As a formal process of asking for time off, a leave request application is a regular part of every employee’s work life. We are all used to this process in some way or another and consider it pretty straightforward. However, more often than not, leave request management is not so simple as it seems and can be quite burdensome for both individual workers and their supervisors.
There are three main reasons why the leave of absence request process may turn into a challenge:
- Legal compliance | Federal and state time off regulations indicate how many days off per year an employee is legally entitled to. They also specify on which occasions an employer is obliged to provide their workers with paid or unpaid leave time. By failing to arrange the leave request process in line with these laws, a company faces significant legal risks and compromises its workforce wellbeing.
- The risk of understaffing | Whenever an employee takes a leave of absence, the overall level of business productivity naturally drops. If a company is well-staffed and doesn’t have any crucial projects in progress, this decrease may stay unnoticed. However, in case an essential employee goes on vacation, and there is no one to take over their responsibilities for the requested leave period, a company may experience serious problems. So, workforce capacity monitoring must be an integral part of leave request management, but it can be problematic and time-consuming without adequate tools.
- Excessive paperwork and workflow inefficiencies | A traditional leave of absence request process is divided into several steps:
- It starts when an employee fills in a formal leave request form and sends it to a responsible manager via an agreed communication channel.
- Then, the manager reviews the received request, checks the worker’s time off balance, considers their reasons for taking time off, as well as the overall staff availability and the planned workloads for the requested leave period.
- Consequently, the manager either approves or declines the request in line with organizational time off policies.
- Lastly, the manager notifies the employee about the review results and documents any changes in their time off balance.
Taking into account the multitude of small tasks involved in the process, leave request management can become unnecessarily complex, time-consuming and frustrating, especially if a manager has to process data on paper or carry out calculations manually. So, for the sake of your team’s sanity and the best use of business resources, you need to get rid of paperwork and try to make the workflow as uncomplicated as possible.
3 Things That Will Help You Simplify the Leave Request Process
To make leave requesting more efficient, easy and fast, you need merely three things: a well-developed leave management policy, a high-quality employee self-service system and process automation.
Let’s have a closer look at each of them:
Leave management policy
A leave management policy informs employees about the time off rules and standards adopted in their company. It provides guidance and ensures consistency in terms of leave request application and approval, so everyone has a clear understanding of the required procedures and their expected outcomes.
Your policy should explicitly state how your team members need to ask for days off, as well as how managers are meant to respond to employees’ inquiries. Some points to cover in the document include:
- How far in advance may an employee request different types of leave of absence?
- How frequently can they ask for time off per year?
- Is there a formal leave request one has to fill in?
- Which communication tools should a worker use to send their requests to a manager?
- What rules are applied to manage overlapping leave requests?
- How long is it supposed to take to process a leave request?
- Who is responsible for leave request approval?
- On which conditions a leave request gets approved or rejected?
All in all, there is no single prescription to creating a leave management policy. The main goals here are to make sure your team members are fully aware of how to approach the leave request process and that their time off is managed in accordance with the law. If these two conditions are met, you are free to make your policy as unique or detailed as you want it to be.
In the past, employees couldn’t handle such tasks as vacation scheduling and time off balance control without their HR managers’ help. However, as the implementation of HR self-service software is becoming more widespread, employees now have a chance to take care of these tasks independently.
A self-service system provides employees with access to many kinds of vital information, such as corporate and personal work schedules, the history of payroll accrual and the summary of earned benefits. Plus, such a system allows them to edit and add the required data without referring to the HR department. This way, software-enabled employee self-service can save a lot of time for your entire team.
So, to simplify leave request processing, consider adopting a tool that will let your workers quickly review their current time off balances, plan and schedule time off at their convenience and make leave requests from any device.
Let’s take actiPLANS as an example. With the help of this easy-to-use absence management software, each of your employees can:
- See their current and future paid time off (PTO) balances just by hovering over any date on their personal work schedules;
- Check on how their PTO is accrued by running the My Balance History report;
- Submit leave requests effortlessly by selecting a preferable time off period in the My Schedule interface, indicating which type of leave they want to take, adding a comment to their application if necessary and sending the form to their manager with a single click on a button;
- Use the mobile app to schedule time off when away from their computers and swiftly notify managers about their plans to come to work later or finish the workday a bit earlier.
With actiPLANS, the need to fill in countless paper forms and wait for your PTO-related questions to be answered gets eliminated. This software fosters an absolutely pain-free leave request process and offers a convenient way for employees to access the necessary information on their own.
Nothing can better help you speed up leave management and make it more accurate than automation, and modern HR software products have a lot to give in this regard.
Using actiPLANS, for instance, you can automate the approval of certain leave types and streamline PTO calculation. You can send automatic notifications to managers and employees to either remind them to approve pending leave requests or inform them that their applications were endorsed or declined. And of course, actiPLANS summarizes and categorizes staff absence data in the form of beautiful charts and error-free reports, so you don’t have to figure out anything manually or double-check if the information is correct.
Automation is the key to process efficiency and simplicity. Along with employee self-service and a well-developed leave management policy, it will allow you to make leave request management a breeze.