The cornerstone of absence management is looking after your team by making sure that they can take some time off when they want (or need) to. And to do that properly, you need an easy way to manage everyone’s time off requests and annual leave balances.

But while the basics of managing staff absences are similar across all companies, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all absence management software. Your business will have different needs to another one, depending on your size, setup, and the leave policies you have in place.

In this post, we look at two types of absence management software. These include:

  1. A lightweight option: Often best if you have a small to midsize business and need a simple way to manage employee absences (from booking time off to knowing when and why someone is absent). For this option, we focus on our software, Timetastic.
  2. A heavy-duty option: Absence management tools that are part of more extensive heavy-duty HR software and HR management systems. In this guide, we highlight two popular options: Oracle Workforce Management and Sage HR.

Are you ready for an easy way to track and manage absences? You can use Timetastic to handle all aspects of your team’s absences, from holiday leave to sick leave (and everything in between). Start your free trial today.

Timetastic: Lightweight absence management software for small to midsize companies

A GIF preview of the Timetastic wallchart.

We made Timetastic so you can quickly know when and why people are taking time off, without dealing with the messy world of Excel spreadsheets, post-it notes stuck to screens, and wall calendars covered with scribbles. It’s simple, affordable, and easy to use.

Here’s how Timetastic works in a nutshell:

  • All your team’s time off is automatically tracked on your digital Wallchart (which you can access through a browser or on our mobile app). Different leave types are colour-coded with a descriptive icon, so you immediately know which type of absence someone is taking (e.g. sick leave, holiday leave, sabbatical, etc.).

  • You can get email summaries (daily, weekly, or both) with info about who’s off, when, and why. This helps keep you in the know about upcoming staff absences.

  • Everyone on your team can integrate their Timetastic account with their favourite work calendar (like Google Calendar and iCalendar) as well as with Slack and Microsoft Teams. Employees don’t need to log into Timetastic to see the leave they’ve booked, and their work calendar is more organised.

But Timetastic can do more to make your absence management even easier.

We made it our goal to automate absence tracking as much as possible. This way, you don’t need to spend time managing staff absences. Timetastic automatically does it for you.

Below, we explain how you can set up Timetastic to manage your staff absences with minimal intervention.

First step: Set your department staffing levels

Adding department staffing levels lets Timetastic know the minimum number of people you need at work during a specific time period.

For example, let’s say you always need 4 customer service representatives working at one time, out of your team of 8. You would set the minimum staffing requirement to 4. That way, if 4 agents took a week off, then a 5th agent wouldn’t be able to submit a time off request for that same period.

Department set staffing levels allowance for days off.

If someone on your team tries to book time off that exceeds the maximum number absent at once, Timetastic lets them know their request won’t go through due to your staffing levels.

So, in this case, you don’t need to worry about personally receiving the request and checking to see if your department is staffed. And you won’t accidentally give too many people the same day off. Timetastic takes care of all that busywork for you.

An absence management pro-tip: Plan for the unexpected. Sometimes more people get sick and need to take an absence. It’s impossible to know when that’ll happen, so you might want to add one more number to your minimum staffing level requirement. For example, if your department can get by with 4 customer service reps, then maybe set the minimum staffing level to 5. You can do this all year round, or just during times when your team is extra busy.

Second step: Set your locked dates

Locked dates are times when you don’t want your team to take any planned leave.

These locked dates can be set for whole departments, like when you need all hands on deck for the sales team during a peak call day. Or it can be set for specific individuals, for example, when you need a certain person in the office to handle the quarterly accounts.

Cassie’s tweet: “Lock Dates: Users can't book time off during this period.

This way, when someone on your team goes to book their time off, they won’t be able to put their requests through on those important days.

However, we do recommend you use this feature sparingly, as locked dates limit when your team can take time off. For more info on why we think this is important, read our previous article about what makes a good (fair) time off request policy.

Third step: Pick which types of leave require approval

With Timetastic, you have a simple and fast way to approve time off requests. Each request can get sent to your email, where you can approve or decline from your inbox. But we also let you limit how often you need to approve those requests personally.

Leave types: Create different categories for different days off (Holiday, Sick Leave, Maternity/Paternity, Sabbatical, Christmas Leave, Christmas Leave, Compassionate, etc.).

For example, in the Timetastic team, we only require approval for sabbaticals. For all other requests, we let Timetastic automatically approve or decline the request. This is because we’ve already set the parameters above (staffing levels and locked dates), so we know if someone books a holiday, that it works for us. So it’s automatically approved.

This type of setup makes your life easier because you don’t have to handle every request, check messy calendars, or track ever-changing leave balances. It also makes it easier on your team, who aren’t waiting for you to get back to them while they’re planning their holiday.

Also, as you can see above, we also let you select which types of leave are deducted from someone’s balance. We leave sick leave unchecked because when someone is sick, it shouldn’t be deducted from their annual holiday allowance.

You’re giving Timetastic the info it needs to run your absence management process by setting these parameters. Time off requests can be automatically approved or declined, you get updates sent directly to your email, and annual leave balances will always be up-to-date.

When you use Timetastic as a Pro user, you get access to a feature called Absence Insights.

Absence insights in Timetastic: Your organisation's absence data, at a glance.

Here you get a lot of really valuable data in one place.

  • You can see all the pending time off requests.
  • You can see how many people are in your department.
  • You can see how much time off your entire team has left to take in the year.
  • You can see which type of leave was most commonly taken (and when).

With our Burnout Board, shown below, you can see who hasn’t had time off in a while. It’s an easy way for you to manage absences (or more accurately, the lack of absences).

Burnout Board in Timetastic: See who might be overworking or in need of a break.

Making sure your team takes their time off is an undervalued part of good absence management. And with the Burnout Board, you know who needs a holiday, which helps reduce unplanned absences and sick leave.

If you’re ready to try Timetastic, start your free trial today.

Absence management software options for larger organisations

Larger teams can (and do) use Timetastic to handle their absences, time off requests, approvals, and holiday tracking. It works great for all kinds of businesses. And they take advantage of the Burnout Board and Absence Insights features to track important analytics.

But some larger teams take an even deeper “data-led” approach to managing individual absences, or want their absence management software to be part of a heavy-hitting HR tool.

For these companies, we’ve listed two options to consider:

Option #1: Oracle Workforce Management

Oracle Workforce Management homepage: Align business strategy, reduce compliance risk, and deploy the workforce with greater control.

Oracle Workforce Management is just one small part of the much larger platform, Oracle Cloud HCM, a.k.a. “human capital management”.

According to their website, Oracle is “a complete solution connecting every human resource process from hire to retire.” It helps with recruiting, interviewing, job performance plans, and so on.

Oracle is worth considering if you need multiple tools within your software, rather than just an absence management system.

There are benefits to this. For example, your payroll and time off management systems are now housed in the same cloud. This makes it easier to reconcile time off with owed holiday or sabbatical pay. Similarly, if you have a leave policy that changes based on how long an employee has been with a company, Oracle can help you track those changes over time.

But unless you have many hundreds (or thousands) of employees at your organisation — or you have several different issues you want solved with a piece of software — Oracle may be overkill. If you’re just looking for an easy way to handle team absences, Timetastic is a better option.

Option #2: Sage Human Resources Management System

Sage HR homepage: Create amazing work-life experiences for your people with Sage HR.

Sage is a little less complicated and sophisticated than Oracle, but it’s still more than a simple absence management solution. If you choose Sage, you get to customise your package — which helps eliminate the features you don’t need.

Below we cover each Sage module, and we include the price — based on 30 employees.

(As you add more employees, Sage becomes more cost-efficient.)

  • Core HR + Leave management. This is your HR essentials, including absence management. This is a must-have module for Sage. If you just get this, you’re paying £120 a month, or £4 per user per month.

  • Performance module. This lets you set goals, schedule one-on-one meetings, and provide feedback to your team. If you add the performance module to your package, you’re now paying £180 per month for a team of 30, or £6 per employee.

  • Shift scheduling: This lets you schedule your shifts within Sage, so your team can see when they’re on the clock. This is a nice feature for shift work or project-based teams. When you add this module, you’re paying £240 a month, which is £8.33 per user per month.

  • Timesheets: Timesheets let you figure who worked when and what they’re owed. This helps streamline shift scheduling, leave management, and accounting. You’re now paying £300 a month, or £10 per user per month with this module.

  • Expenses: Sage is great when you have traveling staff or people who need a per diem or who use their own money and need to be reimbursed. Your team just uses the Sage mobile app to upload their expenses, and accounting can handle the rest. When you add this module, you jump up to £330 a month, or £11 per user per month.

  • Recruitment: Recruitment is vital for any company, so it makes sense that when you add this module, your monthly rate sees a big jump to £480 a month. With Sage, you can create job ads, manage online applicants, and schedule interviews.

Next steps: Choosing the right absence management software for your team

If you’re looking for absence management software to be part of a fully-fledged human resources department, vendors like Oracle and Sage are proven in the enterprise world. You can integrate absence management with payroll, performance management, recruiting, staff onboarding, and much more. But if you’re a small to midsize business, it’s probably overkill.

Most businesses just need a simple way to manage absences, and a chance to track leave balances, handle holiday requests, and know when and why people are off work. Often, it’s these companies who are getting bogged down by spreadsheets and shared calendars.

Timetastic simplifies everything around absence management, from processing your team’s leave requests to automatically calculating people’s leave balances. And it does this for you while being lightweight, accessible, and affordable.

If you’re ready to try Timetastic, start your free trial today.