How to Deal with Employee Time-Off Requests (04 Tips)

As a business owner, handling employee time-off requests is a business obligation you will likely perform daily. Your employees may request time off work to rest, recover from an illness, handle last-minute emergencies, or go on a vacation. Typically, employee time off comes in two forms: paid time off (PTO) and unpaid time off (UTO).

PTO is an employee benefit program most companies offer, allowing their staff to take time off work for a specific duration and still receive their pay. The common PTO categories include sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, vacation, bereavement, jury duty, and voting time. On the other hand, UTO permits employees to be away from work but without pay. Most workers use UTO if they require an extended period off duty to handle personal obligations.

And while it’s essential to value your employees’ personal lives by accepting leave requests, you should also be careful not to jeopardize your business’s productivity or the quality of services your customers receive because of staff shortage. Therefore, you should strike a balance by aligning your business goals with your leave management process.

Four Tips for Dealing with Employee Time-off Requests

Read on four tips for dealing with employee time-off requests:

Automate Time-Off Request Process

Time-off requests involve data entry into the company’s internal systems. It also requires a manager’s signature as formal approval. This manual process could suffice, but performing these repetitive tasks manually is time-consuming and tedious. Fortunately, you can digitize time-off requests and streamline the entire process. With leave request management software, you can create a standardized, automated system for managing employee time-off requests.

PTO tracking software allows you to track paid time off seamlessly. The finance team can reconcile team members’ PTO with the payroll system, making sure every team member is paid accordingly for their time off.

Below are other benefits the tracking software offers:

  • Provides centralized data since all time-off requests are stored in a single platform. This unifies the employee database, and managers can access necessary employee details anytime.
  • Eliminates human errors and delays associated with paper-based approaches, especially when the HR department must process large volumes of data manually.
  • It offers everyone the flexibility to access records from anywhere. You can configure complex automatic routing so forms can be instantly sent to admins for approval. This way, employees can submit time-off requests from anywhere, and managers can view and approve them on their own time.
  • Enhances employee overall job satisfaction. Your staff can view their PTO balances in real-time and plan their time off more efficiently without stress. This contributes to a happier and more productive workforce.
  • It gives managers a break from recurring admin tasks so they can focus on other pressing tasks
  • It helps you save on costs associated with the manual processing of time-off requests

Fortunately, many tools also offer a messaging platform for communication. Thus, you can review the details about employee requests to check whether or not the time off has been approved.

Establish A Company Time-Off Policy

A company time-off policy outlines the rules your team members should follow when requesting time off work. These guidelines should be clear, transparent, and readily available in the employee handbook.

time-off policy outlines

This way, everyone can access, read, and understand the procedures, and you can avoid conflicts between you and your staff. Notably, these rules may differ for each company since every organization has unique needs and considerations regarding business time-off requests.

A standard time-off policy should include the following:

  • How far in advance do employees need to put in a time-off request?
  • How often can a team member make a leave request? For example, you can limit time-off requests to three times per month.
  • How many workers can take time off at the same time?
  • What are the times and situations when leave requests may be blocked? For instance, during busy times of the year when you require all hands on deck. For the finance department, it could be the busy months for tax matters or the end of the financial year when books should be closed.  
  • What are the documentation employees need to complete and submit when requesting time off?
  • Who should approve the leave requests?

Also, you can include a section outlining the valid reasons for requesting time off. You can specify the different types of leave that will be acceptable. For example, bereavement, maternity, paternity, or sick leave. However, it’s not a good idea to compel your staff to provide reasons for taking time off work, especially if they’re requesting their vacation days, which usually are part of an employment contract.

Have A Policy For Handling Overlapping Requests

Overlapping leave requests are inevitable, particularly around the holidays. Therefore, it’s necessary to establish a policy that explains how such requests should be handled. This prevents friction between you and your workers or among employees themselves. The common policies that govern overlapping time-off requests include:

  • First Come, First Served: The employee who submitted the leave request first gets time off.
  • Seniority-Based: Someone in a more senior position gets their time-off request honored before junior employees.
  • Reason For Request: You compare the reasons for the request and prioritize the employee with the most pressing matter. For example, if one employee requests leave to meet a friend in town while the other needs to take their child to the hospital, you might consider the former since it seems more urgent.
  • Employee Flexibility: You communicate with each team member to determine how flexible their time-off request is and adjust the dates accordingly.

Also, managerial discretion can influence your final decision on overlapping requests. As a manager, you likely have insight into the personal needs of each team member.

For example, maybe one individual is more apt to burn out, probably due to an illness, and may require time off every few weeks. In contrast, the other employee may work longer without time off and remain productive. So, you can consider such situations and use your best judgment to ensure everything runs smoothly. Most importantly, always strive to be fair, and whatever you decide, it’s best to explain your reasons to both parties.

Create A Form That Everyone Should Use

The organization is vital when it comes to handling time-off requests. To make the process more standardized, you’d want to create a form every team member should use to submit their requests. It can include the following:

  • The employee’s official names
  • Employee title or position
  • Date of request
  • Time-off requested; this could be the number of days or hours
  • Reason for time off
  • Employee’s signature
  • Manager’s signature
  • Approval or denial confirmation
  • Date request approved or denied

Also, depending on your business needs, you can include any other details that can help you make an informed decision. For example, you add a section where employees provide names for their replacements. This person will be responsible for their workload while they’re gone.


As a manager, you must handle employee time-off requests in a way that benefits the greater team. It’s important to respect your team member’s leave requests to keep them motivated, improve productivity, and retain top talent.

But at the same time, you need to manage deadlines and meet performance expectations to grow your company. So, to create a balance between these two needs, consider the four tips explained above.

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BPT Admin
BPT (BusinessProTech) provides articles on small business, digital marketing, technology, mobile phone, and their impact on everyday life, as well as interactions with other industries.

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