In a 2017 small business survey conducted by Justworks and Squarefoot, it was reported that less than half (44%) of employees felt that unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) is important. Only about 28% work at organizations that offer unlimited PTO. This week in Astronology® we discuss the basics of PTO.
In general, PTO is identified as vacation, sick leave, and / or personal days; in other words, allotted paid time away from work. While in some cases employers designate a specific amount of days / hours for each reason for being away from work, this article will focus on policies that allow employees to earn a bank of paid time off, and then use the time as they see fit.
The majority of organizations provide employees with paid time away from work, even though it’s not legally required (with the exception of sick leave in certain states and major cities). Paid time off is considered an excellent recruitment tool. As explained by Chron.com, “…many job postings state that the company has a ‘generous vacation policy’ or ‘generous time-off policy’ to increase the company’s appeal to qualified applicants.” This is understandable as there has been an increased focus on work-life balance by the incoming generation of workers.
Two popular forms of awarding PTO are banked and accrued. Banked time is typically awarded at the beginning of the calendar or fiscal year. Accrued time is gained through a designated rate per days (and / or years) worked by the employee. Adds Chron.com’s small business website, “if an employee takes time off before accruing the hours, the time is unpaid. An employer may decide to cut employee compensation costs by reducing the number of PTO hours an employee can accrue.”
Some advantages to having a PTO policy include the following:
- Managers are no longer put in the position of policing and reporting employees’ use of benefits.
- Unscheduled absences are more controlled.
- Employees have more flexibility of use (they can use the time to take care of a sick child, or go on a restorative beach day, for example).
Some disadvantages include the following:
- In cases where paid time off is banked, an employee could save his / her PTO, and leave an organization with a balance of banked time for which the organization would then have to pay the employee.
- Sometimes employees view PTO only as vacation time and will attend work while sick.
Humana, a medical insurance company, gives some suggestions regarding specific elements to consider when building a PTO policy:
- Who is eligible for PTO? (Full-Time, Part-Time, Interns, All?)
- How much PTO will be offered?
- How does PTO time accumulate? (What is the rate? Will it be banked?)
- How can PTO time be taken? (Hour increments? Full days?)
- Can unused time carry over from year to year? If so, how much?
- Can an employee opt to cash out his / her unused days?
The Humana website also suggests that “many employees don’t take vacation because they simply feel they have too much work to do. Creating a culture that prioritizes work-life balance must start from the top.” To avoid some of the disadvantages listed earlier, employers can begin to emphasize the need for proper work-life balance and encourage proper use of the organization’s PTO policy.
Does your organization have a robust PTO policy? Are you considering adjusting the policy to appeal talent in the coming years? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Richard Virgilio says
Care must be taken by organizations to establish expectations early and reinforce them often. The point of employment is for employees to WORK, not just pass by and update their PTO accounts. Setting the right climate and proportionality of work to PTO is vital for the policy–however liberally or tightly determined–ensures that employees actually earn their PTO. After all, as alluded to in some of the “downside” items in the article, PTO is a LIABILITY to the organization.
Jennifer Loftus says
Thanks for your input, Rich! It’s always good to hear from you.