Every employee-employer relationship has innumerable variables and an equally large number of nuances. Because of this diversity, there's no one “right” way to notify your employer of a change in availability, unless advised to do so by company policy. However, there are some nearly universal rules that apply across job types and relationships, which makes the intimidating process of changing your availability less stressful.
Refer to your employee handbook or employment contract before you do anything. Each job is different and companies enforce different sets of rules. Above all, follow any instructions given by your handbook or contract in regards to changing your availability or taking time off. For instance, your employer's policy may stipulate that you must give one week of notice to take paid time off; in this case, you should expect paid time off only if you notify your employer within the specified time frame. Acting by the book helps safeguard your place in the company and makes the process of changing your availability go smoothly.
Provide as much notice as you possibly can. As a rule of thumb, let your employer know about your change in availability as soon as you know yourself. Oftentimes, your employer expects 30 days' notice for major scheduled events that affect your availability, such as a surgery or a trip planned far in advance. For emergencies, such as a car accident or death in the family, employers typically expect only as much notice as you are practically able to give.
Discuss your availability face to face with your manager or boss. First, write down all the important things you want to tell your boss about your availability changes -- including the dates or times that will be affected and the reason for the change -- and review it in private. In your meeting, be polite, but clear and direct -- don't beat around the bush. Tell your boss exactly what has changed about your availability, whether it be a shift in your available hours or the need to take time off for a family emergency. Let your boss know exactly when the change will take effect and how long you expect it to last.
Put it in writing. Neatly type up your new schedule and give your employer a hard copy when you speak to her. Send a digital copy of your new schedule via email to your boss as a reminder of your new availability.
Be flexible. Don't expect your employer to immediately accept everything about your change in availability. Be prepared to compromise where necessary. You may have to work with your employer to come up with a schedule that works for both parties.
Know your rights. If you've worked at least 12 months for a private-sector company with at least 50 employees, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees you the right to 12 unpaid workweeks of leave for every 12 months you've worked. The FMLA covers situations including childbirth, serious health conditions or caring for a sick spouse, child or parent.
Don't expect paid time off unless it's specifically guaranteed in your contract. No federal law requires paid off-time for employees. In 2011, about 25 percent of Americans did not have access to paid vacation perks, according to CNN.