How To Write a PTO Request Email

Updated September 27, 2023

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Paid vacation time is an important workplace benefit that allows employees to have a healthy work-life balance. Vacations can often improve productivity by keeping morale high and allowing employees to return to work rested and ready to thrive. If you would like to take time off from your job, you will need to submit an official request to your employer or HR representative.

In this article, we explain how to write an effective PTO email and to plan for your vacation days to make the process as simple as possible.

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What is paid time off?

Paid time off refers to vacation days that are accounted for in your salary and can be taken without seeing a loss of pay. PTO days allow you to take the time you need without having to worry about missing a paycheck. 

If you don't have PTO benefits, the tips in this guide can still help you write a time-off request if you choose to take unpaid vacation time from work.

Related: Guide: Leave of Absence Letter Request (With Examples)

Why is PTO important?

Although PTO is an excellent perk for employees, it has benefits for the company. Taking time away from work keeps employees’ spirits up and makes for a happier workforce. Not only is this great news for the employee who gets to take time off and keep getting paid, but it can also work out well for the company.

Besides perks making it easier to hire quality employees—and to keep the employees a company already has—raised morale often correlates with raised productivity, so employees get more done in the weeks they are in the office.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Work-Life Balance

How to write a PTO request email

Even if your PTO is contractually obligated, you should still submit requests in a professional manner. Here are the elements you need to craft a strong PTO request email when you ask for vacation days:

1. Write a clear subject line

It’s always a good practice in professional emails to provide a descriptive title that allows the recipient to know what they are getting before they open the body of the email. Include your name and the dates you will request off. Example: “PTO Requested for Thomas Johnson from September 16-September 20.”

Related: 13 Types of Employment Letters and When To Use Them

2. Open with a greeting

Choosing the right salutation for your email starts your PTO request on a positive note. If you know your supervisor’s preferences, open in a manner that fits their preferred way of being referred to in an email. If you are unsure of their preference, opt for a simple and professional option like “Dear Ms. Hernandez” to begin your email.

Related: How To Choose Letter Salutations and Greetings (With Tips and Examples)

3. State your desired vacation days

State your purpose directly in the body of the email, informing your employer you are requesting PTO and the days desired. For example, “I would like to request paid time off from Monday, September 16 to Friday, September 20.”

4. Provide a reason for the absence

Your employer should know why you are requesting the time off, and you should be honest. For example, “I will take a family vacation to visit my parents.”

Related: Sick Time vs. PTO: Definitions and FAQs

5. Demonstrate appropriate preparations

Your PTO request is more likely to be accepted if you show that there will be minimal disruption because of your absence. Mention any coverage needs, available means of contact while away if any and workload preparations. For example, “I will be available by phone in the event of a work emergency, and Paul Costa will cover calls from my clients when needed.”

6. Request permission

Remember that you're making a request, not a demand, as the respect shown will increase the chances of the request being well received. For instance, you could ask, “Will this be acceptable?”

7. Close with gratitude

Thanking your employer for the consideration is a sign of respect and will improve your chances for success when used as a closing. Sign the email with your name and contact information.

Related: How To End a Letter (With 20 Closing Examples)

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PTO request email tips

Although a PTO email should be brief, there are other actions you can take which will improve your chances of receiving PTO and returning from your time off ready to work:

Know the company guidelines

Read your contract or speak with human resources to ensure you know the rules about requesting time off, including if there are requirements for how far in advance you must apply or specific forms you need to fill out. Following the procedure maximizes the odds of success.

Related: Q&A: 2 Weeks Vacation

Give ample lead time

Whether your company requires a set length of time between your request and the dates you're seeking or not, it’s always a good practice to provide plenty of lead time. A minimum of two weeks of notice should always be given, though more time is better, so if you're planning your vacation months in advance, you should submit your PTO request at the same time.

Pick a convenient date

Understanding workflow at your company is important when requesting PTO. If you work in a seasonal job with fast and slow periods, you shouldn’t request time off right when things will be most hectic. Asking for leave during a slow period instead makes it easier to accommodate your request.

Related: What Is a Personal Day? Definition and Examples

Keep it simple

One of the easiest mistakes to make when requesting vacation days is to justify your absence. Keep your email short and to the point, including the details covered above in just a few sentences.

Related: 15 Types of Business Letters and the Purpose of Each

Get required cover first

If your job is not one where you can prepare by completing all projects before leaving and requires a coworker to provide cover, arrange for coverage before sending your request. Confirm with a coworker that they can handle covering for you if your PTO request is approved so you can show your supervisor that nothing has been overlooked and work won’t be left undone in your absence.

Prepare for time off

Although it’s easy to get your mind on your vacation as it draws nearer and lose focus as a result, you should instead do your best to be even more diligent in the weeks leading up to your time off.

Completing just a little more work each day before leaving can help you take tasks out of the work you will miss while away. Proper preparation before your time off can prevent being overloaded when you return.

Related: PTO vs. Vacation: What Are the Differences?

Follow up before leaving

If your PTO is accepted and your vacation days get approved, take the time to follow up as your vacation days draw nearer. For vacation days requested several months in advance, a warning of one to two weeks is optimal.

If you requested your vacation days within a month of leaving, an email two business days before leaving will suffice. As with the request, a simple email body like, “I am reaching out to remind you that, per my prior request, I will be away from the office next week. All clients have been notified and emergency coverage is arranged,” is all you need.

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Q&A: What is a Sabbatical?
A sabbatical is an extended leave from your job that guarantees your position when you return. It can be paid or unpaid depending on your employer, and is often only offered to employees who have been with the company for several years.

Taking a sabbatical gives you the chance to:

  • travel the world

  • complete personal goals

  • participate in your community

  • connect with nature

  • rest

  • participate in a relaxing activity

  • spend time with loved ones

  • go back to school

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