U of T staff can soon request, track vacation online

Empty office chair with sign that says Out of Office

Vacation – it’s a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. But in the past, requesting vacation and other types of leaves involved multiple spreadsheets, emails and a lot of hassle. Soon, U of T staff and faculty will be able to submit leave requests online, have them approved by managers and view their updated records in real time.

On January 28, the Division of Human Resources & Equity (HR&E) along with Enterprise Applications & Solutions Integration (EASI) launched Phase 2 of Manager Self-Service (MSS) – Leave Requests and Approvals. This new feature is more convenient than the previous paper-based process, and will allow for more accurate tracking.

“In the past, our HR information system that tracks leave was manually updated retroactively each month, and didn’t account for future planned vacations,” says Hayley Fuller, communications and change manager with HR&E. “Now users can make a request online, meaning fewer emails, accurate data, and improved tracking.”

Users simply log into Employee Self Service, select their leave details, and requests are sent to managers for approval. Users also receive a confirmation email that their leave was submitted correctly. It is currently being piloted with HR&E, Information Technology Services and the Financial Services Department. Leave requests include sick days, bereavement, training, personal days, and vacation leaves.

“Honestly, my team loves it – the training took all of two minutes and it’s very intuitive,” says Cherilyn Nobleza, director of HR Strategic Initiatives and a member of the pilot project. “Since January 28, I’ve had over 35 leave request notifications. In the past, staff would send an email and then managers would have to log each of the leaves into a spreadsheet. Then it would go to the business officer for them to track in HRIS. Now, it’s a much easier, streamlined process.”

Clara Pereira, business manager for Information Technology Services, agrees.

“I love it. Managing leave requests used to involve a lot of back and forth with emails and often key information would be missing, which meant even more emails for clarification. Now, everything is in one system and the transition has been very smooth. It’s saving time and reducing the amount of work for everyone.”

Managers can also log in at any time to view their team’s calendar and coordinate scheduling. Everything in the system is exportable, printable and up to date.

“The process of requesting and approving leaves through MSS and Employee Self-Service (ESS) ensures leaves are accurately reflected in our HR information system on a timely basis. Requesting and approving a leave through this process is straightforward,” says Karen Jang-Leung, a business officer with U of T’s Finance Division.  “The MSS/ESS pilot provides the Finance Division with an opportunity to provide input on improving the system for all users.”

Beyond the pilot units, developing this feature was a highly consultative process.

“We have a diverse project leadership group that consults representatives from across the university,” says Nobleza, who is part of the group. “For example, there are nuances to how academics work versus other staff members, and understanding all aspects of different processes will ensure the success of this project.”

Next steps for the project will allow managers to designate a substitute leave request approver.

After the pilot, the function will be available to any other units at the university. Those who are interested in using this system can contact request.notification@utoronto.ca to start the process.

“This really is an exciting development that will help to streamline a previously cumbersome process,” says Fuller. “Staff and faculty will be able to manage their leaves accurately and this helps us from an audit and data integrity perspective. Overall, it will help staff to focus on what’s important.”