Worried businessman in dark suit sitting at office desk full with books and papers being overloadedChristmas is eight days away! In school, this used to mean looking forward to much-needed time off for a couple weeks (at my university we got an entire month for winter break). But as many of us 9-to-5ers now know, that extended break in the working world is nonexistent.

But perhaps you’ve saved up some vacation time and have decided that this year is the year to get a taste of that holiday break back. Or perhaps you need to use up your free days before they expire. Yet, for those who answered none of the above, have you ever considered that you could indeed have a few vacation days and don’t even realize it?

If your company offers vacation time, which most do, how does the organization track it? Depending on what state you work in, tracking and monitoring vacation while remaining in line with the current labor laws associated with vacation time can be a challenge.

Using a spreadsheet seems to be a good alternative for some, but spreadsheets do not provide the flexibility of being able to see a detailed list of the time taken, how many days remain, and what rate the employee is accruing vacation at.

Problems with vacation payouts can make for a stressful situation between employees and employers, especially if the year is coming to a close end and your organization has agreed to pay out any unused vacation time. If you are unsure of how much time an employee has left and decide to simply wing it, you could be taking a huge risk by 1) giving an employee too much time off and/or 2) not giving the worker enough time and cheating him or her out of what is owed.

The best way to manage an employee’s time and attendance, as far as vacation calculations are concerned, is with a vacation form. There are several ways to go about using a vacation form, and a multitude of websites available online that can provide you with solid templates, for example,  HRdirect.com.

Vacation forms can be a simple request form with only a few lines for the employee to enter his/her name and information, as well as the requested days off.  The form is then submitted to the required supervisor, who will then approve or deny the request.

So now you have the request in your hands, but what do you do with it?  In addition to a vacation request form for employees, it would also be helpful to have a vacation planner.  A vacation planner is essentially a spreadsheet that provides you with the names of your employee’s along one column, and the dates along the top.

By entering a marking in the dates that the employees have requested, you will be able to see who has which days off. Another great advantage of a vacation planner is that you will have a chance to determine if you will be short staffed when accepting a request, or whether you will have too many or just enough staff, and can easily grant the request.

One copy of the form will need to be returned to the staff member so that the person knows that he or she can take the time off (or not) and the second copy will need to be returned to the employee’s physical employee file. Keep the original in a binder by month, so that you can see which employees have made which requests in any given month. Tracking vacation requests this way can also show you patterns over time (who asks for days off and when), which can come in handy when planning for projects around staff shortages.

Remember to regularly update your vacation planner as required to keep the most up-to-date information as possible. Using a vacation form can make your work life a little easier while also organizing and facilitating the HR process. Though simple and straightforward, these types of forms are a great way to cut costs and ensure compliance on behalf of you as well as your staff.

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