How to successfully handle time-off requests?

Time-off requests can be both a challenge and a concern for HR practitioners. Time-off requests can be both a challenge and a concern for HR practitioners. You need to consider several factors when your employee is sending a time-off request/ is requesting time off from work.

#1: Start using a Time Off Request Form Manager

In a time when everything happens so fast, both employees and managers need to have access to information quickly. A modern time-off management app will allow your staff to self-serve and automatically track and organize all the records for you and the entire company.

Time off spreadsheets

Delightful employee experiences and many automation

The Form Essentials

The form allows to personalize the essential details: 

  • Type of time-off
  • Date/dates
  • Additional information (comment/reason/message for the manager/backup person).

*Since each employee has an account, then the name of the employee will be automatically associated with every request.

Online Employee Time Off Request Form

The Leave Request Form allows you to book the time off types according to your company policies:

  • PTO
  • Vacation
  • Leaves of absence
  • Sick leave
  • Holiday
  • Work from home
  • Annual leave
  • Personal leave, maternity, Unpaid, etc.

Automated Rules & Validations

The form facilitates multiple HR processes when it comes to time off management. It improves and simplifies the overall activities of the HR and accounting departments while employees have more control. Let’s see what the automations are: 

  • Sends an email to the manager

    The system streamlines communications by automatically emailing the right managers with the time-off request for approval. Also, once the request is approved, an email is sent to the employee.

  • Policy and rules validation

    While the employee starts using the form, the system will check if the request complies with the rules and settings associated with the leave policy (i.e., Automatic approval, mandatory comment, required backup person).

  • Add the entry to the attendance calendar

    When the entry is submitted for approval, it will be added to the team attendance calendar

  • Highlight colleagues off at the same time

    To ensure consistency within the team, once you complete the time-off request form, you will instantly see who else is absent simultaneously.

  • PTO calculator

    With every request, the system will calculate the number of days booked so that errors are avoided. For example, the system will only consider the business days for an interval containing a weekend and a public holiday*.

    * Note: The system can simultaneously handle employees with different work schedules and public holidays from multiple geographies.
  • Updates leave records

    Once the leave is booked, then as an employee, you will have a list with all the records and know exactly what type of time off you booked and when.

  • Sync to Outlook/Google

    If you connect with Outlook or Google, you can have each time-off request added directly to your favorite calendar.

  • Updates the time-off balance

    With this automation, the number of PTO days booked by each employee will be available instantly.

Details make the difference:

  • You can select a different approver for every employee 
  • Managers can book on behalf of their direct reports
  • Use the Slack chatbot to book and approve from your favorite work tool
  • Each employee has an account with different roles and access rights
  • The time off request form is part of a simple HR system
  • The overall system is easy to use and doesn’t require any training.

Now you know why you must switch from paper or email tracking to online leave booking applications.

Packed with multiple benefits

  • Employees have access to the balance of their leaves
  • Instant email requests sent automatically
  • One-click approvals from email/Slack
  • Secure system with daily backups
  • Reduce errors
  • Ensure compliance


Get the manager for free or at an affordable price.


  • Nine employees maximum
  • All feature access
  • Customer support

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  • $1.35/employee
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Time Off Request Form Manager Features

Update your time off management. LeaveBoard offers incredible HR experiences that remove friction by automating repetitive tasks, centralizing data, and streamlining workflows.

Register any absence

Give employees the experiences they deserve.

  • Online absence requests forms for every employee
  • Dynamic entitlement calculator
  • Overlaps warning
  • Instant email/Slack notifications
  • Absence calendar
  • Automatic entry in your Office/Google Calendar
  • Delegate absence approval tasks to your lead managers
  • Custom approval flows
  • Absence history & audit
  • Custom absence types
  • Enforce limit restrictions
  • Easily amend allocations

Part of the HR Software

The Time Off Request module is a vital element of the powerful HR Software.

  • Employee directory
  • Employee records
  • Leave policies and types
  • Leave tracking
  • Simple notification workflows
  • Process automations
  • Daily back-ups

#2: Create a Pro-Vacation Environment

To make your manager or HR specialist job more manageable and to keep your employees happy, you should create a whole culture about time-off and make sure you can apply it within your company. HBR points out that staying engaged with the company is essential; however, taking a vacation can actually increase the likelihood of getting a raise or a promotion.

More importantly, taking a break improves the health, happiness, and careers of overworked employees.

#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.

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.

Cover major holidays

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:

  • 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?
Keep a record of sent requests

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Seniority-based policy
  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Rule #4: Provide a time-off request form template

The elements of a time-off request form

Scheduling will be a nuisance if one employee texts you about time-off, another email you and others fill out papers. You need to be organized, so we strongly suggest you create and customize a time-off request form that everyone will use. To discover all the necessary information to make the best decision, your form should at least include:

  • The employee’s name
  • Date of request
  • Employee department
  • Time-off requested
  • Reason
  • Employee’s signature with date
  • Manager’s signature with date
  • Approval/denial confirmation.
The types of time-off

When your employees are interested in taking time off, they will need to specify the type of time off they will be requesting. Common types of time off are:

  • Vacation
  • Sickness
  • Personal leave
  • Bereavement
  • Jury Duty
  • Time Off In Lieu
  • Military
  • Maternity/Paternity
  • Unpaid

Employee Time-Off Request Form

Start using this simple Word template to request time off - the so-called PTO template within your company.

Microsoft Word Time Off Request Form Template

I will tell you a secret: the most effective leave management system is a digital one.

To ask the employer for a scheduled absence from work, you will have to submit a formal request following the submission process as an employee. Read on, and you will learn more about this process.

#5: How to ask for time-off?

By ensuring a simple submission process to request time off, you will reduce the time needed to deal with this administrative task. Asking a boss for a day off should be seamless. However, many times, it is frustrating, time-consuming, and not transparent.

Employees see time-off as a more important benefit nowadays, so it is crucial for them to feel they have no obstacles when submitting a time-off request. The employee handbook, clarifies these processes. Newcomers receive the guide when they join the company.

A. Paper Leave of Absence Letter

If you chose to use the form on paper, make sure you know what the template you need to fill is, how to handle it and when. If you chose to use the form on paper, make sure the person in charge of the leave requests (team assistant/HR specialist) is available when employees need to hand the forms. Reflect also about the flow. Once you fill the time-off form, get your supervisor or advisor to approve it, and then you share it with the HR colleague. Do not forget to inform your coworkers about the scheduled absence.

B. How to Request Time Off from Work by Email?

As an employee, asking for time off can be intimidating; however, it is necessary. It is a time-consuming activity. It takes your time away from work; however, you must do it. Suppose your company practice recommends email communication to request time off writing a short email that is direct, polite, and personal and explains why you need to take some days off work. In advance of submitting your request, we recommended considering how your absence will affect your workplace.

Request time off sample email

To request time-off efficiently via email, you will need to be clear and explicit about your request. This sample PTO request email is prepared to help you get a fast response to your day off request from your manager:

Title: [Your name] requesting [leave type] from [date-range].

Greetings/Dear/Hello/Hi [managers name],
I plan a [trip/vacation/other reason] and will be using [number] of my vacation days. I will be out of the office on [date or date-range]. I am letting you know as far in advance as possible. If any tasks need to be prioritized before my absence, please let me know.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
[Your Name]

C. Approval Workflow

The workflow to get the approval of your employee vacation requests must be clear, stating the persons that need to be notified or requested to approve the absence. The process can be a simple employee -> manager flow, or a more complicated employee -> manager and HR specialist.

Note: LeaveBoard is a PTO booking and tracking software that allows you to define the approval workflows. Check it out.

#6: Record your employee time-off requests

When talking about time-off requests, you need to be extremely organized. If you decide to use the traditional paper request forms, use a collection box/card box where employees can place their forms. You will need to check it often, maybe daily. Once you approve or deny some of them, you can keep them organized in separate folders, available at your disposal whenever you need them.

But you already know: the digital PTO tracking solution is the best way. Efficiency will be at the highest level with all your employees’ requests are in one safe place, and you can access them at any time, wherever you are. You will be less stressed about administrative tasks but more focused on strategic business issues. An attendance tracking software that handles time-off requests can also help in other matters, such as centralizing employee records and providing instant reports when you need them. Using a secure cloud-based HR software, you can audit your time off and ensure compliance with the labor laws.

#7: Manage employee time off requests fairly

You need an proper mix of structured policies, flexibility for emergencies, and decisive avoidance of favoritism to manage time-off requests. Since you want to promote work-life balance and take diligent care of your employees, you will need to make some compromises. Sometimes you will need to refuse requests from your team members. Declining leave requests will make them upset and feel that they have been unfairly treated and become resentful. Implementing a clear time-off policy shows that you respect your team and their time.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Establish a clear PTO policy within your business
  • Communicate your time off policies when you onboard a new hire
  • Plan for summer and winter holidays
  • Respect emergency absences
  • Track employee requests
  • Digitize vacation requests
  • Automate the process to remove any friction.

Note: Being a great manager means being prepared for a high turnover rate among employees. Having the skills and knowledge to solve absenteeism problems while being fair to your employees is necessary these days. Making sure that your business is running smoothly always will impact your bottom line in your companies.

#8: Design a contingency plan for emergencies

Even if you follow all these rules and make it a priority to manage time-off requests, there will be times when the holidays will coincide with the time of the year when the flu takes over. So, you will need an emergency plan.

Think about sudden employee time off requests such as the following:

  • An accident or sudden illness happens, and one of your core employees cannot come to work
  • A person that ensures daily operations resigns suddenly
  • One of the kids of the employee is sick, and the father needs to stay at home
  • The return flight from a vacation of a co-worker are canceled, and he must stay two more days away from the office
  • An employee is requesting more time-off than allowed

The trick is to have a group of part-time workers to rely on. They would be available on short notice, in challenging situations, ready to fill in, so your business will not have to suffer.

Keep in mind that your role is to treat time off requests fairly and efficiently as a manager.

The time-off policies and tools that you will implement in your business must simplify the administrative work and ensure understanding and transparency across your co-workers. Accrual calculators, dynamic trackers, leave planners, and calendars are excellent means to ensure a successful time off practice.


We designed this mini-guide to help you in managing time-off requests in your small to medium organization. Starting with a general overview of time-off policies and procedures, we continue with the best practices in recording leave requests and how to deal with overlapping requests. As part of the guide, you will discover a perfect time off request template form in word format for your employees to use. As the HR manager, you will find all the details about the submission process, organizing the PTO requests, and handling them to ease the payroll process. Did we miss something? These learnings should offer more clarity around managing the time off requests, and you comfortable with overall time off tracking within your business.

Note: Do not forget what we always recommend: adapt our advice to your organization's needs!

Automate your employee time-off requests with the easy to use cloud-based HR management software.

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