HR tips

Ask HR: What are good reasons to deny time off?

Created in partnership with Sherweb, their HR team lends their expertise to tackle pressing HR questions. First up: reasons to deny time off.

Simply put, the only acceptable reason to deny time off is based on business needs. If being understaffed during this period could jeopardize the performance of your organization, you can deny this time off request.

Here are some things to think about when determining your ability to meet your business needs:

  • Minimum number of employees needed to ensure adequate service to customers
  • Deliverables, projects, and tasks in the pipeline (especially ones with a tight deadline)
  • Upcoming meetings with customers, suppliers, or other major stakeholders
  • Minimum number of employees per department needed to fulfill its function

Your role as an employer is to determine the non-negotiable requirements to ensure business continuity. You should also ensure you have clear rules and processes for taking vacation and other leave types. A clear time-off policy and clear rules communicated to your entire organization reduce dissatisfaction and avoid perceptions of favoritism.

For example, as part of your time-off policy, you can determine the minimum number of employees who can be on leave at the same time, impose a minimum time limit for evaluating leave requests, determine who has access to choose their vacation first (many organizations use seniority as the determining factor), etc. Setting these clear rules will lead to fewer misunderstandings when it comes to time off.

Besides, while you have the right to deny time off as an employer, always remember that you have an employment relationship with your employees. Showing flexibility, understanding and compromise will be beneficial in the long term for employee engagement, especially if we are talking about an employee who often goes the extra mile to ensure good service to your customers or to achieve operational excellence. Do not hesitate to go above and beyond for the employees who do the same for your organization!

Make sure that the reasons you give to justify these business needs are real and unchangeable. While the short-term effects of being understaffed can be negative, the long-term benefits for team engagement are often far greater. Not only will the employee want to do more for you if you are understanding and flexible, your team will also appreciate decisions that promote the well-being of your organization as a whole. Being an accommodating employer will have you coming out as a winner everytime.

And never forget that access to leave and vacation is a right! Employees need to be able to rest to recharge and come back strong. This is stipulated by law and is not a matter of personal opinion. The main challenge is to have the rules, processes, and tools in place to manage leave and employees well!

– Felix Roy is a Business Partner on the Human Resources team at Sherweb

This is the first in a new series created in partnership with Sherweb, a leading cloud solutions provider. Sherweb’s HR team will be using their expertise to answer your questions related to time off, onboarding, remote work, employee engagement, and all things workplace culture. If you have a question for them, please send it to us at

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