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Flooded with Time Off Requests? Get a Policy.


Spring has sprung and employees are planning for graduations, weddings, and summer vacations.  You may be looking at a calendar, your e-mail inbox, or a stack of written requests for time off.  It can be a bit overwhelming.  You want to be fair to your employees and keep business productive at the same time.  You have one employee traveling for a college graduation, the receptionist, who was recently hired, asked at that time if she could have time off to attend the birth of her sister’s baby, and your key manager has had his daughter’s wedding planned for two years.  All in the first two weeks of June.

All of these life events are important and hopefully you have good policies and practices in place to allow each individual to be there for their family.  If you don’t, it isn’t too late to get policies in place.

As with any policy you need to define what the benefit is, how it is earned, who is entitled to it, and when it can be taken.

The What

You need to decide if you are going to have separate Vacation, Sick, and Other Leaves (bereavement, floating holidays), or a single Paid Time Off bank.  There are advantages to having a single PTO policy and then employees can take those days allotted as they wish.  In states where there are a minimum number of sick days, it may make more sense to keep separate banks of leave.

The How

Will your employees gain their PTO based on a calendar year, anniversary year, or the hours they work? This is also the time to think about maximum accruals, cash out vs. use or lose, and how soon an employee can access their accrued time off.  Think about how much of this time you can afford to carry on your books, and if you could pay it all out at one time, if such circumstances arose.

The Who

Most policies define who is able to accrue or be granted paid time off: full-time only after six months of service, part-time at their percentage of worked hours, anyone can use their hours at any time, these are all things that you need to decide.  There are many sample policies out there, you need to decide what is fair and makes you attractive as an employer.

The When

This is where things can get tricky, and the feeling of fairness comes into play.  It is important to have your policy clearly explain how paid time off is requested.  It can be helpful to have a central calendar and one person, or office, track requests and approvals.  Typically, it is easiest to have the individual in your office that processes payroll to track time away.  Clearly write in your policy how far in advance someone needs to request time off and who will approve/deny their request, along with any other factors considered in receiving approval for time off (general needs of the business, other requests for time off, employee’s workload, order in which requests are received, etc.).

Hopefully each graduation, birth, and wedding can be attended and given the singular attention each of your employees would like to give them.  With a solid leave policy you won’t be the one left sending gifts and answering the phones while everyone else is away.

© Individual Advantages, LLC. 2016