Employee time off request forms help you keep track of which workers need time away. Read on to find out how to use these forms and take advantage of our free template.
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As a manager, keeping track of time off requests for your whole team can be a real headache. You have to juggle accommodating employees’ individual needs with ensuring proper staffing. That’s why it’s essential to have a clearly defined time off request process in place.
Employee time off request forms, as part of a larger time off policy, are a great tool for standardizing this process. They give workers a formal way to ask for time off and make it simple for you or other human resources (HR) staff members to approve and deny requests.
You can also record approval or denial on each form. This way, you can see at a glance who’s been granted leave—and how much.
In this article, we explain what employee time off request forms are, why they’re important, and how they fit into a time off policy. Plus, we offer a free template and explain how you can best implement request forms at your organization.
- Time off request forms let employees show you when they want or need to take an absence from work.
- As part of a larger time off policy, these forms standardize the leave request process. They make it simple for employees to request time off and for managers and HR staff to review requests.
- Best practices for implementing these forms include planning ahead for scheduling conflicts, creating a request intake process, reviewing your time off policy, and more.
- A digital platform can help you automate the leave request process, saving you time.
What Is a Time Off Request Form?
An employee time off request form is a written document that lets team members request any type of leave they may need. Types of leave include, among others:
- Vacation days
- Maternity leave
- Medical leave
- Sick days
- Military leave
- Bereavement leave
- Injury leave
- Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- General unpaid or paid time off (PTO) for other reasons
These forms are then submitted to managers, team leads, or HR staff, who approve or deny each request.
However, not all organizations use time off request documents. Some ask employees to request leave using email, verbal requests, or by using a digital platform.
Overall, these forms are part of a business’s larger time off policy and help standardize the time off request process.
Why Is It Important?
A good time off policy and employee time off request form can help your organization with:
Employers are subject to legal requirements to provide certain types of leave, such as sick leave or family leave. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to workers who need sick leave or need to care for a chronically ill family member.
By using a time off request form, you can ensure your business complies with legal requirements and documents employee requests for time off consistently and reliably.
Additionally, having a record of employee time off requests and approvals can help demonstrate that your company’s time off policy is compliant with labor and record-keeping regulations.
Managing employee leaves and labor needs
Request forms allow you to see who’s using up their paid time off (PTO). They let you plan ahead to reduce the risk of staffing gaps. The forms also allow you to track who has been approved for leave and ensure no leave requests get overlooked.
Supporting your employees
American workers are among the most overworked in the world, with over 20% of employees in the private sector having no access to PTO. This leaves them with a poor work-life balance, which can contribute to issues like burnout and disengagement.
A good time off policy gives employees access to much-needed downtime, and standardized forms let them request time off much more easily. In turn, employees feel supported knowing they have a clear path to take time away from work to recharge and refresh.
Reducing turnover and absenteeism
On a similar note, a Deloitte survey of 1,000 professionals found that 42% of all workers and almost half of Millennial workers reported quitting a job because of burnout. Harvard Business Review reports that when employees are overworked, companies experience higher turnover, increased absenteeism, and higher insurance costs.
With request forms, team members can easily request time off when they need it. This way, they may be less tempted to miss work—or worse, quit.
What To Include In a Time Off Request Form
Here’s what a good request leave form could include.
Instructions for the form
These should explain to the worker how to fill out the form. You may also want to indicate how far in advance employees should request a leave of absence.
Date of request
It’s important for HR teams and managers to see when an employee has requested time off so they can approve or deny the form in a timely fashion.
The form should include the employee’s name and signature. Depending on the organization, it could also include the employee number, role, and department to help the company identify the worker.
The dates requested and why
There should be a section on the form where an employee can indicate the exact days or times they’re requesting off and the total number of days or hours they’re asking for.
It’s also important to track why a worker is requesting leave. This can help HR make a decision about whether or not to approve time off requests.
This section could also include a space for additional comments, if the worker wants to provide more information about their request.
A section to track whether the request has been approved
There should be an area where HR staff can indicate whether or not the request has been approved. This section should have a space for the manager or HR staff’s signature as well.
Free Employee Time Off Request Template
You can create a time off request form using Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, or another word processor. You can add your company logo and colors, and then save the form in PDF format. Saving the form as a PDF is recommended, as it’s easier to fill it out digitally in this format.
When creating your form, use simple and concise language. This will help workers fill out the form more quickly and prevent any confusion. You’ll also want to adopt a slightly formal tone. Even if your working environment is casual, a formal and factual tone conveys the importance of the document.
It can be challenging to create a form from scratch, so download our free time off request form template and use it as a starting point. You can customize it to your needs.
Free Download: Time Off Request Form Template ⤵
Best Practices for Implementing Employee Time Off Request Forms Effectively
Have a time off policy in place
Your time off request form should be part of a larger time off policy to ensure requests are handled fairly. Your time off policy should be easily accessible to workers. Include it in your employee handbook and store it where team members can easily refer to it.
You can explain the following in your policy:
- The different types of absences, such as sick leave, family leave, PTO, etc.
- When employees can take time off.
- How employees can request time off.
- Appropriate uses of leave request forms.
- What employees should do if they have a last-minute emergency or illness that doesn’t allow for a leave request form.
- How many workers can be absent from work at the same time. This can be expressed as a percentage, such as 20% of a team or department.
- Who reviews, approves, and denies requests.
- Where employees should turn, or who they should contact, if they have questions about time off requests.
- What workers can do if their request is denied.
Your time off policy should also detail:
The notice period(s) for requests
Workers should understand how far in advance they need to request leave. Some companies want at least 2 weeks to 1 month’s notice for time off.
How much notice you ask for may depend on how flexible your company’s schedule is. For instance, you might want to ask workers to let you know at least 2 months in advance for longer leaves of absence, such as 4 weeks or more.
Having substantial notice helps you plan employee schedules accordingly. It also gives you time to hire a temporary replacement if needed.
Your response timeline
Ideally, you should be able to respond to leave request forms in 3 days or less. It shouldn’t take more than a week. If you have employees submit requests digitally through an online platform, you can respond to requests even more quickly.
Rules for modifying requests
Consider what the rules are about modifying request forms if an employee’s plans change. You might want team members to email a specific manager or HR team member to modify their form. Or, you might require workers to submit a new request form.
The procedure for denying a time off request
Create a formal procedure that managers or HR staff must follow when denying time off requests. Then outline this in your time off policy.
For instance, you may consider asking the person who denied the request to contact the employee directly to explain their decision. You may note in the policy that managers or HR will offer employees alternative days or hours off as a compromise.
Or, you may ask employees to submit a certain number of additional requests after one has been denied—for example, 1 or 2. You might require employees to list different days or hours on subsequent request forms.
Use a digital time off management solution
Digital time off management software like Connecteam can help you easily create a time off policy and manage time off requests.
Connecteam is a comprehensive employee management solution that offers a range of features designed to help you manage your workforce more efficiently.
Using Connecteam’s time off management feature, your employees can submit time off requests from their mobile device, and managers can approve or reject the requests with just a few clicks. The system automatically tracks all time off requests and approvals, so there is no need to manually track requests or use spreadsheets.
You should also read our in-depth review of the best employee pto trackers
With Connecteam, you can set up rules around how much time off employees can take, how much notice they need to provide, and whether or not certain periods of the year are blacked out for time off requests.
Best of all, Connecteam’s time off management feature is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Connecteam platform, letting you manage all aspects of your workforce from a single platform. This makes it easy to schedule shifts, communicate with employees, and track time and attendance, all from one central location.
Plan ahead for bottlenecks and problems
During big events and around the holidays, it’s common for many employees to request leave for the same time.
You can plan ahead for this by communicating with your employees a month or more ahead of the holiday to find out who’s willing to work. Create a bank of employees you can draw on during this period. You might also consider giving these workers time off during the next holiday. This way, you aren’t relying on the same employees to cover too many days or hours.
You should also establish a minimum staffing level. Consider what percent of your staff you need to have for each shift. Also, ensure this amount of workers can offer the quality of service your customers expect during any other time of the year.
If your organization works through the holidays or is busier just as everyone wants time off, you might want to arrange temporary staffing solutions ahead of the holidays to fill in the gaps.
In addition, there are a few ways you can make sure time off requests are handled fairly during popular vacation times. You can make it a policy to prioritize requests by seniority, on a first-come-first-serve basis, or by looking at who has the least time off. You might even offer bonuses for workers willing to work on major holidays, too.
Sickness and emergencies
Employees can become ill suddenly or experience an emergency. In these cases, they usually won’t have time to ask for leave days or weeks in advance with a request form. That’s why it’s essential to have a policy in place for last-minute time off.
Your policy should include:
- A definition of what constitutes a sickness or emergency.
- An explanation of who your employee should contact in these situations, whether that’s you, someone else, or a member of HR.
- The minimum amount of notice the employee must give before the start of their work day. For instance, 2 hours.
- Whether the employee needs a sick note if they return. Many organizations require a sick note after a 3-day absence.
- Whether or not last-minute time off is paid.
In addition, you’ll want to create an internal policy for dealing with last-minute absences. You should know how you’ll fill a sudden gap in a shift. You may have a list of on-call workers you can contact to come in at the last minute. You can also send out a group text or email request to your employees to find out if someone is available.
Create an intake process to respond to time off requests promptly
When employees request leave, they’re likely eagerly awaiting a reply. Your business also needs to know what requests are approved so you can fill in any schedules or shifts affected by an absence.
An intake process can help. This just means a process for submitting and handling request forms. It goes hand in hand with your time off policy.
When creating your intake process, you should account for:
- Where and how forms are submitted.
- Who is responsible for reviewing them.
- How time off decisions are made.
- How to file completed forms.
For example, you can ask workers to submit completed forms by email or in person—either to you, a designated team member, or your HR department. You can also ask workers to submit forms digitally through an online work management platform or a file-sharing software solution.
You can create your intake process manually, by creating a step-by-step set of instructions to share with HR staff who will be taking care of request forms. But this can be difficult and time-consuming.
By using a digital platform like Connecteam, you can automate much of the time off request process. Workers can request time off from any device, and you can receive requests in real time. These platforms enable you to review employees’ requested leave immediately.
They also notify employees when a decision has been made on their request. Plus, you can see at a glance who has requested leave and whose request still needs to be addressed.
Some digital platforms also link directly to scheduling features, so you can quickly update shifts and schedules, ask team members who can cover an absent worker, and get notifications if a shift needs more employees.
Review your time off policy for compliance
You may want to review your leave policy with an attorney to make sure it doesn’t violate any laws.
For example, employers aren’t allowed to deny an employee FMLA leave in most cases. However, in cases where an employer has fewer than 50 employees or the worker requesting leave has worked for the company for less than 1,250 hours or 12 months, they may not be eligible for leave. Understanding the details of this law is important.
Anyone who makes decisions about leave at your company should understand when time off requests must be approved and when workers may not qualify for leave.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your time off request forms
Leave request forms should reduce absences and no-call, no-show employees. If they don’t or if employees are routinely not submitting the forms properly, re-evaluate your policy.
Consider whether you need to request extra information from employees. Or, see if there are additional instructions you can provide in forms to help employees fill out request forms properly and submit them on time.
For example, if your forms are too complicated, workers may not feel confident in filling them out. Streamlining request forms to 1 to 2 pages and using simple language can help. Providing a space for additional notes on the form can give employees a chance to explain, in their own words, why they need time off.
If you’re having many last-minute absences, you might also want to look closer at your timeline. Do you require workers to give months of notice? Some workers may not be making plans that far in advance. Allowing workers to request time off with a few weeks’ notice may offer more flexibility.
A time off request form helps employees communicate when they need vacation time, sick days, or any other type of leave. It also lets you prioritize these requests and inform workers if and when they can take specific days off.
An effective employee time off request form can also reduce confusion and misunderstandings between employees and management, and ensure compliance with legal requirements.
By utilizing our free template and the best practices outlined in this article, you can take the stress out of managing time off requests and create a request form that works perfectly for your business.