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Day Off

How Can a Manager Reject an Employee’s Time-Off Request?

Closeup of a fountain pen and word Rejected on bright background

As a manager, one of your key responsibilities is balancing the needs of your team with the requirements of the business. This includes managing time-off requests, which can sometimes be challenging. Rejecting an employee’s time-off request, while necessary in certain situations, requires a tactful, fair, and legal approach. This article outlines the best practices for handling such situations.

Understanding the Grounds for Rejection

Before delving into the process of rejection, it’s crucial to understand the valid reasons for denying a time-off request. These include:

  • Business Needs: High workload periods, or situations where an employee’s absence would significantly impact operations.
  • Staffing Levels: Insufficient coverage due to overlapping requests or staff shortages.
  • Policy Adherence: Requests that violate company policies, such as blackout periods or insufficient notice.

Legal Considerations

Ensure your decisions comply with employment laws and company policies. This includes understanding the rights of employees regarding vacation, sick leave, and family emergencies under local and national laws. Avoid discriminatory practices and ensure consistency in how requests are handled.

Communicating the Decision

Effective communication is key to handling these situations professionally:

  • Timeliness: Respond to requests promptly. Delayed responses can create uncertainty and frustration.
  • Clarity: Clearly state the reason for the day off rejection, linking it to business needs or policy.
  • Empathy: Acknowledge the disappointment your decision might cause. Show understanding and appreciation for their work-life balance needs.

Offering Alternatives

When rejecting a request, try to offer alternatives. This could include suggesting different dates for the time off or proposing a partial approval (e.g., approving a few days instead of a full week).


Maintain records of all time-off requests and the reasons for approval or rejection. This helps in ensuring fairness and transparency and can be useful for auditing and legal purposes.

Reviewing Company Policies

Regularly review your time-off policies to ensure they are fair, clear, and meet business and employee needs. Consider peak times, and how flexible your policies can be to accommodate both parties.

Training and Support

Provide training for all managers on how to handle time-off requests fairly and effectively. This should include legal training, communication skills, and empathy training.

Example 1: Straightforward Rejection Due to Business Needs

Subject: Response to Your Time-Off Request

Dear [Employee’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing in response to your request for time off from [start date] to [end date].

After careful consideration and review of our team’s schedule and workload during the requested period, I regret to inform you that I am unable to approve your time-off request at this time. The dates you have requested coincide with a critical period for our team, specifically [mention specific project, event, or busy season], and your presence and contributions will be crucial.

I understand that this may be disappointing, and I want to assure you that this decision was not made lightly. I fully recognize the importance of work-life balance and taking time off for personal wellbeing. However, the needs of the business must take priority in this instance.

I encourage you to consider requesting time off during a less busy period, and I will do my best to accommodate your next request. Please feel free to discuss any concerns or alternative dates with me. Your hard work and dedication to the team are greatly appreciated, and I am committed to supporting your needs as much as possible within our business constraints.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Best regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Example 2: Offering an Alternative Suggestion

Subject: Alternative Suggestion for Your Time-Off Request

Dear [Employee’s Name],

Thank you for submitting your request for time off from [start date] to [end date]. I have reviewed our team’s schedule and workload during this period and would like to discuss your request further.

While I understand the importance of taking time off for personal reasons, the dates you have requested are during a particularly busy time for our team, due to [mention specific project, event, or busy season]. This makes it challenging to approve the full duration of your requested time off.

However, I would like to propose an alternative. Would it be possible for you to consider taking time off from [alternative start date] to [alternative end date]? I believe these dates could work better with our team’s schedule, and I am hopeful that this could be a suitable compromise.

I am open to discussing this further and exploring other potential dates if the suggested alternative does not suit your plans. Your wellbeing and job satisfaction are important, and I am keen to find a solution that works for both you and the team.

Please let me know your thoughts on this suggestion or any other dates you may have in mind.

Thank you for your understanding and flexibility.

Best regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Position]

Example 3: Balanced Rejection with Understanding and Future Planning

Subject: Your Recent Time-Off Request – Let’s Discuss Further

Dear [Employee’s Name],

I hope you are doing well. I’m writing regarding your recent request for time off from [start date] to [end date].

Firstly, I want to express my appreciation for the hard work you’ve been putting into [mention any recent project or task the employee has been working on]. It’s efforts like yours that contribute significantly to our team’s success.

Regarding your time-off request, I’ve reviewed our current project timelines and team coverage for the requested period. Unfortunately, due to [specific reason, such as a major project deadline or peak operational period], I find myself in a difficult position of not being able to approve the request for these specific dates. Your role is integral to our team’s efforts during this period, and your presence will be greatly valued.

I recognize the importance of time off for personal rejuvenation and work-life balance. Therefore, I’d like to work with you to find an alternative solution. If possible, could we consider shifting your time off to [suggest alternative dates]? I believe these dates could align better with our team’s workload while still offering you the break you deserve.

If these alternative dates are not feasible for you, I am more than willing to discuss and explore other possible periods. Your wellbeing is a priority, and I am committed to finding a solution that accommodates both your needs and those of our team.

Please let me know a convenient time for us to have a brief meeting or call to discuss this further. Your understanding and flexibility in this matter are deeply appreciated, and I am hopeful we can find a suitable arrangement.

Thank you for your continued dedication and understanding. Looking forward to our conversation.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Position]


Rejecting an employee’s time-off request is a sensitive task that requires a careful balance between business needs and employee rights. By understanding the valid grounds for rejection, communicating effectively, offering alternatives, and ensuring legal compliance, managers can handle these situations in a way that maintains trust and respect in the workplace. Remember, the goal is to manage these requests in a way that supports both the employee’s well-being and the organization’s objectives.