Best PTO Policies For Small Businesses To Follow in 2024

best PTO policies

In many other developed countries, there aren’t strict federal rules about Paid Time Off (PTO) like in the US. Therefore, each business decides its own PTO rules. A typical PTO policy covers various aspects, such as:

  1. How much time off do employees get, and how does it add up?
  2. Who can get PTO?
  3. How to ask for time off?
  4. How do employees get paid when they take time off?
  5. The PTO policy must follow state and local laws.

PTO is not just about vacation days. Employees like PTO because it helps them balance work and life, prevents them from getting too tired, and supports their health. For instance, paid sick days and vacation days offer employees flexibility to address health needs, personal obligations, and leisure time without financial repercussions.

Small businesses can create good PTO policies to compete with bigger companies if they want to. They can offer new benefits, flexible schedules, and lots of paid time off. It’s important to ensure the paid time off policy fits the company and its employees.

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What is a PTO Policy?

A PTO policy, or Paid Time Off policy, sets rules for employees to take paid breaks from work. There aren’t strict federal PTO rules in the US. However, some state laws require minimum sick leave or vacation time. 

PTO policy creates a clear way to manage employee time off, ensuring fairness. Moreover, it helps employees balance work and life, letting them recharge without losing pay.

For employees, PTO policies give flexibility for health, personal, and leisure needs without financial worry. Furthermore, PTO supports mental health by reducing stress and burnout and improves job satisfaction and retention.

Employers also gain advantages from PTO policies. Offering paid time off helps attract and keep talented employees, giving smaller businesses an edge in hiring. Secondly, a good PTO policy boosts engagement and loyalty, cutting turnover costs. 

PTO Policy Requirements Under US Laws

best pto policies

For better understanding of PTO policies and its requirements, employers must follow the PTO laws set by the US government. Let’s dive into the details of these laws.

1. Under Federal Law

Under federal law, companies have the freedom to create their own Paid Time Off (PTO) policies without strict rules. 

While federal regulations like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) indirectly influence PTO practices, they don’t specify details like accrual rates or eligibility criteria. However, even though federal law doesn’t demand it, many businesses offer PTO to stay competitive and keep employees happy. 

2. Under State Law

PTO policy rules vary across the US under state law. Each state has its own regulations on paid time off, covering factors like;

  1. How does time off accumulate?
  2. Who’s eligible?
  3. How do payouts work?

Therefore, businesses need to know and stick to the rules specific to their state.

Things like how fast time off adds up, how much can carry over, and when employees get paid out can change depending on the state. Moreover, some states even require paid sick leave or vacation time for part-time workers.

Not following state PTO laws can lead to trouble, like fines or penalties. That’s why businesses need to keep up with any changes to state rules that might affect their PTO policies. They should also let their employees know about their rights under state law to avoid any misunderstandings.

By staying on top of state-specific PTO rules, businesses can create fair policies that work for everyone. 

You can check out the details of PTO payout laws by state by clicking here.

How Does PTO Work?

Companies typically give employees a certain number of paid time off (PTO) days each year, which include vacation days, sick leave, and personal days. There are certain ways paid time off policies work. They include accrual PTOs, rollover PTOs, and cash-in PTOs.

1. Accrual PTOs let employees collect time off based on how long they’ve worked or the hours they’ve put in. For instance, they might earn a set number of PTO hours every month or year.

2. Rollover PTOs allow employees to keep unused paid vacation time off from one year to the next year. It can help those who don’t use up all their time off in a year.

3. Cash-in PTOs offer employees the choice to trade their unused PTO for cash at the end of their employment. 

How To Pick A Paid Leave Policy For Your Business?

Paid Leave Policy

Businesses should start by evaluating their company’s needs and employee preferences. They must consider factors like the type of industry they are in, the size of the workforce, and the work culture they want to cultivate. 

Next, employers should research different types of PTO policies, such as accrued time off, unlimited PTO, or flexible PTO

Assess the pros and cons of each option and determine which aligns best with your company’s goals and values. 

Finally, seek input from your employees to ensure the chosen policy meets their needs and promotes a healthy work-life balance.

Questions You Should Research Before Creating PTO Policy

Human resources (HR) recommends researching the following points before a business starts hiring new employees and developing PTO policies.

1. Traditional PTO Vs. PTO

Traditional PTO typically involves categorizing time off into different buckets, such as vacation days, sick leave, and personal days. This approach often requires complex tracking systems and can limit employees’ flexibility in using their time off.

On the other hand, PTO combines all types of paid time off into a single pool, providing employees with more flexibility in how they use their time off. This approach simplifies tracking and administration for both employees and employers, potentially reducing administrative overhead.

Additionally, evaluate your HR team’s administrative capabilities and the technological solutions available to support your chosen PTO policy. By thoroughly researching these aspects, you can make an informed decision that best suits your company’s needs and priorities.

2. Accrual Vs. Lump Sum

Policymakers should explore the choice between Accrual and Lump Sum methods. 

Accrual systems gradually build up an employee’s PTO balance based on hours worked or length of service. This method steadily increases available time off but requires careful tracking and administration. 

On the other hand, Lump Sum policies provide a set amount of PTO upfront, typically at the beginning of the year. While this offers simplicity and predictability for both employees and employers, it can lead to challenges if employees use up their PTO early in the year. 

3. Unused Vs. Used PTO

Employers can consider whether to adopt a traditional paid leave policy or a bundled PTO policy when making PTO policies. Traditional policies allocate separate buckets for vacation, sick leave, and personal days, whereas bundled PTO policies pool all time off into one bank.

Additionally, some companies adopt a use-it-or-lose-it policy for accrued PTO. This means that employees forfeit any unused PTO at the end of the year. 

However, some states discourage this practice. They emphasize that unused PTO must be paid out to employees upon termination. 

For example, in California, employers must pay employees for all accrued but unused vacation time upon termination. In contrast, states like New York and Texas allow employers to implement use-it-or-lose-it policies, providing they give employees reasonable notice.

Therefore, companies should do their research about state-specific regulations on unused PTO.

  1. PTO Payout Policy When An Employee Leave the Company

A payout policy describes how to compensate an employee for any unused leave at the end of employment. 

In certain states, companies must compensate workers for leftover vacation days, not sick or personal leave. This can confuse things regarding PTO because employers cannot differentiate between types of leave. Since all PTO can be used as vacation time, clarifying the rules is important.

It is also recommended that you research your competitor’s PTO payout handling while making its policy. This can directly impact employee morale and retention. 

Moreover, understanding the financial implications of PTO payouts also benefits small businesses, as it affects budgeting and resource allocation. 

How to Track PTO?

Businesses can track the PTO of their employees in two ways. 

  1. Manually.
  2. Using automated software.

Companies prefer using automated software to lessen the complications and burden while increasing the efficiency of the HR team. One such software is Buddy Punch. The following are the benefits;

  1. Streamlined Management: With its intuitive interface, you can easily track different types of PTO, whether it’s sick leave or vacation time.
  2. Employee Self-Service: Employees can conveniently enter their time off directly into the system, whether for vacation, sick leave, or personal reasons. This not only saves time but also promotes transparency and accountability.
  3. Flexible Accruals: Buddy Punch offers customizable accrual options, including per pay period, hours worked, and yearly accruals. You can set rules that align with your company’s policies and employee entitlements.
  4. Real-Time Visibility: Employees can view their PTO balances and request time off directly through the system. As an administrator, you’ll receive notifications to approve or deny requests, ensuring a smooth and efficient workflow.
  5. Comprehensive Reporting: Easily track PTO balances, usage, accruals, and more for individual employees or across your organization. PTO summary reports enable informed decision-making.
  6. Customizable Settings: Employers can enable or disable certain features, manage PTO types, or create accrual rules. Buddy Punch offers flexibility to accommodate business needs.
  7. Added Features: additional features include punch rounding to overtime calculations, geofencing, and QR code integration.
PTO Requests

Buddy Punch offers a comprehensive solution for tracking PTO, providing small businesses with the tools to efficiently manage employee time off. Its user-friendly interface, flexible features, and real-time visibility make it ideal for optimizing your PTO policy.

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Types Of PTO Policies

There are five different types of PTO policies. Businesses can include the type of PTO that is more appropriate for them based on their circumstances.

1. Traditional PTO

Traditional PTO

Traditional PTO is a policy where employees’ time off is divided into specific categories like vacation, sick leave, and personal days. This structure provides a clear framework for employees to understand their available time off and how it accumulates over time. 

It offers businesses the advantage of promoting longevity among employees by rewarding them with increased PTO as they continue to work for the company.

Benefits of Traditional PTO

  1. Simplicity and familiarity for employees, making it easy to understand and track time off.
  2. Provides a clear framework for both employees and HR departments to manage time off.
  3. Allows for predictable scheduling and budgeting, benefiting businesses.
  4. Promotes longevity among employees by rewarding them with increased PTO over time.

Drawbacks of Traditional PTO

  1. Employees may feel constrained by predefined categories, limiting flexibility.
  2. Potential for misreporting or dissatisfaction when predetermined categories don’t meet employees’ needs.
  3. Risk of unscheduled absences when employees exhaust allotted PTO for specific categories, disrupting workflow and productivity.

Employers can incorporate additional categories or offer more flexibility within existing categories.

2. Bank PTO

Bank PTO

Bank PTO, also known as Flexible PTO, is a type of paid time off policy where employees receive one consolidated bank of leave that encompasses various types of time off, such as sick leave, vacation days, and personal time. 

This approach simplifies the management of time off for both employees and employers, as it eliminates the need to track different categories of leave separately.

Benefits of Bank PTO

  1. The primary benefit of Bank PTO is its flexibility and simplicity. 
  2. Employees have greater autonomy and control over their time off since they are not restricted to specific categories like sick leave or vacation days. 
  3. The flexibility allows employees to manage their time more effectively, improving their work-life balance. 
  4. It simplifies administrative processes for HR departments, as they only need to track one pool of leave rather than multiple categories.

Drawbacks of Bank PTO

  1. Employees may be less inclined to take time off when they have a bank of leave, as there is no distinction between different types of leave. This can result in burnout and decreased productivity. 
  2. The lack of separate leave categories may make it challenging for employers to monitor and manage absences effectively, potentially leading to abuse of the system or disputes over time off.

While bank PTO provides greater flexibility and simplicity, it also presents challenges in terms of monitoring and encouraging employees to take adequate time off. 

3. Accrued PTO

Accrued PTO

Accrued PTO is earned gradually over time based on hours worked or length of service. It accumulates as employees continue to work, and they can use it for time off later.

Benefits of Accrued PTO

  1. Accrued PTO rewards loyalty and tenure, making it fair for employees who have been with the company longer.
  2. Employees feel secure knowing they have a reserve of PTO they can use when needed, providing stability in their work-life balance.
  3. Accrued PTO follows a predictable pattern, allowing employees to plan their time off in advance and employers to budget for expected PTO payouts. 
  4. Knowing they are earning PTO encourages employees to remain dedicated and committed to their work, boosting morale and productivity.

Drawbacks of Accrued PTO

  1. Accrued PTO represents a financial liability for employers, as they must pay out unused PTO when employees leave the company, which can strain finances.
  2. Tracking accrued PTO can be complex, especially in businesses with varying accrual rates or part-time employees, leading to administrative burdens and potential errors.
  3. Accrued PTO may restrict workforce management flexibility, as employees may feel pressured to use accrued time off, potentially causing staffing shortages during busy periods.
  4. Employees may feel frustrated if they cannot use accrued PTO when desired due to scheduling conflicts or company policies, leading to dissatisfaction and disengagement.

Accrued PTO offers a structured approach to time off management, balancing the needs of employees and employers. While it provides stability and motivation, it also poses challenges in terms of financial obligations and administrative complexities. 

4. Unlimited PTO

Unlimited PTO

Unlimited PTO is a policy where employees can take as much time off as they need without a set limit, as long as their manager approves it. It’s about trusting employees to manage their own time off responsibly.

Benefits of Unlimited PTO

  1. Unlimited PTO gives employees the freedom to take time off when they need it, whether it’s for vacation, personal reasons, or to recharge.
  2. It promotes a healthy work-life balance by allowing employees to prioritize their personal lives without sacrificing their jobs.
  3. Unlimited PTO boosts morale because employees feel trusted and valued by their employers.
  4. Offering unlimited PTO can attract top talent and improve retention rates. It’s an appealing benefit that sets companies apart in a competitive job market.

Drawbacks of Unlimited PTO

  1. Some employees might take advantage of the policy by taking excessive time off, which could impact productivity and team dynamics.
  2. Without clear guidelines, it can be challenging for employees to know how much time off is appropriate, leading to ambiguity and potential conflicts.
  3. Ironically, employees might end up taking less time off with unlimited PTO compared to a traditional accrual system where they feel compelled to use their allotted days.
  4. Unlimited PTO policies can be costly for companies if employees accrue significant amounts of unused PTO upon departure, as there’s no cap on payout.

5. Donation PTO

Donation PTO

Donation PTO is also known as shared leave or voluntary leave donation programs. It allows employees to donate their accrued paid time off to colleagues who may be facing hardships, such as serious illnesses or unexpected emergencies.

Benefits of Donation PTO

  1. Donation PTO fosters a sense of camaraderie and support among coworkers, as it allows employees to come together to help their colleagues in times of need.
  2. It provides an additional layer of support for employees facing challenging circumstances, ensuring they have the time off they need to address personal or family emergencies without worrying about losing income.
  3. By enabling employees to support each other during difficult times, Donation PTO contributes to overall employee well-being and morale, promoting a positive work environment.

Drawbacks of Donation PTO

  1. Donation PTO may lead to inequality in contribution, with some employees donating more than others. This can create feelings of resentment or unfairness among employees.
  2. Donation PTO may not always be available to all employees, depending on the policies and guidelines set by the employer. This could leave some employees without access to additional support during challenging times.
  3. Managing donation PTO programs can be administratively complex for HR departments, requiring clear policies, tracking systems, and communication channels.

Donation PTO can be a valuable resource for employees facing hardships, and properly managed donation PTO can strengthen employee bonds and contribute to a supportive workplace culture.

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PTO Policy Best Practices

In order to get the best out of your PTO policy, here are the top practices to implement.

1. Ask Employees What They Want 

Engaging with your employees to build a sense of ownership and inclusivity.

Start by conducting surveys or holding focus groups to gather insights into what types of PTO options employees value most and how they prefer to accrue and use their time off. By listening to their feedback, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your policy accordingly.

Additionally, open communication channels should be encouraged where employees can voice their opinions and suggestions regarding PTO policies. This could include regular meetings, suggestion boxes, or anonymous feedback platforms. By creating a culture of transparency and receptiveness, you empower your employees to contribute to the development of policies.

Furthermore, keep employees informed about any changes or updates to the PTO policy and actively seek their input during decision-making.

You create a culture of mutual respect and collaboration by actively listening to their preferences, addressing their concerns, and involving them in the decision-making process.

2. Develop A Flexible PTO Policy

What Are Flexible Work Schedules?

Flexible PTO considers the preferences and needs of different workforce generations. 

Gen Z and millennials appreciate the freedom to manage their time off according to their circumstances and priorities. For example, Gen Z employees might prefer shorter, more frequent breaks to recharge. At the same time, millennials may prioritize longer vacations to explore personal interests or travel.

It promotes diversity by accommodating various religious and national holidays to celebrate their cultural traditions. Additionally, it allows for alternative days off, such as mental health days or medical appointments.

Furthermore, a flexible PTO policy conveys trust and empowerment to employees. By giving them the flexibility to manage their time off without micromanagement, employers demonstrate confidence in their team’s ability to balance work and personal life responsibly. 

3. Clearly Define PTO In The Employee Handbook

Employee Handbook

The employee handbook serves as a foundational document that every employee can refer to to understand their entitlements and responsibilities regarding time off.

Every form of PTO must be communicated comprehensively in the handbook. Whether it’s vacation days, sick leave, personal days, or special types of leave like bereavement or jury duty. 

Employees should have explicit details about each kind of PTO available to them. This includes information on;

  1. Accrual rates
  2. Eligibility criteria
  3. Approval processes
  4. Any relevant regulations or company policies governing its use

Hence, employees can make informed decisions about their time off. This clarity helps to prevent misunderstandings and disputes, promoting a culture of trust and accountability within the organization.

Furthermore, providing explicit details of every PTO type ensures consistency and fairness in its application across the workforce. Employees understand their rights and can confidently request and use time off without ambiguity or confusion.

It sets clear expectations and reduces administrative burdens.

4. Ensure Managers Provide Support for Employee Time Off

Managers play a pivotal role in setting the tone for the company’s time-off culture. They should actively encourage employees to use their allotted PTO days for rest, relaxation, and personal use.

Moreover, seniors or team leads should lead by example, demonstrating their commitment to work-life balance. This sets a positive precedent for their teams and helps reduce the stigma of taking time away from work.

Additionally, companies should provide managers with the necessary training and resources to manage time-off requests effectively. They should understand the importance of timely responses to requests and the need for fair and consistent treatment of all employees. 

Establish a comfortable environment so that employees feel comfortable discussing their time-off needs with their managers.

Furthermore, a system for tracking time-off usage and approvals like Buddy Punch should be considered. This can help prevent issues such as favoritism or misunderstandings regarding time-off policies.

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5. Clear and Understandable PTO Policy

A well-compensable policy promotes transparency and eliminates confusion and potential disputes among employees.

To achieve clarity, 

  1. Implement simplicity in language and structure of your PTO policy. Avoid jargon or overly complicated wording that could confuse employees. 
  2. Break down the policy into easily digestible sections.
  3. Straightforwardly outline key points and procedures. 

This approach ensures that employees can quickly grasp the rules governing their time off.

Additionally, provide examples or scenarios to illustrate how the policy works in practice. 

Real-life scenarios can help employees better understand their rights and responsibilities regarding PTO usage, approval processes, and payout procedures. Visual aids such as flowcharts or infographics can further enhance comprehension.

Furthermore, the policy should be readily available to all employees through the company’s intranet, employee handbook, or other internal communication channels. Ensure that it is regularly updated to reflect any changes or amendments, and encourage employees to ask questions or seek clarification if needed.

Ensure regular communication about the PTO policy. Host periodic meetings or training sessions to review the policy, especially when updates are made. Provide avenues for feedback to address any concerns or confusion promptly.

6. Create A PTO Policy Based On Company Culture

Company Culture

Assess the values, goals, and working environment unique to your organization. 

Consider what makes your company stand out and what values are prioritized among your employees. For example, for a startup aiming for innovation and flexibility or a family-oriented business that values work-life balance, customizing their PTO policy to reflect these cultural aspects ensures that it resonates with their workforce and reinforces your company’s identity.

Moreover, take leverage of technology to streamline policy implementation and management. Invest in HR software or paid time off tools that allow for easy tracking of PTO balances, automated approval processes, and seamless communication of policy updates. 

Lastly, regularly review and adapt your PTO policy to accommodate changes in company culture, workforce demographics, and external factors such as legal regulations or industry trends. 

7. Offer Incentives Or Benefits With Your PTO Policy

Incentives and Rewards

Offering incentives can make your business more appealing to potential hires and boost employee morale among your current team.

Consider adding perks like;

  1. Flexible scheduling options
  2. Wellness programs
  3. Unused PTO conversion into value
  4. Bonus vacation days for meeting certain goals or milestones
  5. Avoiding the “use it or lose it” policy

Flexible scheduling allows employees to tune in their work hours to match personal commitments. 

Wellness programs, such as mental health resources, show that you prioritize employee health and happiness beyond their office time. 

Moreover, employees can use the value of their unused PTO for other needs like saving for retirement, covering emergencies, and paying off student loans.

Furthermore, offering bonus vacation days for reaching performance targets or length of service milestones can be a powerful motivator. It gives employees something to strive for and rewards their hard work and dedication. 

The “use it or lose it” policy means that any earned vacation time disappears if not taken by the end of the year. Companies should consider letting unused PTO carry over. 

8. Consider Personal Time Off Opportunities

Personal Time Off

Providing personal time off opportunities beyond traditional vacation days encourages employees to use their PTO to support a charity, volunteer, and explore professional development.

For instance, supporting a charity can be a rewarding use of PTO. 

Employees could take a day off to participate in a fundraising or volunteer at a local food bank. By allowing employees to contribute to causes they care about, the company demonstrates its involvement in social responsibility and community.

Similarly, providing opportunities for volunteer work can enrich employees’ lives and benefit the community. 

Companies can organize group volunteer activities, such as participating in environmental clean-up efforts or assisting at a homeless shelter. This encourages team bonding and allows employees to make a positive impact outside of the workplace.

Moreover, encouraging employees to use PTO for professional development activities can boost their skills and morale. For instance, employees could attend conferences, workshops, or online courses related to their field. 

By investing in their growth, the company shows that it values continuous learning and career advancement.

What Are the Types of Paid Leaves Options for Employees?

Employees have the following paid leave options.

1. Sick Leave

Sick leave allows employees to take time off when they’re unwell or need to attend medical appointments without sacrificing their income. 

Companies often offer sick leave as a legally requested benefit. However, the amount of time off varies by state or country. Employers may require proof of illness or doctor appointments (like doctor’s note) before granting sick leave, ensuring its appropriate use.

2. Medical Leave

Medical leave allows employees to take time off work for health-related reasons without losing their job/pay. Medical leave policies typically cover illnesses, injuries, medical appointments, and recovery periods.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. It ensures that employees can take time off for personal or family health reasons without fearing job loss.

Medical leaves can encompass various types, including:

1. Disability Leave: Available for employees unable to work due to a disability, injury, or illness covered by disability insurance.

2. Mental Health Leave: Aimed at supporting employees dealing with mental health issues, stress, or emotional challenges.

3. Catastrophic Leave: Allows employees to donate unused sick or vacation days to a colleague facing a serious medical condition or emergency.

3. Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave, also known as Funeral Leave, is a form of compassionate leave provided to employees who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Typically, this type of leave allows employees to take time off to attend funerals or grieve a family member’s loss.

Companies often have specific rules outlining the duration of bereavement leave based on the employee’s relationship with the deceased and other factors such as travel distance to the funeral. Depending on the circumstances, some companies offer one to three days or even more.

It supports employees during emotionally difficult times. Providing bereavement leave demonstrates empathy.

4. Parental Leave

Parental leave offers time off for employees to bond with a new child or care for a growing family. 

There are different types of parental leave, including maternity/ paternity leave and adoption leave. 

1. Maternity leave is typically for birth mothers, providing time off before and after childbirth. 

2. Paternity leave is for fathers or partners to support the new mother and bond with the child. 

3. Adoption leave is for employees who adopt a child, allowing them time to adjust to their new family dynamics.

State laws vary regarding parental leave. For instance, California offers Paid Family Leave (PFL), providing partial wage replacement benefits to employees taking time off to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member. 

In contrast, states like Alabama and South Dakota do not have specific laws mandating parental leave, leaving it to the discretion of employers.

What Are The Important PTO Policy Procedures?

The following are the PTO policy procedures that companies generally follow.

1. Accrual Rates

Policy Procedures

Accrual rates determine how much paid time off employees earn over a specific period. 

Factors such as employee tenure, job classification, and legal requirements are considered to establish accrual rates. For example, longer-tenured employees may accrue PTO at a faster rate than newer hires. Similarly, full-time employees might accrue PTO differently than part-time workers.

The most common method, utilized by 37% of companies, is to grant a set number of PTO hours for each pay period. Alternatively, some companies opt to provide employees with their full year’s worth of PTO either at the beginning of the calendar year (24% of companies) or on their hire anniversary (22% of companies).

Suppose you’re using the pay period method. In that case, determining the number of hours to allocate per pay period involves a simple calculation. 

For instance, for a bi-weekly pay period, divide the total yearly hours worked by the available PTO hours annually, then multiply the result by 80 hours. For example, assuming full-time employees work 40 hours weekly for 52 weeks, totaling 2,080 hours annually, and the average yearly PTO is 96 hours, the accrual rate per pay period would be 3.68 hours.

It’s essential to consider offering more tenured employees increased time off, often necessitating a chart showcasing the various accrual rates per period. This not only assists employees in tracking their correct accrual rate but also helps employers manage PTO effectively. 

Furthermore, highlighting any probationary periods where new employees have not accrued PTO yet is necessary for clarity and compliance.

2. Employee Availability

Employee Availability

The availability period for new hires to access PTO varies. 

Some companies offer immediate access to PTO upon hiring. In contrast, others might require a waiting period, such as 30, 60, or 90 days. This waiting period allows the new employee to become familiar with their role before taking time off.

Furthermore, employers can limit certain days of the year for taking time off. 

For example, many businesses restrict PTO during busy seasons or special events when staffing levels need to be at their peak. For instance, a retail store might prohibit employees from taking time off during the holiday shopping season to ensure adequate coverage and meet customer demands.

3. Rollover PTO

Rollover PTO refers to the unused paid time off that carries over from one year to the next rather than expiring at the end of the year. It allows employees to accumulate unused time off and use it in future years, providing flexibility. However, not all companies offer rollover PTO, as it has both benefits and drawbacks.

When employees don’t use all their PTO, what happens to the unused time off varies depending on the company’s policy. Some companies allow rollover of unused PTO to the following year. In contrast, others may pay out the unused time or forfeit it entirely.

Rollover PTO has some drawbacks. 

For one, it can create challenges for companies in terms of budgeting and resource planning, as they need to account for potential future PTO liabilities. Additionally, rollover PTO can lead to employees accumulating large amounts of unused time off, which may cause scheduling conflicts and disruptions to workflow.

Therefore, rollover PTO should balance employee flexibility and operational efficiency.

4. Scheduling Requirements

By planning ahead and ensuring efficient allocation of time off, businesses can maintain productivity while meeting employee needs. One way to optimize scheduling is by using automated software like Buddy Punch, which can streamline the process and reduce errors.

Designating specific individuals or departments responsible for approval is essential. This ensures accountability and prevents delays in the scheduling process. Typically, supervisors or managers approve time off requests based on staffing needs and employee availability.

Time off requests should be placed systematically within the company’s HR or scheduling system. This helps monitor employee availability, prevent scheduling conflicts, and ensure a fair distribution of time off among staff members.

Employees should be encouraged to request PTO a certain number of days in advance. This timeframe varies depending on the company’s needs. 

However, it generally falls within one to two weeks prior to the requested time off. This allows sufficient time for managers to review requests, adjust schedules if necessary, and ensure adequate coverage.

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5. Payment Upon Termination

Payment upon termination refers to an employee’s compensation when they leave the company, whether by resignation, termination, or any other reason.

In the US, California is one state that requires employers to pay terminated employees their final wages immediately upon termination. 

Payment upon termination helps ensure compliance with state laws, particularly in states like California, where it’s mandatory. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the company values employee’s time and compensates them accordingly. 

Moreover, providing payment upon termination can help mitigate potential legal risks and disputes arising from non-compliance with state regulations or unclear termination procedures.

Common PTO Accrual Rates

PTO accrual rates determine how quickly employees earn time off. 

Common accrual rates include the “per pay period” method, where employees earn a set amount of PTO each pay period, and the “hours worked” method, where PTO accrual is based on hours worked. 

Additionally, some companies offer a lump-sum approach, granting employees their full PTO allowance at the start of each year. 

Let’s explore the most common PTO accrual methods one by one.

1. Yearly

Yearly accrual refers to accumulating Paid Time Off (PTO) over a calendar year. 

Eligibility to accrue PTO yearly typically depends on factors such as;

  1. an employee’s tenure
  2. employment status (full-time or part-time)
  3. and the company’s PTO policy.

Companies often use a formula based on the number of hours or days worked within the calendar year to calculate yearly accrual. For example, an employee might accrue a certain number of hours or days of PTO for every month worked, which adds up to a total yearly amount. 

Yearly Accrual = Accrual Rate × Number of Months Worked

Yearly accrual can vary depending on the company’s PTO policy. Some companies offer a fixed amount of annual PTO (lump sum). In contrast, others base accrual rates on factors such as employee tenure or job position. 

Additionally, companies may set caps or limits on the maximum amount of PTO accrued in a year to ensure manageable workload distribution and prevent excessive accumulation. 

2. Hourly or Daily

Hourly accrual refers to earning paid time off based on the number of hours worked. Employees accumulate PTO hours for every hour they work, typically at a set rate determined by the company.

Eligibility to accrue hourly PTO usually depends on an employee’s status, such as full-time, part-time, or contract. Full-time employees commonly qualify for hourly accrual, while part-time or contract workers may have different accrual rates or eligibility criteria.

To calculate hourly accrual, multiply the number of hours worked by the predetermined accrual rate. For example, if the accrual rate is 0.046 per hour, and an employee works 40 hours in a week, they would accrue 1.84 hours of PTO for that week (40 hours * 0.046).

Accrued PTO = Hours worked × Accrual rate

Automated systems or software like Buddy Punch can streamline the calculation and tracking of hourly PTO accrual. It reduces administrative burden and minimizes errors. Moreover, this approach promotes efficiency and accuracy in managing employees’ paid time off benefits.

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3. Per Pay Period

Per Pay Period accrual refers to the rate at which employees earn paid time off (PTO) during each pay period. It is typically done on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. 

Eligibility to accrue PTO per pay period is usually based on factors such as employment status (full-time or part-time), length of service, and company policies.

To calculate PTO accrual per pay period, determine an employee’s total annual PTO allowance based on their employment contract or company policy. Then, divide the annual allowance by the number of pay periods in a year to find the amount of PTO accrued per pay period. 

For example, if an employee is entitled to 10 days of PTO per year and is paid bi-weekly, they would accrue approximately 0.38 days of PTO per pay period (10 days ÷ 26 pay periods).

PTO Accrual per pay period = (Total annual PTO allowance) / (Number of pay periods in a year)

Through PTO per pay period, employees understand how much time off they can expect, allowing them to plan their time off effectively. Additionally, accurate tracking of PTO accrual per pay period helps companies manage employee leave balances and comply with labor regulations.

How to Calculate PTO Accrual?

To track PTO accruals, you either use time tracking software like Buddy Punch or calculate your own PTO accruals based on the following set of formulas. Whatever type suits your business the most, the calculation method depends on the accrual system in place.

Per Pay Period Accrual

Per Pay Period Accrual = Total annual PTO hours / Number of pay periods in a year

Example: If an employee is entitled to 80 hours of PTO per year and there are 26 pay periods in a year, the Per Pay Period accrual would be 80 / 26 = 3.08 hours per pay period.

Accrual by Hours Worked

Hourly Accrual = Hours worked x Accrual rate per hour

Example: If an employee works 40 hours per week and the accrual rate is 0.038 hours of PTO per hour worked, the calculation would be 40 * 0.038 = 1.52 hours of PTO accrued for that week.

Lump Sum Accrual

Lump Sum Accrual = Total annual PTO hours

Example: If an employee is entitled to 120 hours of PTO per year, the Lump Sum Accrual would simply be 120 hours provided at the start of the year.

Anniversary Date Accrual

Anniversary Date Accrual = PTO accrual rate per year x Years of service

Example: If the accrual rate is 80 hours per year and an employee has been with the company for 3 years, the calculation would be 80 * 3 = 240 hours of PTO accrued.


Frontloading = Total annual PTO hours

Example: If an employee is entitled to 160 hours of PTO per year, all 160 hours would be provided at the beginning of the year.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of PTO Policies

There are several advantages and disadvantages of PTO policies. Let us discuss them one by one.

Advantages Of PTO Policies

PTO policies provide flexibility, discourage absenteeism, protect an employee’s well-being, and more. Read along for further details.

1. More Flexibility

Employees can use their paid time off (PTO) for various reasons, including vacation, sick leave, personal days, bereavement, jury duty, volunteering, and sabbaticals. PTO gives them the freedom to take time off without worrying about losing income. 

2. Less Absenteeism


Implementing a PTO (paid time off) policy can help solve the problem of employees taking unexpected days off. With a PTO policy, employees know they have a set amount of time off that they can use for any reason, which makes them less likely to call in sick or take unscheduled days off. This helps create a more stable work environment and reduces last-minute absences.

When employees are required to use specific types of leave, like sick leave, for reasons that aren’t related to health, such as attending a wedding, they might feel forced to take unplanned time off. However, with a PTO policy, employees can use their time off more flexibly, which helps them plan better and reduces unexpected absences.

Reducing absenteeism helps businesses keep running smoothly and avoid disruptions.

3. Better Health

Paid Time Off (PTO) policies give you plenty of chances to rest and relax. Taking enough time off helps you recharge, reduces stress, and stops you from getting too tired.

Also, PTO policies that include sick leave mean your employer cares about your health. Being able to take time off when you’re sick or have a medical appointment means you’re more likely to get better before going back to work. It also stops illnesses from spreading at work, which makes the workplace healthier for everyone.

PTO policies focus on both your physical and mental health. Taking regular breaks from work helps lower work-related stress and stops you from getting mentally tired.

4. Easier For HR to Manage

Implementing effective time off policies can significantly reduce the amount of paperwork HR departments have to deal with. By simplifying the process for employees to request time off and keeping track of their balances, HR professionals can spend more time on important tasks like employee development.

Using technology like HR software or HR information systems can make managing time off even easier. These tools automate the tracking of time off, approval processes, and calculating how much time off employees have accrued. This reduces the chances of mistakes and ensures that the company is following its policies and legal regulations.

Additionally, these systems provide a central place for managing time off, making it easy to see how much time off employees have and how they’ve been using it. This helps employees understand the rules for requesting time off and reduces confusion and conflicts.

Disadvantages Of A PTO Policy

PTO policies also encompass some drawbacks. Let us discuss.

1. Some Will Hoard Sick Leave

Hoarding sick days happens when employees save up their sick days without using them. They might do this to use them for vacation, get paid for them when they leave the company, or if they get seriously ill.

This can be a problem for the company because if many employees decide to get paid for their unused sick days at the same time, it can cost the company a lot of money. Also, when employees come to work sick, it can mess up the work.

To fix this, companies can make rules that encourage employees to use their sick days responsibly. For example, they could make a rule that if you don’t use your sick days, you lose them at the end of the year. They could also give rewards to employees who don’t hoard their sick days.

Also, if companies talk openly about why it’s important to take sick days when you need them, it can help stop employees from hoarding their sick days.

2. Paying More

PTO policies can end up costing businesses more money. When employees take time off, businesses might need to hire temporary workers to fill in. Plus, paying employees while they’re off means businesses have to spend money they could use for other things, like growing the business.

When employees leave, businesses in many states have to pay them for any vacation time they haven’t used. This can add up, especially because PTO policies combine different types of leave, like vacation time, sick leave, and personal days. Since it’s all lumped together, companies might end up paying more when employees leave.

To deal with this problem, companies can use some strategies to lessen the financial impact. For example, they can adjust how many people they have working, be flexible with schedules, or encourage employees to take time off during slower times.

Also, companies can find cheaper ways to give employees time off, like offering unpaid leave or making sure employees don’t accumulate too much unused PTO.

3. PTO Often Means Less Leave

Sometimes, having flexible Paid Time Off (PTO) policies can make employees feel guilty or pressured to work instead of taking time off. This is especially true in workplaces where taking time off is seen as a bad thing, or where employees always feel like they have to prove they’re dedicated.

Also, if there’s no separate category for sick leave and vacation leave, employees might be hesitant to take time off when they’re really sick. They worry they’ll use up all their PTO and won’t have any left for planned vacations or personal time.

Because of this, some employees might figure out that they’d get more time off with a traditional leave plan.

What Do Employees Care About In A PTO Policy?

Employee Concerns/PreferencesSummary
Flexibility and BalanceEmployees want to be able to balance their work and personal lives, so they prefer a vacation policy that gives them flexibility.
Independent Time ManagementYounger employees like having the option to take unlimited or flexible time off because it lets them manage their time on their own.
Parental Leave and Flexible SchedulingParents, especially those with young kids, need parental leave and flexible work schedules to take care of their families.
Recognition and RewardsEmployees who have been with the company for a long time appreciate getting recognition and rewards, like extra vacation days, as a thank you for their loyalty.
Benefits for Highly Skilled EmployeesHighly skilled employees expect special benefits, like sabbaticals or chances for professional growth, to help them advance in their careers.
Recognition for DedicationHardworking employees like getting extra benefits, such as bonuses or more vacation days, as a way to recognize their dedication to the company.
Variety of Policy OptionsDifferent employees have different preferences for vacation policies, so it’s important to offer a variety of options and explain them clearly to keep everyone happy.

Who Qualifies For PTO?

A company can include hourly or salaried employees. Let’s dive in for better understanding. 

1. Hourly Workers

Hourly Workers

Hourly employees are paid based on the number of hours they work. It’s really important for them to be at work regularly because they get paid for the hours they work. If they miss work, they don’t get paid as much, which can make it hard for them to pay their bills.

Unlike salaried employees, hourly workers might not get unlimited paid time off (PTO). This is because their pay is based on the hours they work, so if they take time off, they don’t get paid as much.

Instead of unlimited PTO, which might not work well for hourly employees, they might get a PTO that builds up gradually based on the hours they work. This means they earn PTO slowly over time.

Having a good PTO policy can be really helpful for hourly employees. It means they can take time off and still get paid, for things like being sick, personal stuff they need to take care of, or going on vacation.

2. Salaried Workers

Salaried Workers

Salaried employees get a fixed salary for their work. 

It’s important for them to be at work regularly and do their job well. Some companies give salaried employees unlimited time off, but many offer a set number of days off each year, which they earn over time.

Here’s how it works:

Every year, salaried employees get a certain number of days off, based on how long they’ve worked for the company. For instance, they might earn one day off per month, adding up to 12 days off by the end of the year.

Companies might give more days off to employees who have worked there for a long time. This way, salaried employees can take paid time off when they need it, and it encourages them to stay with the company for a long time.

How Much PTO Should You Offer to Your Employees?

Employees should consider how much Paid Time Off (PTO) to give based on factors like industry standards, employee needs, and company culture. Offering a competitive PTO package helps attract and retain talent. 

Start by reviewing industry benchmarks and legal requirements. Then, develop and create the policy to fit the business model and workforce demands. Moreover, assess employee preferences and work-life balance priorities. 

1. Vacation Days PTO

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the number of vacation days provided varies depending on the years of service and the size of the company.

For instance, private businesses have the average number of vacation days after one year of employment ranging from 9 to 12 days. As employees gain more experience and tenure, this number tends to increase. 

After five years of employment, the average rises to 13 to 16 days, while after 10 years, it further climbs to 15 to 19 days. With two decades of service, employees typically enjoy 17 to 23 days of vacation time.

Moreover, the size of the company also plays a role. 

Generally, companies with 100 or more employees are inclined to offer a more generous allotment of vacation days compared to smaller businesses. Understanding these national averages can serve as a useful benchmark for small businesses looking to craft competitive PTO policies.

2. Sick Days PTO

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, sick and personal days are generally fewer than vacation days. Private businesses typically provide sick days as follows:

  • Fewer than five days: Approximately 20% of businesses
  • 5 to 9 days: Around 48%
  • 10 to 14 days: About 27%
  • 15 to 29 days: Approximately 4%

These statistics only cover companies that limit the number of PTO days. Businesses with unlimited PTO policies are not included in these figures.

Offering an appropriate number of sick days ensures that employees can take time off when they’re unwell without worrying about financial implications. Providing a reasonable number of sick days demonstrates care for employee health and supports a positive work culture.

How Is A Paid Leave Policy Different From PTO Policy?

Paid Leave Policy

Paid Time Off (PTO) is a single pool of leave that employees can use for various purposes, including sick time, vacation, and personal time off (PTO requests). On the other hand, a Paid Leave Policy typically refers to specific types of leave, such as parental leave, bereavement leave, or jury duty leave (type of policy).

PTO policies offer flexibility and simplicity by combining different types of leave into one bank (benefits package). However, paid leave policies often address specific needs or circumstances with distinct leave categories (vacation policy).

Some companies offer unlimited paid time off (unlimited vacation), allowing employees to take time off as needed without counting days (unlimited paid time). However, most companies require employees to request time off in advance (advance notice) to ensure smooth operations (PTO plan).

Companies can also provide additional employee benefits such as healthcare benefits (employee benefits) and holidays like Christmas (American). 

Nevertheless, companies can customize their leave policies to meet the diverse needs of their employees while ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

How Will PTO Change In 2024?

In 2024, there are big changes happening with how companies handle paid time off (PTO). These changes are mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has changed how companies think about and use PTO, leading to some important changes.

More people are working from home now, and companies are using new digital tools like Buddy Punch and HR software to keep track of PTO. This helps them keep track of employees who work in different places and time zones.

Companies are also focusing more on helping parents. They are offering better benefits for things like having a baby or adopting a child.

Another new idea is “unlimited PTO.” This means employees can take as much time off as they need, as long as their work gets done. This is good for employees because it gives them more control over their time off. It’s also good for companies because it makes employees happier and helps them keep good workers.

Overall, in 2024, PTO policies are changing to meet the needs of employees in a world changed by the pandemic.


Should We Give PTO During an Employee’s Vacation?

Yes, it’s a good idea to give employees paid time off (PTO) when they’re on vacation, especially if your company gives paid holidays. For example, if an employee takes a week off during Thanksgiving and your company gives paid holidays on Thursday and Friday, give them back those two days of PTO.

Can Part-Time Employees Get PTO?

Some states require employers to give paid sick leave to employees, but not other types of PTO (paid time off). Usually, part-time workers don’t get full benefits like health insurance or retirement plans. But with new work setups, we need to think differently. More people want flexible work as they become freelancers or independent contractors.

Should Employees Get Paid for Unused Time?

Some states make employers pay employees for their unused vacation time when they leave. But if companies let employees get paid for their unused time while still working, it means more work for the company. Employers must decide whether to pay employees their usual rates or lower rates. This choice affects the company’s finances and how happy employees are.

Do We Have to Pay Out Unused PTO When Employees Leave?

Whether a company has to pay employees for their unused PTO when they leave depends on the laws of the state and the terms of the employment agreement. States like California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island say companies must pay for unused PTO no matter why the employee leaves. But other states like Minnesota, Ohio, and South Carolina might require payment unless the employment contract says otherwise. Employers must know their state’s rules and clearly explain payout policies to avoid legal problems.

Is it Necessary for Employees to Take Time Off?

Employees don’t have to take time off, but it’s good for them. Time away from work lets employees rest, spend time with family and friends, do hobbies, and keep a healthy work-life balance. Plus, taking time off reduces stress, boosts creativity, and makes employees happier at work. Companies want employees to use their PTO.

Can Employees Borrow from Their PTO Bank?

Yes, letting employees borrow from their PTO bank can be useful if it’s managed well. It gives employees flexibility when unexpected things happen. For companies that make employees wait before they can use their PTO, letting them borrow from future PTO days means they can still meet earlier commitments. But it’s important to have clear rules to stop any misuse. Companies should set up a system with limits and a process for getting approval.

How Soon Should Employees Schedule Time Off?

It’s best to ask employees to schedule their time-off requests at least two to four weeks before they need it. This gives managers time to plan for the workload. It also gives other team members time to get ready for any changes in their tasks. Plus, scheduling early lowers the chances of conflicts and gives enough time to make changes if needed.

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