Asking for Vacation Time

Hi, Anita,

 I am a manager over 11 employees. I believe I am well-respected by them and my authority is clear. Lately, I noticed that my employees are no longer asking me to take vacation but TELLING me when they will be out. In the past, it seems they were more courteous and asked for the time off. After all, it’s called a vacation request, right? Not vacation demand. I never say no but would appreciate the courtesy of being asked. Am I being too old school?

Two business peopleDear, Dinah Sore,

We relics of the polite era need to stick together. I get it; vacation is earned by employees, and I don’t begrudge that. In fact, I think it’s healthy to get a clean break from work without, dare I say it, having to check email and answer text messages. But what your staffers need to understand is that you as a manager may have other factors to consider: upcoming deadlines, new projects on the horizon, or other colleagues out of the office at the same time for business trips, vacations, or medical reasons.

Does your employee manual have a vacation request procedure? If not, you may wish to add some verbiage to your handbook for clarity. Can a vacation request be made in person or must be it be made in writing, either via email or by filling out a company form? Establish that all vacation requests must be approved X weeks in advance by the employee’s immediate supervisor. Many companies also include the caveat that vacation scheduling should be mindful of a company’s operational requirements. (I doubt many UPS drivers get vacation requests approved for Christmastime!) It may be a good time to clear up other vacation policy conundrums. (Can employees who have accrued multiple weeks of vacation time take them consecutively?  When two employees request the same time period off, does the staffer with seniority take precedence?) The sample policy at may address some, but not all, of your needs.

And now, for the other side of the coin. Depending on how formal or informal your company culture (and your relationship with your supervisor), here are several ways for employees to ask for vacation time.

  1. Ask instead of tell. “Ms. Supervisor, I have four vacation days left, and I’d love to use them the third week of June. Is that possible?”
  2. Plan around your workload. You’ll earn your manager’s appreciation when you show you’re aware of the side effects of your vacation time. “Mr. Boss, I’d really like to schedule a vacation. I know we are wrapping up that big project at the end of next month. Do you have any objections to me scheduling my trip after that from July 6-10?”
  1. Give plenty of notice. As soon as you get that invitation to your cousin’s graduation or find that great package deal on, put in your vacation request. “I just got some exciting news. My brother’s wedding is December 17. I wanted to ask to use my accrued vacation time from Dec. 14-19.” Time off around the holidays is popular, so ask well in advance.
  2. Put it in writing. It’s not a bad idea to have a paper trail. If your company doesn’t have a standard form, use one of these more conventional sample vacation request letters from
  3. Email your request. If your company is a little less formal, an email request may suffice. “I would like to request the following days off: March 14-18. Please let me know if you have any concerns or anticipate any issues regarding my request.”
  4. If you haven’t earned it/used it. “While I [haven’t accrued / have used all my] vacation time, I would like to request time off for my parents’ 25th anniversary. May I take off September 18 -21 – unpaid?
  5. Mention flexibility. “I haven’t finalized my vacation plans, as I’m still checking out airfares and resort availability, but I would like to take my vacation sometime in mid-August. Are there certain days that would work better for me to be gone?”
  6. Note limitations. “Because I will be on a cruise in the Mediterranean, please note that I will have limited access to the Internet during these days.”

Employees: How do you ask for vacation time off?
Managers: Have you ever had to deny someone’s vacation request? For what reason?

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The Importance of Vacations
Unlimited Vacation: Benefit or Burden?
Rules for Requesting R and R
Proper Use of Sick Days

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julian Edelman
    Jul 01, 2015 @ 19:09:41

    At our company, we just mark our vacation calendar. No real process for getting it approved. This manager in this question seems very rigid.

    Vacation time is an employee benefit and right, not a gift.


  2. Tiffany Lieu
    May 06, 2015 @ 14:16:35

    My past jobs usually did not last too long for me to be more strategic with taking time off. There are always employers who evaluate worker performance with particular productivity in mind, so I would exercise more discretion about the flexibility of asking for time off anyhow you want. These days bosses like to lay people off for so many reasons too. That’s why taking time off in a flexible manner is not a good first choice usually.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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