PTO vs. Vacation, Sick, and Personal Time

I have always been of the opinion that if my employer offers me vacation or PTO then it is my right to take it for whatever I want without explanation. A PTO policy creates a pool of days that employees can use at their discretion. This creates a sense that they may actually get a true work/life balance. Does your employer ask you for details of your PTO? If so, why?

Why should it matter how employees are using their time? Did they earn it? Did they follow policy and procedure for requesting it? Did it get approved? If so, then you shouldn’t have to go any further. The reason I ask is because if managers are asking why or where someone is going does that make it subjective to the manager to pick and choose which time off they will approve and which they won’t if they don’t like the answer from the employee? Is saying that I want to stay home and work a week in my garden without interruption any less or more important than wanting time off to go to a theme park with the family? Approving time should be based on the policies and procedures of the organization. For example, your company may use the “first come, first served” approach or the “seniority” route. If you use these methods instead of finding out the itinerary of your team member you are in better shape to stay away from a discrimination claim. An employee that overhears an approval for the theme park but then requests the garden time and gets denied may question your decision and your motives resulting in filing a grievance.

A PTO Bucket of Days

This is my favorite way to go only because I haven’t had the experience of unlimited PTO in an organization yet. I’ve read about it but I don’t see a lot of company’s trying this approach quite yet.

I have been in several organizations that allow you to take up to three weeks of vacation/PTO at a time. Now, I know what you are thinking….All that work piling up if you actually took three weeks off. Believe me, I hear you. With as many emails I get on a daily basis, I would not want to come back to over 2600 of them after three weeks away and that would just be the email pile up. There would also be a whole lot of other catch up to do after that amount of time off.

However, some employees are more task-oriented and don’t usually sit at the traditional desk so their work doesn’t pile up. This makes it easier for them to take this amount of time off. I would say that in my experience people take about 5 days off at a time so they can spread out their time off during the year instead of all at once.

Vacation, Sick, and Personal Time

If you have a vacation, sick and personal day type of leave then other problems and concerns may arise. If an employee is ill throughout the year and runs out of their allotted “sick” time they may want to borrow from the personal or vacation bucket. Do you allow this or not and say “Sorry, Charlie”. While some policies allow for the use of vacation for sick time, others don’t and then you run into the employees who may lie or make up stories about how they are using their time.

Employee are Adults…wait, what?

We want to empower our “adult” employees to take their PTO at their discretion so we can stop the practice of needing to ask permission from their managers to miss work. We also want to encourage them to use the time they have earned to decrease burnout in the workplace.

Always, always, always, have policies and procedures to establish how requests are made and granted so you are treating everyone fairly and consistently. Your employees will value the flexibility of PTO vs. the Vacation,Sick, and Personal Day approach.