The Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Time-Off Requests Fairly

7 min read

Managing time-off requests can feel a lot like a tug of war.

On one end you have your employee’s requests, on the other end of it, you have to meet company objectives. 

In the middle lies your decision making for managing time-off requests fairly.

Having to juggle both and not prioritize one over the other is truly a balancing act.

The real issue lies in offering employees the time-off they want without having it compromise your business goals.

You can’t make everyone happy but you can be fair in your approach by taking both sides of the spectrum into consideration.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of managing time-off requests fairly: 

1. DO Set a Deadline for Requests and Plan Accordingly

As much as flexibility is key, it’s equally as important to know when you can’t afford your workforce to resemble a ghost town during a busy season.

While peak seasons may vary per industry, it’s vital that you let your employees know in advance when they’re needed most.

That way you won’t be left short staffed at crucial times like the peak of the holiday or construction season.

One way to do this is by letting all employees know at the same time when setting a deadline request.

You can either do this via a town hall meeting using an employee scheduling platform or in person. 

When it comes to having your employees submit their time-off requests, aim for simplicity.

Nobody likes the manual paperwork of filling out time-off requests. 

Simplify the process for your employees by allowing them to submit their vacation requests directly on their phone with a leave management software.

That way you can save time on everyone’s side and ensure they’ll be motivated enough to submit it promptly since it’s an easy and streamlined process.

Additionally, when a vacation or sick leave is approved, you can plan ahead by reassigning the shifts easily to your employee of choice.

With Evolia’s workforce management platform, you don’t have to deal with the scheduling puzzle of finding the optimal replacement by manually going through your calling lists.

Instead, your favourite scheduling platform finds one for you to cover all of the necessary shifts.

2. DON’T Require Employees to Stay Connected During Their Vacation Time (even though they will be).

 We’ve heard the famous saying: communication is key. 

But when it comes to vacation time, the last thing your employees want to receive are business messages or phone calls from you or fellow co-workers while they’re off the grid.

A big part of this can stem from their lack of awareness of them being unavailable.

You can easily make their time-off known by sharing your time-off schedule with your entire team directly on your schedule management platform.

After all, an employee’s time- off should be respected. 

You can take it a step further by using a leave management solution that enables you to lock their schedule, which will prevent them from being invited to open shifts or receive a replacement request from other workers.

Remember: It’s natural for people to remain constantly connected and engaged employees aim to please.

As much as you may email employers and ensure them that they can answer once they’re back at work, the urge to open unread emails is real.

This is why it’s important to avoid emailing them that much (or at all!) during their time-off, that way there’s no impulse on their end to respond right away.

3. DON’T Neglect to Make a Time-Off Policy

Nobody wants to be the mean boss who rejects an employee’s time-off request. 

Whether it be a staycation or personal leave, putting the flexibility in work/life balance is key to maintaining employee engagement.

Which is why it’s important to effectively communicate your time-off policies during an employee’s onboarding process.  

The last thing you want are assumptions to replace actual facts or have employees constantly ask you questions regarding time-off requests.

You can incorporate your company’s policies  into your employee’s handbook and make it accessible for them to look up at any time directly on their phones with a smart scheduling app.

If you have a union agreement, you’re probably already bound by these policies. 

Otherwise, you may want to add some flexibility into your time-off policies. 

That flexibility should include managerial discretion so that you allow for situations that you can’t plan for ahead of time such as sick leave.

4. DON’T Always Use the Seniority Approach

When it comes to prioritizing time-off requests, there are two common methods used: seniority and first come first serve.

When deciding which one to use, it’s important to know your audience. 

Today’s job market has changed and it’s important to adapt to the new reality.

In other words: Play by the rules that make the most sense for your workforce.

For example, if your workforce consists of a younger generation, employing the seniority approach won’t do you much good.

Not only does it emphasize favouritism “by default” but it also leaves a bitter impression since millennials are already more likely to job hop every few years. 

By imposing the seniority approach, you’re only giving them more reason to leave.

Instead, focus on giving them a chance by employing a first come first serve basis. 

Since they’re already given a heads up about the deadline in advance, they all can request their time -off. Whoever submits their request first is granted the time- off. 

However, it’s important to maintain some flexibility.

As some employees are always first to jump in since they don’t have families or loved ones to confirm their vacation time with.

An alternative is to create a rewards system, where you give time-off requests priority to employees who have been going above and beyond in their work such as working during the busy season or meeting their quarterly goals with excellence.

Whichever method you choose, as long as you implement one that adapts accordingly to your team, you won’t leave your team feeling sour but content with your approach.

5. DO Create a Rotating Schedule for All Employees

Did you know that one of the top ten complaints employees have has to do with favouritism?

A big part of it stems from the way you handle your time- off requests.

We all have our favourites but sometimes we prioritize them over others without acknowledging it.

For example, the happy go lucky employee who always seems to have a family emergency every week.

Or better yet: the super outgoing employee who always asks for weekends off in the summer.

The more introverted and silent employees don’t get treated the same way because they don’t “stand out” as much yet probably work just as hard if not better than the former examples.

This is where having a rotating schedule comes into play.

Rotating the off days schedule for your employees is a fair way to manage requests especially during peak time like holidays or weekends.

You may not realize it but impressions last and being forced to work the undesirable shifts leaves an indelible mark on your employees.

Rotating schedules allows everyone a piece of the pie so no resentment is built.


Managing your time-off requests is a delicate balance that involves structured policies while allowing room for flexibility when needed most.

Above all, it involves understanding your workforce needs and ditching the favouritism game.

Now that you know how to manage your time-off requests fairly and easily, if you’d like to streamline your leave management process and save time on everyone’s side, feel free to get in touch with us today!

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