How to Create a Time Off Request Policy For Your Business

Andrew Buck March 21, 2022

When it comes to the benefits that employees care about the most, time off consistently ranks near the top.

Providing your team the time they need to recharge can do wonders for their productivity. But you must do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt your workflow so you can meet deadlines and complete projects.

Your company’s time off request policy is an important part of making sure team members can get the rest they need to stay productive, without causing major disruption to the overall productivity of the team.

Read on for some tips on creating an effective time off request policy for your team.

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

That team members will need to take time off is inevitable. However, it doesn’t need to cause a disruption to the company’s workflow or productivity.

That’s what your time off request policy is for. It’s to ensure you don’t get any late-notice phone calls or messages that a team member wants to take a day off, or that you don’t get a pile of requests for time off right when your business is at its busiest.

Your time off request policy also helps your absence tracking process work efficiently and with minimal hiccups.

A time off request is basically the first step in your leave management system. If this step is messy and uncoordinated, the rest of the process is likely to follow in the same manner.

What Should Your Time Off Request Policy Cover?

Consider every part of the time off request process when creating your time off request policy. Some of the steps might seem obvious, but that’s not always the case for every person. With any policy (your leave policy and work from home policy too), it’s better to err on the side of being more detailed, rather than risk leaving something out that’s going to cause a headache down the road.

Here are some things you should put in your time off request policy:

How people can submit a time off request

Start by making it clear how someone should ask for time off.

If they need to send an email to a specific manager, say that. Or if they need to use your company’s leave management software, explain how the process works.

This will help ensure as little friction as possible when dealing with time off requests.

Length of notice required

How far in advance do people need to ask for time off?

This may not be important for all companies. For some, it might not matter a whole lot. But others, particularly service-based companies that rely on a minimum number of employees to be able to serve customers, could be in an awkward spot if someone says they can’t come in on very short notice.

Specific rules for different lengths or types of leave

Advance 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 time off 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 advanced notice.

Lock dates – days or times of the year when leave is not allowed

For a lot of companies, some times of the year are particularly busy. As an example, I used to work in a supermarket, and Christmas and Easter times were always insanely busy. So the company policy was no leave allowed during these times.

If you need to set aside certain dates or a time of the year when people can’t request time off, make sure this is clear.

Situations when leave may be declined

You’ll probably need to decline a leave request at some point. It could be because everyone in the company requested leave for the same day, or for another reason.

Make it clear in your time off request policy that leave requests may be declined, and give clarity on why this might happen.

Is approval needed?

Most of the time, a manager will need to review and approve or deny a time off request.

However, in some cases, approval may not be needed – only notice. This is common for an unlimited PTO policy, for example, or a small team that doesn’t have a strict hierarchy managing their staff.

If the team member needs approval for their request, say so. If not, mention this too.

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 to their time off request.

When someone requests time off, they’re often waiting on confirmation so that they can make plans or bookings for their time off. Your time off request policy should let them know how long this is likely to be. Try and ensure this is prompt – a day or so at the most – to do right by your employees.

Sample Time Off Request Policy

Let’s see an example of a simple time off request policy.

ABC LLC Time Off Request Policy

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 and sick/personal days.

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

A time off request form doesn’t have to be complicated. Many companies overdo it, making for a time off request process with too much friction and work for both the employee and the manager.

All you need is the dates, the type of leave being requested, 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 a time off request).

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.

If your team is on Slack, you can try it now for free, and see how it improves life for your entire team.

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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. These policies help your team operate smoothly, with everyone on the same page as to how certain processes should be done.

A time off request policy might seem like it covers a lot of obvious ground, but it’s generally better to have things clearly spelled out, rather than assuming your whole team will automatically be on the same page.

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