#3: How to Make a Time Off Request Policy?
Straightforward, easy to understand procedures covering vacation, sick, PTO, and other leaves are critical for recruitment, retention, and the fair treatment of your SMB workforce. A policy handbook will help you deal efficiently with uncommon situations.
A policy that best suits your company’s vision and culture will accommodate your employees, and their needs are necessary in any small and medium business. Clarity and transparency are key to the workforce. Make clear the dos and don'ts in terms of time off. If you want your employees to know and understand your policy, you need to make it extremely easy to grasp. Also, make sure everyone in management and ownership is familiar with it. In the following sections, you will find what a proper time off policy sample should cover.
Communicating time-off policies from the start
Clear and transparent procedures about employee time off must be communicated to all new hires as soon as they start their new role. Communication will smoothen the administrative process and ensure what your people need to do when they are sick, plan their vacation, or want to know how many PTO days they have.Decide on the submission process
Your staff needs to know how they will be able to submit a time-off request: verbally, by filling up a request form via paper, through an app, or by sending a time-off request email to the supervisor? Whatever option you choose regarding the request policy, make sure it does not result in difficulty for your employees.Decide on the advanced notice employees need to give
Leave policies depends on the nature of your business. A starting point may be a minimum of 10 days' notice, but you can adapt this to your needs. Some companies may need time to find coverage for that position, while others may have back-up employees in some industries where remote work is at its peak. Therefore a 3 or 4 days' notice is enough.Establish when employees cannot request time-off
Undoubtedly, every business and every industry have its high season period when employers need all hands-on deck. Therefore, it may be useful to schedule the dates when time-off requests cannot be approved due to productivity matters. Consider adding a rule that will prevent all the employees from the same department to request time-off at the same time. On the other hand, if you find it useful, decide what are the dates when they totally can benefit from time-off because of the low volume of work expected. You can even create an entertaining calendar with all these dates and make it available to all the staff.
Cover major holidays
Note: As an employee, if you have work responsibilities that you cannot finish until you leave for vacation, decide with your colleagues to backup your work. Ensure that the co-workers fully understand the tasks that they will have to take over.
Offering your employees paid time off for the major federal, bank, and typical paid business holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving is a must, even if your business will remain open. Each geography has different holidays, so decide on those that are mandatory, and you must offer your employees time off.Eligibility aspects
The amount of days off that a full employee can request is different than a part-time employee. Moreover, someone currently in the probationary period will have a different plan than someone with longevity in the company.
Some other time off eligibility aspects, you need to be aware as an HR manager include:
Keep a record of sent requests
- Do you allow employees to cash in unused time?
- What happens with the unused days off from last year?
- Do you allow unlimited time off policy?
- Should you start a sabbatical policy?
- What is the unpaid time off policy?
- How does the time off accrue?
It is essential to keep track of the frequency of time-off requests. Patterns of absence can be followed, which can help you in increasing productivity and efficiency. Therefore, it is recommendable to establish a rule on how often employees can make time-off requests. For example, you can specify that no more than two submissions per month can be sent. Also, for sick leave, as an employer, you can ask for a medical letter.
Note: Overall, handling employee absences will directly impact your company costs, profitability, culture, employee motivation, and productivity. Staying compliant with the labor laws is another task that you will tick if you log time-off correctly in your business.Add the requested dates to a time-off calendar
As the manager, you need to plan for meaningful work. Your employees need to plan leaves also. If there is no calendar where you can see the big picture of who is off in your team or company, frustration starts to emerge. You will encounter opacity and not transparency in terms of employee availability. You will spend more time checking with your colleagues are in or out or must deal with last day emergencies because you were not aware of the wedding of your team lead or the vacation in Los Angeles of your marketing manager.Create a time-off spreadsheet
Newly created businesses usually structure and log employee requests in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or an Online Google Sheet. You can add columns to keep track of the schedules, or shifts, or absences. The online sheet is a better approach than paper practice. However, you and your employees will still have to do a lot of work manually when handling time off. Think about formulas, e-mails, counting days, calendars, compliance, approvals, policies, etc.
Note: Knowing who is available and when will help you can manage, coordinate, and approve or deny staff time off requests is possible with a sheet. However, if you want to reduce errors and automate leave management, you need to switch to a digital time-off app. These are very few of the ten reasons to switch from managing employee leaves with excel spreadsheets to a cloud time off management system.Create rules to avoid overlapping requests
The holiday season is the busiest. All your employees will want to be granted time-off, but your business needs to function. So, it is your job to choose between employees. Your decision is bound to create animosity between you and them, or only between employees.
How can you prevent this from happening? Design a policy for overlapping requests.
Companies use a few well-known policies in this case but remember that none can always be applied in its individuality but following the others. You will understand why.
- First come, first served
The simplest policy in the book, it is also easy to understand by everyone because we all use it in our everyday lives: at the store, at the movies, at the doctor, etc. Although it is clear and transparent, it may not be applicable in all situations. You may need to weigh in other factors when approving a time-off request.
- Consider the reason for the request
A medical need should outdo the first policy. So, the reason an employee resorts to may be a factor in your decision. But be careful not to slip to the part where to favors one employee over the other. So, when you are at a crossroad, use another factor to decide whom to offer the time-off.
- Seniority-based policy
Like first come, first served, this is a clear policy and a prevalent one, but you cannot always use it individually again. For example, if you own a bar and both an experienced worker and a newbie ask for time-off during the National Day. You know that day your bar will be packed. So, you need your best service for the customers. You will want your experienced waiter there. Therefore, seniority will not apply here.
- Employee flexibility and managerial discretion
Such policies may not have the advantage of being as transparent as the previous 3. But they can bail you out in challenging circumstances. So, allow your employees to change shifts if that is an option. Moreover, ask your employees to add on the request form whether they are flexible to the time-off. Some of them just need relaxation, and they can do that either the next week or the next month.
If you decide to use managerial discretion, you need to be extremely careful: this can turn into favoritism. Surely you know your employees, and it is evident for you that employee #1 needs the time-off more than employee #2. If you use this policy, explain your decision to both parties and the reasons behind it.