What Are The Best Guidelines For Creating A PTO Policy For Your Business?

SwipeClock PTO tracking software
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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: How To Create A PTO Management Policy For Your Business
  • Chapter 2: How Can PTO Tracking Software Help My Small Business?
  • Chapter 3: With PTO Tracking Software, You Can Happily Ditch Your Spreadsheets
  • Chapter 4: How to Design an Absence Management Policy
  • Chapter 5: The Supervisor’s Guide To Employee Absence Management During Vacation And Holiday Seasons

How to Create a PTO Management Policy For Your Business

Do you need to create a PTO management policy? Perhaps you are considering a change in Paid Time Off policies at your company.

First, define your objectives. These might include:

  • Ensure adequate staffing year-round as employees take planned and unplanned leave
  • Offer generous PTO as a tool for recruiting talent
  • Increase employee engagement and morale by encouraging vacations
  • Establish a company culture that promotes a healthy work/life balance

PTO Compliance

When creating a PTO management policy, make sure it’s compliant with any applicable laws. There are currently no federal laws that mandate paid vacation time for small businesses. If you are working on a government contract, however, you might be subject to a federal law regarding paid time off. The two provisions are the McNamara O’Hara Service Contract and the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts.

There are also some states that regulate PTO management. For example, some require employers to compensate workers for unused accruals when leaving the company.

The structure of PTO has broad implications. It influences productivity, profitability, and recruiting.

What Is PTO?

Companies with PTO (Paid Time Off) allow workers to take time off while still being paid their wage.

Employees earn PTO by working their regular schedules. Some companies allow employees to take paid leave off before earning it. If they quit before earning it, however, they may have to forfeit its value from their final paycheck.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. employee receives 10 days of vacation leave. Many companies increase PTO with tenure. They hope it entices employees to stay with the company.

Generous PTO is an important benefit for most employees.

How Is Employee Leave Categorized?

  • Sick Time: When the employee or family member is ill, recovering from surgery, or otherwise doesn’t come to work because of a medical issue.
  • Vacation: When an employee takes time off for a trip or recreational activity.
  • Holidays: Days recognized at the federal level as a holiday. Also called ‘company holidays.’ Government offices and banks are generally closed as well. Some companies give employees a day off for a state holiday.
  • Bereavement Leave: The employee is paid for leave taken immediately after the death of a family member.
  • Floating Holidays: This is another name for a random paid day off of the employee’s choosing.
  • Jury Duty: Employers are required to permit employees to miss work for jury duty.

Do Employers Have To Provide Paid Leave?

Not at the federal level. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide unpaid leave. Though they can’t terminate the employee if the time qualifies under FMLA.

Many jurisdictions (states and cities) mandate employers to provide a minimum amount of PTO. Some regulate whether employers must compensate employees for unused paid leave upon termination. This type of regulation is called a ‘PTO pay-out’ law. The size of your business and the type of leave may come into play. To be safe, consult legal counsel. Regarding pay-out laws, when in doubt, pay it out.

What Are The Most Common PTO Policies?

Let’s discuss types of paid time off policies.

Traditional Leave vs PTO

Traditional leave distinguishes between the type of leave. These include sick days, personal days, holidays, and vacation. It’s more complicated to track than uncategorized time off. The acronym PTO usually refers to paid leave that isn’t categorized.

PTO Banks

In this structure, each employee gets the same number of annual paid days off. Employees can use them however they like. They can save them for when they are sick. Or they can use them for an extended vacation.

54% of companies that switched to a combined PTO policy saw a 10% decrease in unscheduled absences. 4% experienced a decrease of 20%. (The Alexander Hamilton Institute)

Benefits for Employees: PTO banks remove the temptation for the employee to ‘pretend’ to be sick when they need a personal day. Employees love having PTO to use from their first day.

Disadvantages for Employers: In some states unused PTO is treated like vacation pay when an employee quits. This requires the employer to compensate the former employee. In most states, unused sick time isn’t classified as a benefit.

Some companies that have this type of policy experience sick employees coming to work to save their paid leave for vacations.

Unlimited PTO

With unlimited PTO, the employee decides when they need a day away from work. It doesn’t matter why. They can take as many days as they want.

Some employers loosely regulate the way this is used. For example, they can require advance notice and/or manager approval. However, repeated manager rejection of time off requests wouldn’t technically qualify as an ‘unlimited’ PTO program.

Employees who take periodic vacations when they feel they need them are more productive and engaged. They are also more likely to stick with an employer.

What Is A PTO Purchase Plan?

A PTO buy-sell or purchase plan allows employees to buy and sell vacation days. The ‘currency’ is their regular compensation.

Employers who allow PTO buy-sell have to pay attention to tax implications. For this reason, they are often included in a cafeteria program. A cafeteria plan (also called ‘flex plan’ or ‘Code Section 125’) allows employees to use pre-tax earnings to pay for benefits of their choice. These include health insurance, life insurance, supplemental insurance, and flexible spending accounts.

Why Change Your PTO Management Policy?

Employees aren’t as loyal as they used to be. Some workers don’t have long-term plans for any job. PTO management policies are linked to work/life balance. Generous plans demonstrate a commitment to your employees’ quality of life. Millennials are often credited with creating the impetus for more flexible policies. But every generation wants more flexibility.

What Is The Average Number of PTO Days In The U.S.?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2018 the average PTO for all U.S. employers:

9.7 days annually +
3-4 days for every 5 years of employment
In 2017, employees with at least five years of tenure received an average of 15 days.

American Workers Don’t Use Their Earned PTO

The U.S. Travel Association has analyzed employee leave in the U.S. for several years. They have validated what many of us suspect—we work too much! A recent study concluded that U.S. workers only use 77% of earned PTO. That totals an average of 5 unused vacation days annually per employee. In 2017, employees forfeited 212 million days.

When creating your PTO management policy, address the following:

  1. How much PTO should I provide?
  2. How much PTO do my competitors provide?
  3. Does earned PTO roll over from year to year?
  4. Does PTO increase with tenure?
  5. Do you give a set amount at the first of the year? or
  6. Do employees accrue PTO throughout the year?
  7. How do employees request PTO?
  8. What are employees required to do so their work is covered while they are gone?
  9. How will I make sure PTO doesn’t affect FMLA compliance?

What Do My Competitors Offer?

PTO management policies vary by industry, business size, and geographic location. You can find industry information at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Glassdoor is an influential site for job seekers. It contains employee reviews of businesses. You can find information about your competitors’ PTO policies.

Do You Have a Lot of Unscheduled Absences?

If productivity wanes because of a high rate of unscheduled absences, a PTO bank may help. But it’s tricky to switch policies. Plan wisely and make sure employees don’t lose accruals they have earned. Or you are going to have some ticked employees.

Unlimited PTO Policies Aren’t As Risky As You Think…

If you are struggling to attract employees, you might want to offer unlimited PTO. Employees don’t necessarily take more time off with unlimited PTO. Most companies that switch do not experience a decrease in productivity or an increase in unscheduled absences. But it’s an important benefit for job candidates. In this case, perception is key.

Unlimited PTO might change patterns of leave. Riot Games (the company behind League of Legends) switched to unlimited PTO in 2013. They discovered that employees didn’t take more days off. But they began taking more frequent periods of 1-2 days rather than week-long stretches.

…But They Can Have Unexpected Consequences

Here’s the flip side. Unlimited PTO doesn’t work for some organizations. For example, Kickstarter discontinued their policy because employees were confused about how much was reasonable.

Results Oriented Workplace Environment

Some companies with unlimited PTO have adopted a Results Oriented Workplace Environment (ROWE). With a ROWE, employees take ownership of their work schedule. They are responsible for completing assigned projects and achieving performance targets. Regardless of the number of hours they work or the schedule they follow. The number of ROWE companies is still relatively small, but the concept is gaining traction.

Communicate Your Policy

Include your PTO management policy in your employee handbook. Require every employee to read it. Your HR team and payroll provider must understand the policy so they can administer it.

Require each employee to sign an agreement. They acknowledge that they understand the policy and pledge to abide by it. Basically, they are promising not to abuse it. This is important for enforcement and legal compliance. If you fire an employee because they abuse your policy, you want documentation.

Make sure your employees can access your employee handbook at any time. Employee self-service portals are the easiest way to handle this. They can check PTO management rules from the HR dashboard. A mobile app is even more convenient.

How Can PTO Tracking Software Help My Small Business?

Tracking Paid Time Off (PTO) is a critical function of Human Resources (HR). There are often legal obligations for small businesses to track time off accruals. Employees who receive PTO as part of their HR benefits must be able to see their accruals and use them.

PTO Mistakes Cost Money

Tracking employee time off is important for two big reasons. First, PTO management mistakes can cost money. This is the obvious problem with manual time off tracking. Errors can cost the company in extra paid time off. Time used to find and correct errors adds to the expense and takes time away from other tasks. It starts to add up.

PTO Problems Affect Employee Morale

Second, employee satisfaction goes down when PTO management problems crop up that erode trust. Employees who earn PTO as compensation expect accurate time off tracking. When problems occur, employee trust suffers. Employee satisfaction is a factor of trust. Your business will see reduced customer satisfaction if employees are not happy.

PTO tracker software can automate the time tracking process. Automation ensures that you are tracking accurate accruals. Cloud-based PTO management tools can save you lots of time.

Automated PTO Tracking Is a Big Time Saver

Many small businesses turn to Excel spreadsheets for PTO management. Managers often spend extra time entering attendance data into many tracking spreadsheets.

Sometimes that data comes from sticky notes. This process takes extra time and allows errors to creep into your data. Lengthy audits and embarrassing apologies often follow.

It’s a time-consuming distraction that will only get worse as your business grows.

Timekeeping apps allow you to automate time and attendance collection. As employees clock in and clock out, work time accumulates. The system calculates PTO based on recorded time.

Employees can track their accumulated PTO. This allows each employee to keep an eye on their own PTO balance in real time. Employees are also empowered to make time off requests, and managers can approve in the hub.

Requesting time off is simple for employees. They know how much PTO they have accumulated, and can submit a request from a secure login. Managers can make approvals knowing PTO is available without having to double check.

Automated Time Off Tracking Means Happier Employees

It’s no secret; when employees are happy with their job, they are more likely to impress customers. Successful managers recognize that happy employees are important to the bottom line.

There are many reasons to worry about employee happiness. Turnover rates, theft justification, and workforce morale are some of the bigger reasons. Employee compensation is one of CIO’s top nine factors that affect employee happiness.

CIO reports that while compensation is a concern, intrinsic factors are more so. Employees value time off when it comes to feeling good about where they work. Time off tracking is one way to make sure your employees feel like they belong.

PTO management apps give employees a real time look at their PTO accruals. They can see how many hours of time off they have accrued at any time. Employees with enough time off can make automatic requests for leave.

Accurate, automated time off tracking is an easy way to save a lot of time. It’s also a great way to make sure your employees are happy, so they can make your customers happy.

Goodbye Spreadsheets, Hello PTO Freedom

Say goodbye to sticky notes, Excel spreadsheets, and complex processes. Give up on PTO management systems that need you to remember. If you don’t remember, you lose track fast. If you have more than a couple of employees, losing track can become a disaster.

PTO tracking software offers freedom from complex processes that risk accuracy at every step. Manual processes eat at your time and leave you running to catch up. Automation means freedom for your managers, and freedom for your employees, too.

PTO Tracker Integration With Time and Attendance

Integration is the key to building a successful small business. Small businesses that adopt automated software have a better chance at success. Growth and scalability thrive with automation.

Your time and attendance software should be synced to your PTO management system.

Automate your workflow, save time, and add accuracy to your process. Cloud-based software solutions track PTO in real time. They’re easy to set up and even easier to manage.

Accurate reporting, automated time tracking, and employee self-service improve employee engagement. Empower your employees to help manage and track their own PTO with mobile access. Integration with payroll adds even more accuracy and time savings.

PTO management software shouldn’t be complex. Tracking PTO is best when it is already built into your time and attendance system.

With PTO Tracking Software, You Can Happily Ditch Your Spreadsheets

Does your company do PTO tracking with spreadsheets? How’s it working for you?

When spreadsheets became available, they offered many advantages over hand calculation. They provided a nifty way to store the data. They automated some of the calculations. You didn’t need quite the same level of business math acumen.

For many reasons, spreadsheets became a staple for business management. It’s no wonder Microsoft Excel has dominated the business world for over 30 years.

In contrast, employee time tracking software didn’t become mainstream until decades after Excel was introduced. On-premise, custom-built legacy solutions were expensive. They didn’t always play well with other software. For these reasons and others, the adoption rate has lagged behind other types of business software.

But now employee timekeeping software with PTO (Paid Time Off) tracking is accessible, web-based, and cost effective. It’s as easy to use as any phone app. Most systems are easier to use than Excel or Google Docs.

I don’t want to denigrate spreadsheets. They have proved their value. But today, they aren’t the best choice for tracking PTO.

Let me explain.

Spreadsheets Can’t Easily Handle PTO Programs

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say, ‘Spreadsheet users can’t easily make the spreadsheet calculate PTO.’ As mentioned previously, Excel is great for many tasks. But it was not designed for managing PTO policies.

That doesn’t mean people don’t use it for PTO. Many HR directors do it. A lot of small business owners do it. But it’s time-consuming and doesn’t have a mechanism to alert you to errors. Even basic PTO policies require a moderate level of Excel know-how.

Here is an example of a question about PTO formulas on an Excel forum:

The employee was hired 11/14/11, and accrues 1 day monthly from 1/1/12 to 11/14/12, so DATEDIF(1.1.12,11.14.12,”m”)*accrual rate of 1 day per month. On 11/14/12, she begins to accrue 1.25 days a month until 1/1/13. I just can’t figure out how to take this number, and then add it to what accrues at the different rate from 1/1/12-11/14/12, or how to construct a formula that encompasses both date ranges and accrual rates. Perhaps I should also be using units in days vs. months? I don’t see where to attach a file.

Huh? How many people want to learn formulas like that? (Full disclosure: I’m not a math whiz.) Kudos to you if you know how to do it. But even if you do, is that a good use of your time? Or your HR director’s time?

Are you prepared to audit frequently to make sure it’s working right? What if you change your PTO management policy? Do you want to dive back into those formulas?

A Better Way to Track PTO

Spreadsheets don’t make sense when there is PTO tracking software. Cloud-based solutions are basically plug-and-play. Or, more accurately, sign up and play.

This is how a Software as a Service (SaaS) PTO tracking system works:

  1. Choose a workforce management provider
  2. Start an account
  3. Enter your employees
  4. Choose your PTO structure from pre-programmed defaults
  5. Enter your settings—for example, your company might allow PTO to rollover
  6. Employees clock in with the time tracking module
  7. Let the PTO magic begin
  8. Start sleeping well at night

It only takes a few minutes to set up. Then your software takes over.

PTO management is synced with employee timekeeping. As employees clock in and out, the PTO tracker is calculating in real time. No Excel expertise required. PTO tracking software makes any business owner or HR director a PTO pro.

Employee PTO Monitoring

Your team members will love the employee-facing PTO interface. They can monitor their balance any time. Cloud-based systems can be accessed from any connected device day or night. This feature alone saves the HR team a lot of time checking balances for employees.

Time Off Requests

Employees also request time off in the system. This keeps everything organized and prevents requests from slipping through the cracks. It helps managers plan ahead for scheduling. It also helps them treat everyone fairly when it comes to vacations.

For example, let’s suppose you have a first-come-first-served vacation policy. You can rely on the system to record the dates of all vacation time requests and approvals.

Busy managers don’t need to worry about forgetting a verbal vacation request. The system is objective and transparent. It lets managers outsource their memory to an infallible system. For a benefit that’s very important to employees.

PTO Synced to Scheduling

When a vacation request is approved, the PTO tracker sends the dates to the schedule builder. If you try to schedule the employee during approved time off, it will alert you.

This is just one example of how cross-module syncing works. Consider all the connections between timekeeping, scheduling, and accruals. The level of efficiency and accuracy as compared to spreadsheets is profound.

Bottom line? You can automate 90% of PTO tracking.

Turnkey PTO Tracking

Some companies offer self-provisioning or turnkey solutions. As with the vendor-supported systems, PTO syncs with employee timekeeping and scheduling. But the sign up process is a lot quicker. You can sign up online any time. There’s no need to work with an account representative.

When you’re researching turnkey PTO management systems, make sure they accommodate the number of employees on your staff. You might want an ’employee aware’ feature that prevents punch mistakes. See if the templates work for you. Look for free trials and take a test drive. Compare features and ease-of-use.

How To Create An Absence Management Policy That Works

Employee absences occur within every company. They may occur in the form of tardy employees, sick leave, or paid time off. Designing a good absence management policy that works for both your company and your employees can be a daunting task. Go too strict and inflexible and you may have higher attrition and stressed out employees who produce less.

It is a balancing act between cost and benefit. After all, when employees take time, you essentially pay them not to work. What benefit does that have for your company?

First, let’s define the difference between absence management and leave management. Absence management is the program or policy that your company has to control unexpected leaves due to illness, injury, or emergencies.

Absence management includes how you control unscheduled, unexpected, and excessive absences. It includes how you handle late employees.

Leave management covers expected and planned time off. It is the process by which employees request time off work and managers approve or deny those requests.

Your company should clearly outline the policy and procedures for handling both types of employee absences in your employee handbook. This provides employees with a clear idea of employer expectations and a clear path for both unplanned and planned absences.

Absence Management

Absences come in all different forms and sizes. It can come in the form of employee tardiness, minor illnesses, or long-term absences. How you deal with and handle absences will have a great impact on employees as they return to work and re-engage with their jobs.

Absences have a negative impact on the business in several ways:

  • Increase employer expense: Employers have to ‘fill in the gaps’ by hiring temporary staff, filling in for a subordinate, or paying other employees overtime. Instead of working on more productive tasks, managers spend time filling vacancies or covering for employees. Higher wages are paid, either to temporary staff or through overtime. This is a hard cost of absences.
  • Lower morale: Employees who routinely cover for absent employees can feel burnout quicker. They may feel used. Increased workloads mean higher stress. If one employee is perceived to be absent an unfair number of times, this can increase perceived bias by management to allow these absences.
  • Increased mistakes: Staff who are required to cover other job positions or meet with clients they don’t have relationships with are more likely to make mistakes. Employees who return to work after repeated absences or a lengthy absence are more likely to make a mistake or be unaware of changes.
  • Decreased productivity: Covering shifts can mean your employees are unable to focus on the priorities of their own responsibilities. This happens as ’emergency’ tasks take priority over less urgent, but more important tasks. Employees get stressed, which makes distraction easier.

Causes of Employee Absenteeism

First, let’s take a look at many reasons why employees are absent from work:

  • Minor illness or injury: employees are absent for a short period of time.
  • Personal emergencies: alternative childcare for a sick child, domestic violence, car malfunction, or another personal issue.
  • Recurring medical conditions: impact the employees’ absences over the course of a long time. They also impact presenteeism, when an employee shows up to work, but fails to be fully productive due to the medical condition.
  • Mental illness and health: stress and burnout impact employee mental health. They can exacerbate  depression or anxiety. Mental illness is often cited as a top reason for employee absences, even when it is not the reason reported to management.

Understanding these reasons helps you to develop a better plan around absence management. It is important to get the real reason why an employee is absent. But, that’s not the only step.

Create an Absence Management Policy

Your policy should address things such as tardies and short-term leave. It should also include extended leave policies. Define what is unacceptable. Identify solutions for employees facing unexpected absences and who should be notified. Outline company resources to help with employee absences. Your resources can include direct managers, human resources, or outside help.

For example, victims of domestic violence may use the excuse of an injury or car troubles. Likewise for employees with mental illness issues. Employees cite other external reasons for absence when anxiety or depression is the actual cause. You can help employees to deal with these external factors by providing resources they can turn to in a crisis. This can help to stem absences.

Be sure to include information regarding employee leave such as FMLA and make sure that your policy covers absences protected by law.

Identify your policy around absences:

  1. Create a procedure for employees to follow
  2. Outline resources for employees with chronic absenteeism
  3. Follow FMLA regulations

Track and Measure Employee Absences

It’s impossible to really understand the absences in your company if you aren’t tracking them. Make sure that you have a reliable timekeeping system that will accurately track employee schedules and absences when they fail to show up for work. You can take a granular look at individual days and shifts or look at overall patterns, trends and seasons.

This allows you to see specific employee patterns, identify managers with increased absenteeism, or show potential issues with specific locations or shifts.

If you don’t track absences, you can’t manage them. Measuring allows you to address issues without making employees defensive.

Stay in Communication

When employees are tardy or absent, it is vital to communicate with them. Don’t assume that employees know that regular tardies are unacceptable.

Instead, touch base with them. Find out the real cause behind the tardy and discuss options. When employees are sick, touching base, instead of simply acknowledging a text, shows that you care and are concerned with their well-being. It also provides a great way to keep employees informed of changes while they are gone.

Generally, touching base early in the absence provides a way for the employer to check in on the employee, provide well-wishes, and to discuss a timeframe for communication that will work for the employee and manager.

Employees can identify how they would like to be contacted during an extended leave and how often. Some employees like regular check-ins while others feel pressured to return to work if they hear from their employer too often. Thus, it’s important to discuss and set up a framework for all contacts at the company to follow. This will also help to reduce redundant calls from managers, HR, and payroll.

Employers can use an employee portal to provide updates to absent employees. Employees who are absent for an extended period can check in, read the latest or watch news releases, and feel a part of the company during that time. This provides flexibility, but also provides a verifiable method of issuing employee notices without harassing the employee.

Have a ‘Back to Work’ Process

Create a ‘back to work’ process. This can be something as simple as a checklist kept in your workforce management software. It should include steps such as a return to work interview, reorientation on new policies and procedures, and updates on any changes that occurred.

Elements of a back to work process:

The employee is welcomes back to work by their manager
The manager conducts a back to work interview
The manager explains any updates, changes, or news
The manager collects all documents related to the leave

Employees returning to work after an absence should have a ‘back to work’ interview. Managers can welcome the employee back to work and update them.

Or, it can be a lengthier process where employees are given time and resources to adjust to working again.

It can include a modified schedule for the employee to adjust back into full-time work. Or it can include a discussion regarding how the employer can accommodate an employee’s long-term disability or medical needs.

Back to work processes should include gathering any further documentation required by FMLA, sick leave, or other labor laws. They can include setting the employee back up on benefits and re-orientating them to the workplace and new policies implemented during their absence.

By utilizing a back to work policy, you help to ensure that employees returning to work don’t feel unnecessary stress and anxiety over the change in schedule and responsibilities.

Leave Management

Unlike absence management, leave management usually revolves around planned absences. From a numbers standpoint, leave management appears to be counterintuitive. You pay employees to not work. However, leave management lowers employee stress and provides better work/life balance.

Accurately plan for leave requests

How many employees can be off at a given time?

If you have a number in your head, then consider if that number should be the same year round. Although many managers have a set number of employees who can ‘take’ time off on any given week, the reality is much different.

Business ebbs and flows. Some weeks allow for more employees to take PTO. At other times, it causes problems. The only way to really know the demands of the business is through historical records.

The winter holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) is often a very busy time for retailers. However, other employers may see a marked decrease in customer traffic and demand. Rely on your workforce management data and plan week by week for allowable absences. This will help you to approve extra PTO requests at the best time.

Make PTO Easy for Employees

Don’t shame employees who take time off. Don’t make it difficult for employees to request time off. Time away from work is important for a healthy balance. It’s also high priority for job seekers.

Ideally, employees request PTO in advance. However, they’re human and subject to poor planning. Family or friends may invite them on spur-of-the-moment activities. It’s important to provide a means for employees to request time off.

An employee portal is a valuable tool because employees can request time off at the time they are thinking about it. They don’t have to wait until the next workday to request time off. It provides managers with current requests. This means that both employees and managers can better plan for time off.

Another way to provide flexibility for PTO requests is to allow employees to initiate ‘shift swapping.’ This allows employees to agree to swap a shift, which then has to be approved by a manager. This helps eliminate the time spent by managers to find a replacement.

Employers can enable PTO sharing, where employees can donate extra time off to an employee who faces special circumstances. This helps to build community and foster good will.

Lastly, don’t forget to give employees access to self-service when handling their leave tasks. Provide access to your employee handbook, Q&A, and leave balances on the employee portal. Finally, let employees submit FMLA certificates electronically via the portal.

Respond to Leave Requests Promptly

Managers who respond to leave requests immediately help foster communication. Employees can immediately know if they will be able to continue their plans for time off. Managers can view time off requests via their workstation or a mobile device.

Use an Absence Calendar

An absence calendar helps managers to see at a glance who is scheduled off today and in the near future. They can better plan. Absence calendars make it easier for managers to respond because they can quickly see who is scheduled to be off during the same time period. Managers can access their absence calendar on their mobile devices.

Be Transparent

No one likes to be left in the dark. Be transparent and they are more likely to be part of the solution. If employees understand how much time off is allocated and why they are more likely to plan around busy seasons. Employees know when they are buses and when they have periods where there is more conversation time. Let them be a part of the conversation.

Additionally, transparency helps to alleviate disgruntled employees who don’t get requested time off. Employees see how many requests are ahead of theirs and learn that earlier requests get approved easier. If you prioritize time off by seniority, then having a clear process helps new employees to know when the deadlines for senior requests are over so they can promptly request time off.

The Supervisor’s Guide to Employee Absence Management During Vacation and Holiday Seasons

Summer vacations and holiday celebrations can take a toll on workplace productivity. Employee downtime doesn’t have to mean losing business momentum. Employee absence management can keep your business running smooth.

Around this time each year, management starts to worry about the impact of vacations. Employees are starting to talk about taking time off and the schedule is in peril. Supervisors are on alert, managers are on edge, and owners are showing concern.

Don’t Panic. It’s all going to be OK.

Employee absence management strategy can help you reduce the impact. A few best practices and capable workforce management software (WFM) are all you need.

Strategy 1: Get The Balance Right

There’s a tug of war between management and employees during vacation season. Employees need some time off and want to take advantage of school schedules and good weather. Managers see competitive opportunity in the heart of the sowing season.

Good managers will see this challenge as an opportunity to plan ahead and find a good balance. Employees need breaks to remain productive. They also need to be able to enjoy recreation time with family and friends, else “what are they working for?”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a vacation survey. They asked managers to report on employee time off and productivity.

The survey revealed that employees who use vacation time are more productive. Employees who take scheduled time off also enjoy higher morale. Companies that encourage planned time off report higher performance and improved employee wellness.

Companies with strategic absence management also report higher employee retention.

So, while it may be tempting to keep your employees knee deep in elbow grease, it pays to give them a break. Finding the right balance is key, but don’t be afraid to give employees scheduled time off; they need it, and so do you.

Strategy 2: Start The Conversation Early

Effective employee absence management starts with communication. There are three good times to start talking to your employees about planning time off:

  1. At their hire date
  2. During quarterly reviews
  3. Before vacation and holiday seasons arrive

Paid time off (PTO), vacation time, and holidays should be a matter of company policy. PTO policy should be part of your employee onboarding program. Include PTO policy in your employee handbook, and discuss key points in orientation.

Quarterly reviews are a good time to discuss planned PTO. Your review process should include employee absence management discussions with your employees. Use quarterly reviews to chart future plans and confirm planned time off.

Employee absence management demands vigilance from managers, especially during seasonal high tide. Summer months, winter holidays, and three-day weekends are all events to watch for. Survey your employees well before holidays to get a sense of how they will impact your schedule.

Start the conversation early and keep it going through the year. Maintain an open dialogue with your employees as part of an absence management plan. Create a culture of planning and train employees to schedule time off in advance.

Strategy 3: Schedule In Advance

Companies that schedule more than two weeks in advance have higher employee morale. The further out ahead you can post a schedule, the happier your employees will be.

Managers procrastinate scheduling because they think there will be new information to consider. A study conducted by Lambert and Henly found the opposite is true. They found that for almost two-thirds of their schedules, over 80% remained the same from week to week. The fact of the matter is this; you can schedule well in advance and expect very little change.

Reduce employee uncertainty by creating shift schedules as far in advance as possible. Employee absence management starts with a good plan and your WFM software.

Workforce management scheduling software can help create schedules based on pre-built templates. Templates make it easy to drag-and-drop new schedules and post them as early as possible. WFM software helps lower the work needed to make schedules and helps you get this done quicker.

Completed schedules allow employees to plan ahead. With open communication, your schedule will become an effective vacation planning tool. Employees can make adjustments to schedules further ahead. Advanced planning will reduce the impact of change.

Strategy 4: Allow Self-Service Shift Swapping

In the event that last-minute changes occur, and they always do, it’s good to have a solution in place. Employee self-service is a workforce management tool that can help with unplanned changes.

Employee self-service allows your employees to submit schedule changes and swap requests. These changes occur in the WFM software.

Changes made within the WFM software are subject to overtime alerts and gap warnings. WFM software reduces errors and assures that you maintain qualified coverage.

With employee self-service, your employee absence management strategy expands to include employee planning. This will lighten your management burden and build stronger scheduling routines.

Employee self-service allows your employees to volunteer for open shifts. This makes a quick turnaround of emergency staffing problems a matter of routine. Employees will be able to plan for far-reaching PTO and can react to short-term shortages.

Managers are free from worry and can focus on approvals. Employees enjoy the empowerment of managing their own schedule.

Strategy 5: Enforce Best Practices

Employee absence management is a business strategy. As such, you must work to enforce best practices and build a culture of compliance.

When managers and employees share absence management goals, the company benefits. Absence management should be a matter of company policy. It should be an enforced process, and part of the culture of the business.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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