How To Ask Your Boss For Time Off On Short Notice

Andrea Barger |
Andrea (she/her) is our head of PR at Snagajob, where she’s focused on telling the world how we help hourly workers and employers. Her first hourly job was as a lifeguard.

How to Ask For Time Off
Dos and don’ts of requesting time off at work
Whether it’s a vacation you’ve planned for months or a spur-of-the-moment road trip with your friends, there’s a right and a wrong way to ask for days off from work.

Employers often require you to submit a request to your supervisor or manager when you want to take a day off. Some employers even require you to submit your request off a certain period of time before the day you need (for example, giving 10 days of notice) or via a certain channel.

By properly asking for time off, you can increase your chances of your request being approved. Here are some dos and don’ts of asking for time off, and examples of how to do so.
How to ask for time off from work
Do try and give your boss at least two weeks’ notice when asking for time off. Every company is different, so follow your company’s policy for time off requests. Review your company’s vacation policy to make sure your request follows the recommendations.

Do check how many PTO hours or days you have before requesting time. If you’re a new employee, confirm you’re eligible for a vacation before submitting the request. Even if you don’t have paid time off, you may be able to take unpaid leave. Refer to your company's policy or employee handbook, or ask human resources or your manager.

Do put your request in writing (either via email, written letter, or the company timekeeping portal). This way, both you and your manager have all of the details to refer to later.

While it’s not required, you may want to give some details about your trip so your manager is more likely to approve the time. For example, perhaps you’re going on your annual family reunion vacation.

Do make it easy for your boss to say yes and approve the time. Help by lining up coworkers who are willing to cover your shifts or work while you’re out. Check the company calendar to make sure the days you want to take off don’t conflict with other events, projects or colleague PTO.

Do be realistic. If you regularly ask for time off, you shouldn’t expect all of your requests to be approved automatically. Especially if it’s a busy time of year, it can be hard to get off. Work with your manager for the best outcome.

Do compromise and be flexible if you can. For example, if your work is short-staffed the day you’re planning to leave, see if you can offer to work and leave later in the day or even the next day. When you’re a team player, your boss will remember that for future requests.

Do say thank you. Your manager isn’t required to give you the time off except for medical or family leave (like bereavement). Show appreciation if your boss can accommodate your needs and allow you to be out, especially if it requires extra work for them.
How not to ask for time off from work:
Don’t wait until the week of, or worse, the day before, to let your boss know about the time off you need. As soon as you make the plans, you should put in your time off request. This gives your manager enough time to arrange the schedule without you.

Don’t request time off during a busy time. If it’s a busy time for your work, or you personally have a lot of projects or things going on, your manager will be less likely to approve your time.

Don’t tell. Instead, ask. By asking your boss if you can have the time off instead of telling them you’ll be taking the time, you’re showing more respect for your boss and the team. It also shows your openness to making sure all loose ends are wrapped up and covered before you go.
How to request days off in an email or letter
If you request your time off via email, there are a few things you can do to help increase the chances of your manager approving the time, while also following your company’s vacation policies.

Write a short, direct subject line. If you’re writing an email, state the general purpose of your message, and the dates you’re requesting off in the subject line. If you work for a large company or team, it may be helpful to also include your last name.

Example: Smith PTO Request February 8-10, 2021

Clearly state your purpose. After your greeting, use the first sentence of your email to state the purpose of your email, i.e. you’re requesting time off. Remember to ask for the time off, not tell your boss you’re taking time.

Include the dates and reason. Within that first sentence or two, include the dates you’re requesting off. If your company follows an accruing paid time off policy, you may want to include how many PTO hours or days this request is. This can help your employer with updating that information.

Example: I’d like to request time off for [dates]. This would use [number of PTO hours or number of PTO days] from my allotment.

Consider mentioning why you’re requesting PTO. Again, while optional, you may want to mention why you’re requesting time off. This can help your employer better understand the purpose of your request and can help them decide whether to approve your time off or not.

Share how you’re preparing for PTO. In a second paragraph, let your boss know the tasks you’re completing before you go, the work you’re delegating to other colleagues, and other ways you’re preparing your role and team for your absence.

Consider listing the projects and/or tasks you’re working on, what will be finished before you go, and what can wait until you return. This helps show your dedication to your team, as well as lets your employer know the impact of your absence (or lack thereof due to preparation) on the team.

Remain available. As you wrap up your email or letter, let your supervisor know they can contact you for further information, and you may also want to make yourself available for urgent questions while you’re gone. Keep open communication between you and your employer.
How to ask for days off at a new job
If you’re new or just started a job, asking for a vacation can be challenging.

If you already have a trip planned when you are interviewing for a job, that’s ok. It’s appropriate to wait until after you’ve been extended an employment offer and are in the negotiation phase to discuss time off. Share that the trip is already planned, and ask if that could be workable. However, be prepared to take that time unpaid if you won’t have earned any vacation days before you leave.

In most cases, you should try to avoid taking time off for at least your first three months of employment. During that time, your supervisor and team are still getting to know you and your work ethic, so you may have to work to prove yourself before taking time for yourself.
How to ask your boss for time off examples
Here are a few examples of how you can request time off in writing:

[Supervisor name],

I would like to request time off for [date(s)] due to [reason].

Neither I or my team have significant deadlines, projects or presentations to give on this day. May I use my vacation hours toward this day off?

I am happy to discuss this more with you in person. Please let me know.

Thank you,

[Your name]

Dear [supervisor name],

I have [number] of PTO days available and would like to use them on this [date(s)] for [reason].

I’ve reviewed my and the team’s schedule and while [coworker name] isn’t currently on the schedule, [he/she] agreed to cover my shifts for me while I’m gone. I’m also happy to arrange a backup colleague to cover these shifts just in case.

Please let me know! Thank you,

[Your name]

[Supervisor name],

I have reviewed my available PTO days and would like to request time off on [date]. [Reason.] I’ve reviewed my project schedule and will have [project] wrapped up before then and feel my work is at a good holding point.

I’m happy to work with [colleague] to make sure any urgent requests that come through are covered while I’m out. I can also be available by email while I’m out for quick questions.

I’m happy to talk about this in person this week.

Thank you,

[Your name]