Business Operations

How to Simplify Employee Leave Management

By Véronique Forest September 15 2021

Managing employee leave can be a challenge for many managers. And for good reason—operations must go on, in spite of reduced staff.


Time off is essential for well-being and productivity. Managers must find a way to enable their employees to take well-deserved vacations.

The only way to do this without going crazy is to be well organized and to plan, plan, plan. To this end, here are our best tips to help better manage your employees’ leave.

Set Basic Rules for Employee Leave

Certain periods of the year are more coveted for time off. Of course, summertime and the holidays are classics. Organizations must lay down some basic rules in order to keep operations going smoothly during these times.

The first thing to do is to determine how vacations will be allocated: first come first served, by seniority, according to each person’s preferences, etc.

Second, since holidays often coincide with peak busy periods, some companies limit the number of employees who can go on vacation at any one time. This way, the company can continue to provide quality service.

Some organizations also set a maximum number of consecutive weeks of vacation, so that all team members will have a chance to get some time off.

In other words, it would be unfair for one employee to take a month’s vacation in the middle of the summer when their coworker, with less seniority, can’t take more than a week because she has to compensate for other people’s absences.

Our best advice is to forget overly restrictive rules. Remember, for an employer-employee relationship to be sustainable, it must be a win-win. If your employees remain unhappy because they can never take a vacation when they want, they will find another job that allows them to do so.

Once some ground rules are in place, it will be easier to manage various time-off requests.

Be Flexible and Understanding

There are no universal rules—each company has its own particularities. Adopt a time-off policy that reflects you and adjust it as needed.

This being said, there are two key priorities: flexibility and understanding. For example, some people are forced to take their vacation days at certain times in order to be able to spend them with their families. It would be very unfortunate to deprive them of quality time with their loved ones because of overly strict rules.

Finally, remember that students are also entitled to weeks of vacation. They work hard all year and deserve some down time.

Don’t Wait Till the Last Minute

To coordinate everyone’s vacation, ask your employees to let you know as soon as possible when they would like to take days off. Keep track of each request and any changes.

This way, you will be able to make sure everything lines up, and have time to find solutions or propose other options if need be. Your employees will also be able to plan their vacation days without being at the last minute.

For smaller teams, it is also possible to be more flexible toward employees who wish to take a vacation with only a few days’ notice.

Keep an Eye on Vacation Time Banks

To keep leave management easy, tracking employees’ vacation time banks is key.

You will need a tool to keep track of how many days off your team members have at their disposal.

This way, you can be sure that your employees are taking the vacation time they need, or that they aren’t using up their banks too quickly.

There are several types of leave to consider:

  • Paid leave;
  • Unpaid leave;
  • Sick leave;
  • Parental leave;
  • Absences for marriage, birth or a loved one’s death;
  • Compensation for overtime.

Empower your employees by giving them access to the details of their vacation days.

Use the Right Tools

When I worked for a large company with more than 300 employees, leave management was complex, to say the least.

We had to fill out a paper request, which then had to be approved by our supervisor and then manually entered into an HR system by a human resources employee.

One day, in the midst of all these steps, one of my leave requests was incorrectly transcribed. So they had scheduled me even though I was away... and they had actually accepted my request for leave. When I didn’t come in to work, they wondered why. Because they had no way to reach me, it took them two days to understand what had happened, and they had to find several replacements at the last minute.

That was not the best system... and they learned it the hard way.

Choose the Right System

For small teams, Excel can be a solution for scheduling employee leaves.

However, it does not allow you to communicate directly with your team. Managers must therefore coordinate all employees’ leave by email or telephone. What’s more, each request has to be entered manually—which heightens the risk of errors.

Scheduling software is a more effective and efficient way to manage employee leave, allowing employees to make their own leave requests online. Once approved, the leave is entered directly into the schedule, thus avoiding unnecessary communication and errors.

Updates are made in real time. As a result, employees are automatically notified when a manager approves their requests, and the information is available to everyone at all times.

Vacation Days for All

Although managing leave can be tedious and monotonous, it is necessary for the proper functioning of any business. Using the right methods will greatly facilitate this process.

Finally, always keep in mind that well-rested employees will be more productive employees. Encourage your team members to regularly take time off to completely unplug, and thus avoid burnout.


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