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7 Tips for How To Manage Employee Paid Time-Off Requests

Manager managing employee paid time-off requests

Managing employee time-off requests can be challenging, particularly during a business's peak season. Managing paid time-off requests can also be tricky during other periods where “all hands-on deck” are needed from employees.

Employee motivation and productivity can be enhanced when employees get to enjoy a well-deserved break from the workplace. At the same time, managers are responsible for coordinating team projects and meeting operational deadlines.

How, then, do you manage paid time-off requests, especially when there are conflicting needs? Here are a few tips on effectively managing your employees' time-off expectations while continuing to maintain operations.

1. Plan Far in Advance

Many employees know months ahead of time when they need to take time off for birthdays, vacations, family get-togethers, or other personal commitments. Recognizing this, ask employees to submit time-off requests as early as possible.

Consider establishing a framework to encourage — outside of emergencies — PTO requests to be submitted well in advance of the desired time. Planning ahead can enable you to better address staffing gaps or other issues as they arise.

2. Have a Clear, Documented PTO Policy

Companies should have a clear, documented PTO policy that gets communicated during new employee orientation, as well as included in the employee handbook.

Make sure the policy clarifies:

  • The amount of time off employees accrue
  • When they can take it
  • How far in advance requests must be submitted
  • What approvals are required

Finally, highlight any busy periods where it may be more difficult — or even impossible — to get PTO requests approved, like around certain holidays. Make sure to set clear expectations around your company’s staffing needs and ensure that everyone understands the policies and approval process. When necessary, have employees inform you which holidays they are willing to work versus which ones they would prefer to have off.

Managing employee time-off requests may feel overwhelming. Investing in a time and attendance solution can help you gather and track attendance efficiently, and keep you more informed and organized regarding each employee's schedule.

3. Create a Uniform Way for Employees To Submit Time-Off Requests

A uniform method for submitting PTO requests is an essential step in standardizing the process (and ensuring that few, if any clerical mistakes are made) and effectively managing employee paid time off. It's also important to note that most time-off requests should be submitted in writing. A manager's verbal approval may not be considered as a replacement or in lieu of a written request.

Written documentation may need to be submitted with the aim of supervisors accurately (and fairly) managing employee PTO.

A typical time-off request form should include:

  • Employee name and department
  • Reason(s) for requesting time off
  • Dates requested
  • Employee signature

The time-off form should also include space for the employee's manager to accept or decline the request, and room for their comments explaining the decision.

This uniform approach mitigates the risk of misunderstandings concerning date and time of a request. It also establishes a specific procedure in which employees should make their PTO requests.

4. Post a Calendar for Everyone To See

In a public area of the workplace or online, post an easy-to-understand calendar reflecting time off that has already been submitted and granted.

An up-to-date calendar can help alleviate any possible frustration from employees asking for time off on days already booked by others. It also helps identify when it may be necessary to recruit and hire additional seasonal help.

5. Develop Coverage Strategies for Different Jobs

Not all employee roles work the same way. For example, a delivery driver with established client relationships may be harder to cover than a customer service representative. Determine which responsibilities must be covered while the employee is out of the office and who has the capabilities to provide coverage.

Before an employee goes on vacation, have a clear list of what needs to get done.

Key information to share in these circumstances includes:

  • A description of current projects in the works
  • Overall job responsibilities
  • Essential contact information
  • A checklist of other to-do items

Train the people who are covering the tasks and assign a point of contact for help, should questions arise.

6. Offer Incentives To Cover Busy Periods

Many employers offer incentives or premium pay to employees who agree to work during high-demand times. Offering a small bonus or higher hourly rate during a busy period may incentivize employees to hold off on using their paid time off until a less busy time comes up.

It may be worth asking your employees what type of non-traditional benefits they would value. Also, consider whether coverage is essential during certain parts of the calendar year and whether incentives can help relieve critical staffing challenges during those times.

7. Accept That You Can't Please Everyone

It's often a difficult reality, but a final consideration is accepting that you may not be able to please everyone and grant their paid time-off requests.

For example, if many employees want to take off the Fourth of July holiday, then compromises may need to be made to ensure that the critical needs of the business are covered. What's most important is that company vacation policies and processes are organized, fair and equitable, and in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. With an established and smart system in place, you can accommodate employee needs while addressing the needs of your business.

Company PTO policies and processes should be organized, fair and equitable, and in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

Still Having Trouble Managing Time Off? Time Tracking Can Help

Though PTO is important to your employees, handling scheduling demands, especially during high-activity periods, can be stressful. Consider using advanced timekeeping solutions to help you properly track employee time, attendance, and paid time off.

Every business depends on the talent, morale, and productivity of its employees. Having a clearly defined system for managing employee time-off requests can enhance employee satisfaction and help keep morale high.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.