The Time Off Request Form: 6 Best Practices (and a Template)
No one expects you to work all the time. Most countries have mandatory vacation days that companies must allot to their employees (the United States is the exception in the Western World). This is in addition to vacation time, sick time, personal time (to handle the unexpected), and holidays.
Unless you want to shut your entire business down (which is standard on holidays), you need someone at work every day. There are times when more people want the same day off than a department can handle, so you’ll need to consider each request and make decisions.
Because time off is a part of an employee’s pay compensation package (which includes pay and benefits), managers should strive to approve as many requests as possible. This is where the time off request form – either on paper or in a digital format – comes into play.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the time off request, we’ll share best practices, how to integrate a time off request into your HRIS, and we’ll also add a downloadable time off request form.
What is a Time Off Request
Time off requests can come in many different forms. In white-collar jobs where employees handle their own responsibilities, a time-off request can be more of a statement than a request. The employee takes responsibility for his or her own schedule and can tell a boss, “I’ll be gone the first two weeks of July.”
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However, that doesn’t work for all jobs. A grocery store needs a certain number of cashiers every shift; a factory needs a certain amount of people on the floor, or these businesses can’t run. In these cases, companies often have a formal process that employees need to follow when they want time off, including a time off request form that needs to be submitted.
Usually, employees submit a written time off request (either on paper, or through an online system) to their manager, shift leader, or other designated individual. That person either approves or denies the request. Employees would be wise not to purchase plane tickets until the manager officially approves the time-off request.
6 Time Off Request Best Practices
Writing on post-its and sticking them on the boss’s computer may be an easy way to make your request, but it’s not the best way to go about it. Here are six best practices.
1. Have a policy in place when multiple people want the same day off.
Is it first-come-first-serve? Or do you approve based on seniority? Do you consider the reason (a family reunion being more important than a couples getaway, and a getaway being more important than cleaning out the basement)?
These are questions that many companies struggle with. A union contract may dictate you approve days off, so make sure your policy matches the company’s legal obligations.
When you have a seniority rules policy, understand that new hires will never get the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. That might cause a retention issue. Think through all these things before creating your policy. Each business is different and has slightly different needs.
2. Set up rules around when people can request time off.
If you allow people to request time off as far in advance as they want, you’ll get a brilliant employee who will pick the best times and ask for them five years in advance. While that may reward planning, other employees will object to this method.
Instead, place reasonable rules around asking time off – for instance, no more than one year in advance, or requests for summer will all be considered if they are submitted by March 31. If you want to say people can’t request more than two months in advance, you limit your employees’ ability to plan trips with friends and family or even get reasonable prices on vacations.
3. Strive to say yes.
If there is any possible way to approve a day off, approve it. This is part of your employees’ compensation package; let them use it.
4. Separate requests for vacation days from requests for medical time off.
Often, the law requires you to provide sick days and time for employees to see doctors, receive treatments, or receive therapy. Usually, you must go to the doctor when the doctor’s office gives you a certain time – employees can’t easily reschedule. These requests need priority.
5. Don’t ask for too much personal information.
If you have a conflict where too many people want the same day off, you may need to prioritize based on the planned activity, but otherwise, if someone wants a day off and they have the available vacation time and the business won’t grind to a halt without them, the answer should be yes. Prying into information about why makes employees feel they need to justify their time off. Time off is their time – to sit at home or travel to Peru.
6. Don’t revoke already approved time off.
People make plans. Their spouses schedule time off, they buy plane tickets, they book hotel rooms. If you say “yes” in January and then “oops, never mind” in June, you’re treating your employees poorly.
Integrating a Time Off Request into your HRIS
Fortunately, your HRIS probably already has a time-off request module that you can either install or comes standard. This is an ideal system that allows record-keeping, no sticky notes get lost, and the system automatically marks a day off as a vacation or sick day.
A typical system will also route requests to the right person, so that there is no confusion over whether “well, Joe said I could have time off,” only to find out that Joe didn’t have the right authority. You can often customize to include the information you need and apply your own rules (seniority, first-come-first-serve, can’t request before a specific date).
This makes record-keeping and fairness much easier.
A Time Off Request form template
If you don’t have a system in place in your HRIS and need a paper method or a custom form for your company Intranet, here is something to get you started.
You can download a template of this time off request form here (in PDF).
As you can see, it doesn’t need to be fancy. More information isn’t required unless there is a conflict with too many people wanting the day off. The exact content of the time off request form will depend on, among other things, your organization’s specific requirements and the country you’re operating in.
When people can’t take time off without someone replacing them, for instance, they may need to include the name of the person who will be covering for them during their absence. A country-related reason for employees to ask for time off is jury duty. While this is a common thing in countries like the US and Canada, it doesn’t exist in others.
A time off request is a (more or less) formal request from an employee to take time off. There can be different reasons for a time off request varying from holidays and personal time to medical leave and jury duty.
Best practices to deal with time off requests include 1) having a policy when multiple people want the same day off 2) setting up rules when people can ask for time off 3) striving to say yes, 4) separating requests for holidays from those for medical reasons 5) not asking for too much personal information 6) keeping your word.
The exact content depends on your organization’s requirements and the country you operate in but the basics are: the name of the employee, their manager, the time/date they want to take off, the reason for their time off (holiday, medical, personal, etc.), and their signature.