There’s no shortage of free holiday request form templates available online. You can download these templates, print them out, and share them with your team. But when you take a closer look at what they do and, more importantly, what they don’t do, you’ll realise that these request form templates don’t solve your underlying problems:

  • They don’t make it easy for your team to request time off.
  • They don’t make it easy for you to handle incoming time off requests.
  • They don’t do anything to help you track and record an employee’s absence.

In this post, we look at how a typical employee holiday request form works (including the pros and cons of using it), and then we explain how you can use Timetastic’s leave management software as a simple and affordable upgrade.

Are you ready to see how Timetastic will simplify your team’s leave request process? Start your free one-month trial.

How employee holiday request forms typically work

Some templates ask for more information than others, but they generally follow a very similar structure. Here we look at the small business holiday request form from Microsoft Office. It’s free to download — but you still need to do some leg-work.

The template has two halves: the top half for your employee to fill out, and the bottom half is for your management team (or whoever is approving the holiday request).

In the top half, the employee puts their name, the date they’re making the request, their title, how much time off they’ve earned so far (which may or may not be relevant, depending on your staff leave policies), and the dates they want to take off. Then there’s a space at the end for the employee signature and the date.  

Microsoft Office's free small business holiday request form.

The bottom half is for you, where you mark whether you approve or decline the request and sign your name.

Microsoft Office's free small business holiday request form.

You can either print this form out and have it filled out by hand, or you can share it over email and have it filled out on the computer.

But when you use an employee holiday request form like this, you run into two glaring issues:

  • Using a form is inefficient. When someone wants to book a holiday, they need to figure out the dates, print a form, fill it out, and hand it to you. Sometimes you won’t be able to handle their request at that very moment. This means forms can end up on a “to-do” pile. If someone is waiting to hear back about their holiday (so they can book flights or hotels, for example), they’ll have to follow up with you. This is no fun for anyone, and it’s another thing added to your growing to-do list.
  • Forms don’t make your other leave management tasks any easier. Once you review someone’s request form, you’re going to need to confirm a few things. You need to make sure that the person requesting the time off has the available balance, but you also need to check the shared work calendar to make sure you have enough staff cover during that time period. If you approve the request, you need to subtract leave from their annual leave balance, which means updating your annual leave record.

So, it’s obvious that using form templates like this are outdated — are there any pros?

Kind of.

There’s only one pro to using an employee holiday request form — a form is a step up from using post-it notes and bits of paper to manage requests. It tells your team what info they need to book their holiday, which cuts back on some back and forth between you and them.

But employee request forms still require everyone to do a lot of leg work, including confirming all the info on the form is accurate, making sure the person has enough available holiday leave, and that their time gets tracked and updated on any company-wide calendars.

Next, we look at how much simpler and faster it is to use software like Timetastic.

A quick overview of Timetastic

Timetastic is our time off management software, which you can access from anywhere using your computer, smartphone, or tablet. When you use Timetastic, you can:

  • Give your team a quick and easy way to book their holidays.
  • Track and record everyone’s time off and leave balances.
  • Hook your account up with Slack and/or Microsoft Teams, as well as Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, iCalendar, or any other calendar that runs off a Webcal feed.

    Note: This integration means all staff holidays get automatically fed into the right calendars.

Below, we look at how you can use Timetastic to replace holiday request forms, making it easier for your team to book their holidays. But if you want to get started with Timetastic and see how it works with your business, then you can start our one-month free trial now.

How your team can book their leave through Timetastic

Your team can book their time off through Timetastic’s web browser or by using our mobile app — available for both iOS and Android devices.

When they log into Timetastic, they’ll see their Wallchart.


Their Wallchart gives them an overview of the current month.

Your team can see who has which days off but not why they are taking time off — to respect everyone’s privacy.

They can also see any public holidays (since Timetastic can pull in public holidays from over 250 countries) along with any locked dates.

Note: A locked date is a date that you’ve marked as unavailable for time off.

When they’re ready to book their holiday, they just select the dates they want and pick which type of leave they’re taking (such as a holiday, sick leave, training, sabbatical, or any other leave type that you've customised in Timetastic.)

Next, they submit their request.

After this, two things can happen, depending on how you want to work:

  • You can have Timetastic set up to handle approvals on your behalf.
  • You can personally handle each time off request yourself.

How do these two options work?

How Timetastic manages your team’s holiday requests automatically

When you create your Timetastic account, you can set up two crucial parameters: locked dates and maximum absent levels.

As we mentioned above, a locked date is a date you've marked as not eligible for time off requests. By marking locked dates, you let your team know when they can’t take time off. Sometimes this is a busy sales day or the Friday right before a public holiday. Or maybe it’s a few days each quarter when you need all hands on deck.

Maximum absent levels are when you tell Timetastic how many people can have the same day off.

Department set staffing levels allowance for days off.

So maybe you’re running a smaller team of six people and you can only have two people off at one time to keep the business running smoothly. In this case, you’d set the maximum absent level to two. Once two people have the same day(s) off approved, Timetastic knows not to let anyone else take that same period off.

And if someone does try to book a holiday when there isn’t enough staff coverage, Timetastic automatically lets them know why they can’t have that time off.

Book time off: Sorry, staff clash. No more than 1 allowed off at the same time.

If you were using holiday request forms instead, they’d have to print out the form, write up their request, put it on your desk, and wait for you to review it — only to find out later that there aren't enough people left in the office.

At Timetastic HQ, we actually let Timetastic handle all time off requests automatically, except for sabbaticals. We want to be in the loop about sabbaticals because they’re for a longer period of time and we need to plan for it. But depending on your business, you may want to handle each time off request. For that, you can do our manual approval process.

Manually approving time off requests

When someone on your team sends a holiday request through Timetastic, it gets routed directly to your email. And from your inbox, you can approve or decline the request immediately. It’s that quick and easy.

Sophie Jones has requested time off: Mon 16th August through Fri 20th August

There’s no back and forth like you’d have with a physical time off request form, because the employee can only ask for time off if your staffing levels are met and all locked dates are observed.

If you don’t want to work out of your email, you can also handle time off requests via Slack, Microsoft Teams, or by logging directly into Timetastic via the web app or mobile app.

You can choose which types of leave you approve manually, and which get approved automatically (if any).

However you want to do it, Timetastic takes a lot of the legwork away, while making sure all holidays get recorded and slotted into the right calendar.

Final thoughts: Connecting your employee holiday requests with the rest of your leave management

There’s another drawback to using leave request forms — these forms can’t connect easily with the rest of your leave management process.

When you sign off someone’s leave request form, you need to open your leave tracker spreadsheet and update the number of days they’ve taken off. Then you need to update your company calendars, so you know — and everyone else knows — when they’re off.

But when you use Timetastic, you don’t need to do that double work.

Everything happens within Timetastic:

  • Your staff members submit their requests.
  • When requests are approved, their annual leave balances are automatically updated.
  • The company Wallchart is updated in real time to show changes to the calendar.
  • The bookings are automatically fed into your employees’ calendars.
  • You can get email summaries sent to your inbox telling you who’s off today and who has time off in the current week.

To see how much faster and simpler it is to use Timetastic instead of a printed piece of paper that’s going to add clutter to your desk, start your free one-month trial today.

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