It sounds like a dream. Take time off from work when you need it. But how does unlimited PTO work?
An increasing number of job descriptions feature unlimited paid time off (unlimited PTO) as a benefit. Sick, vacation, bereavement, and other types of leave are grouped into a single cube. There is no limit to the number of days it can take. If it sounds good to be true, in a way it is. Please note that your work has yet to be done.
“Unlimited PTO is not unlimited. There are definitely a few different considerations employers need to include in their plan to make sure it works well, ”says Liz Peterson, manager of the Knowledge Center for the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Virginia. “There are some limits and some exceptions. Just because it is an unlimited balance does not mean that all requests will be accepted. Employers must take into account their staffing needs. ”
Unlimited PTO policies as job benefits
Unlimited PTO is an attractive bargaining chip, especially in competitive industries looking to attract top talent. Companies say it is a way of showing that they care about their employees and trust them to make good decisions about the time they need to get the job done.
Research in 2018 from the HR platform Namely shows that people with unlimited free time take fewer days off (13) on average than those with a limited number (15).
“Many employers are initially very concerned about the unlimited PTO plans because they feel like people will abuse them,” Peterson said. “But what we’re finding from employers is that generally that’s limited to a few outliers that abuse the system, and most are actually using less PTO than they would in a limited PTO plan. “.
Unlimited PTO Considerations
There are many things to think about when considering an unlimited PTO job or if your company is considering changing its policy. The federal government does not require time off policies, so the amount of time off full-time employees earn varies.
Types of license policies
- Traditional: An employee earns a specified amount of time off, often based on how long they stay with the company. Hours accrued are often separated by type, such as vacation or sick leave. This system allows a business to calculate the cost of time off and establish PTO levels based on seniority. If an employee leaves a company, the employee may be entitled to unused time pay. Some companies limit the hours an employee can deposit or transfer from one year to the next.
- Flexible: Some companies combine all types of free time in one group so that employees can have flexibility when they need time and do not necessarily have to define the type of time they are taking. Sometimes employees are entitled to be paid if they leave. Some companies limit the number of hours an employee can accumulate or carry over from one year to the next.
- Unlimited: As long as time off does not interrupt business or the ability to complete work, employees can take the time they need and want. If an employee leaves, there is no pay as no time was actually earned or accrued.
Unlimited PTO is not the norm
According to MetLife’s 2020 U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study, 70% of employees surveyed during two waves in late 2019 and early 2020 wanted unlimited time off, while only 4% of companies they offered it.
“I worked under the philosophy of unlimited PTO for some time. I’ve been a manager for probably over a decade and I’ve always felt that we are all individuals, and we all have different needs when it comes to recharging and it’s important that we can recharge, ”says Isaac Josephson. , Senior Vice President of Product Management for fuboTV in New York. “Even when I did not work for companies with an official unlimited PTO policy, my policy under the table was to take what you need, as long as you get the job done, we will make it happen.”
Unlimited PTO benefits and drawbacks
There seem to be two types of people in a workplace; those who need to take time off to freshen up and those who pride themselves on working all the time and apparently don’t need or want time off.
Neither of you understands the other, and in a workplace that doesn’t have a firm policy on how many days off a person can take, there can be conflict.
“One of the biggest problems is that employees avoid taking PTO because they are afraid and not quite sure when it is acceptable to take a vacation or how long it should take,” Peterson said.
Benefits for the boss
The employer or company with unlimited TDF systems:
- Show confidence in employees to make good decisions.
- You often realize a cost savings because there is no vacation obligation on the books.
- Eliminate December urgency from everyone trying to take unused time before it expires.
- It keeps employees engaged because they know they can take time off if they need it.
- Negotiate on flexibility. Employees often work harder and invest in the mission of the company to make sure work gets done and to take time off.
There is also a reduction in administrative time spent keeping track of free time categories.
“It really depends on the employer whether they want to track it or not. You pay your employees their salary and some employers say, heck, we’re not even going to track it, ”Peterson said. “I think most employers track it because they want to know how it is used and they may also want to be able to identify if there is some kind of pattern or overuse.”
Benefits for the worker
There are also employee benefits that with unlimited PTO you can:
- Take some time off for whatever reason you want. There is no need to claim or rationalize a “mental health day.”
- Take time off at any time; there is no need to wait until the time accumulates.
- Stay home when you are sick without feeling guilty or stay home to care for a sick family member.
- Spend time on your personal interests or hobbies, even if they are during traditional work hours.
- Make sure employers trust them to focus on contributions rather than the clock.
Unlimited PTO Disadvantages
There are some downsides for both companies and employees. If you work for a company with these types of licensing possibilities, it is good to know that:
- Businesses miss out on the possibility of free time being a reward for loyalty and longevity. If everyone has equal access to free time, there may be no incentive to stay with a company.
- Expendability can be a problem if someone admits that their work is done, leaving their schedule free. Don’t have enough work to do?
- The creation of the so-called martyrs of work is a possibility. These are employees who choose not to take time off for various reasons. Does anyone look inferior or non-dedicated if they take a random vacation or days off?
- There is also no accumulation of time off for something big or a personal severance package.
How long to take?
So how do you know what unlimited really means? Work still needs to be done, and in some industries, employees must meet minimum quotas or bill customers for a certain number of hours.
One way to find out what the policy means in your company is to ask others. Find out how long they take and if managers and supervisors encourage people to take time off.
“Employers need to be very clear and also model vacation behavior, and leaders need to talk about it all the time,” Peterson suggested. “Talking to your staff about their plans and what they did helps everyone realize that vacations are a good thing to do, and even my boss does it.”
Even if the policy is unlimited PTO, employees must receive a written policy.
Gail Farb, an employment attorney with Williams Parker Attorneys at Law in Sarasota, Florida, recommends that the policy include:
- How and when to apply for PTO.
- Circumstances in which an application can be rejected.
- If there is an expectation of taking vacations every year.
- If there is a maximum amount of time to take at a time.
- If there is a minimum amount of time that employees must take.
- How the PTO works with leaves of absence including FMLA, military leave, etc.
- How supervisors control free time.
- The consequences if there is a pattern of excessive use of free time.
- A clear statement about PTO pay if an employee leaves.
For unlimited PTO policies to work, communication is key, especially from management.
“We need to move from approving the vacation in a way that makes people feel like it’s a fight for the team. That can make people feel like they can’t reapply, ”Peterson said. “But when we enthusiastically approve your vacation request and are excited about it, it takes that pressure off and lets employees know, ‘I did it right. This is good. I can take a vacation. “
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with over 25 years of experience writing on finance, health, travel, and other topics.