave (e.g. vacation days, sick days, bereavement, jury duty, etc…), and a field for any additional notes (this should be optional – don’t make your employees feel like they need to come up with an explanation to justify asking for time off).

Here’s how the time off request form looks in the Flamingo app:

Each part of Flamingo’s leave tracker is set up the same way – simple, and designed to make the time off request process as stress-free as possible. It’s much easier than managing leave with a spreadsheet, saving you time and cutting out human error.

If your team is on Slack, you can try it now for free, and see how handling time off requests with Flamingo keeps your business running smoothly.

Summing Up – Why You Need a Time Off Request Policy

You’re likely to need a number of different policies on the HR side of your business, including a time off request policy.

This policy helps you handle time off requests in an efficient, fair and transparent manner, and lets employees submit requests stress and anxiety-free.

A robust policy, as well as your overall leave management system, will allow you to offer your employees enough vacation days, and let them enjoy their personal lives, without the business imploding when people go away.

No matter how many employees in your business, lean on policies like these for all HR processes.

Check out the time off request form template above for an example of how people can request leave in your business.

Andrew Buck's avatar

Andrew Buck

Andrew is the content manager at Flamingo. He has managed teams in multiple industries, for both physical and remote businesses, and has experience dealing with the ins and outs of HR and leave management on a daily basis.

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