How To Handle Employee Time Off Requests

Inevitably, your employees are going to want some time off here and there, whether it’s for personal errands or vacation time.

But how do you handle a time off request?

You want to be fair, but you also don’t want to be left in a lurch. You need to be able to count on your team being present to help you run your business.

Additionally, handling these requests can create more work for you, and add to your stress and workload.
Asking for advance notice from your employees is good practice. But there is so much more to think about, especially in terms of scheduling.

So, here are some tips on how to handle time off requests.

Clearly Communicate Your Time Off Policies

Familiarize your employees with your time off policies, preferably during their onboarding process.

This ensures they know what to expect when they make a request.

The problem with not creating policies is that you’re going to end up with team members that: a) constantly request time off, and b) want to take time off on short notice. When there are no clear boundaries in place, your employees will test you to see what they can get away with.

If you need to adhere to a union contract, then your rules are already set in stone. But if you aren’t contractually obligated to follow specific guidelines, then you need to write your own policies.

Keep your policies flexible so you can review and assess each situation before giving your employees the go-ahead for time off.

Set Deadlines For Requests


Depending on your industry, you likely have a busy season, such as the holidays. If your employees take time off during that period, you might struggle to keep up with demand.

If you set deadlines for when time off requests can be submitted, you will save yourself a lot of headache later. You may even consider creating a time frame for when you accept requests.

As with any policies you put in place, ensure your employees are aware of any deadlines and time frames you enforce.

It’s not fair to your team if you only tell a few people who immediately submit their requests, leaving others in a lurch. On a first come first serve basis, it’s only fair to everyone if they all know they can book time off.

Some managers also use seniority to determine which employees are permitted to take breaks. Favoritism in the workplace can be an issue, so if you lean too heavily in this direction, there could be complications.

No matter how you decide whose requests are approved, be as fair as you can.

Allow Your Employees To Swap Shifts

Allowing your employees to trade shifts can be a logistical headache. But it does ensure shifts are covered when certain people are away, so there is some upside to it.

Essentially, it would still be up to your discretion and approval. The idea would be that your team members can take a break if they can find someone to cover their shifts. This does reduce the amount of work you would need to put in to keep the business running smoothly.

Some manual work will still be par for the course, because you’ll need to ensure the person responsible for covering another’s shift can handle the responsibilities that go along with it. Depending on how you handle scheduling, you’ll also need to update your spreadsheet or whatever you use to organize shifts and communicate with your team.

Learn how ZoomShift can help your employees swap shifts and give you a peace of mind knowing it complies with your shift rules.

Take Advantage Of A Tool Like ZoomShift

Even with all your time off policies in place, keeping your schedule organized and employees coordinated can be a challenge.

Request forms are fine, and they can work, but it’s going to be less of a hassle for you if you utilize the right tools to keep your employees notified of their shifts, and update their availability and time off requests through an app.

This is where ZoomShift comes in. It makes the process of creating employee schedules fast by automatically helping you identify when shifts conflict with time-off requests and availability of employees. Have availability side-by-side while quickly assigning shifts with drag and drop functions. Communication is a common problem when coordinating shifts, but a tool like ZoomShift can help keep everyone accountable to their commitments.

When you take advantage of the right tools, you can reduce scheduling errors and costs, and fill the gaps in your schedule when an employee needs time off. It can take the aggravation right out of time off requests.

Final Thoughts

Managers often find time off requests troublesome, because of the amount of time and work it requires to coordinate employees and their schedules.

This is where automation tools can be a huge help. They can cut down on the headaches involved in rescheduling and keeping on top of communication.

Policies are valuable, but they can only take you so far. If you’re relying on analog or linear methods to manage your employees, there will still be considerable work that goes into keeping everyone on the same page.

Do you need help handling time off requests? Build your policy rules into our shift rules and have peace of mind while you allow your employees to request time off and keep things calm and organized. Learn more about how ZoomShift can help you manage your employees, keep everything organized and in one place.

JD Spinoza

JD enjoys teaching people how to use ZoomShift to save time spent on scheduling. He’s curious, likes learning new things everyday and playing the guitar (although it’s a work in progress).