PTO Policy: What to Know and Consider for Your Business

March 21, 2019
PTO Policy: What to Know and Consider for Your Business

As a small business owner, you may wonder about your rights and obligations as well as popular trends when it comes to paid time off policies (PTO). Am I required to offer a PTO policy? And, if so, just how much paid time off are my employees entitled to? What are other companies of my size offering? When it comes to the crossroads of small businesses and paid time off policies, here’s what you need to know.

What is paid time off (PTO)?

Paid time off is exactly what it sounds like — time for employees to be out of the office and focus on their personal lives while still receiving a paycheck. It includes all personal days, including vacation time and sick time.

What’s the difference between a PTO policy and a vacation policy?

A paid time off policy is different from a vacation policy. Your small business will likely use 1 policy or the other, but probably not both at the same time. Companies often use the term PTO when employees have a single bank of time from which they can draw. With a PTO policy, PTO would cover everything, including personal days, vacation days, and sick days. With a vacation policy, vacation time can be used only for vacation or personal time when requested. It couldn't be used for time taken for sick days, bereavement, etc. These 2 categories aren’t the extent of it. There are different types of PTO and vacation policies, such as unlimited PTO, flexible PTO, floating holiday policy, and more.

Is it mandatory to offer paid time off?

In a word: Maybe. According to the United States Department of Labor, there’s no federally mandated requirement for small businesses (or large) to offer paid time off. However, it could be a requirement in your state. The laws regarding paid time off vary from state to state. You should find out about the specific requirements, if any, in yours. In addition to different state requirements, average PTO offerings vary between industries, locations, and more. It’s worth it to check out vacation and PTO benchmarking data before crafting your PTO policy. The

National Conference of State Legislatures provides a chart showing paid family and medical leave requirements by state as of June 2022. For the most current legislation impacting sick leave, family and medical leave, and paid time off policy in your state, visit your state's website. Even if your state doesn’t require that you offer PTO, it may still be a good idea.

Why should my small business offer PTO?

If you’re thinking that PTO policies sound great for the employee but not so great for the employer, think again. Without a good system of paid time off, you may have trouble attracting and retaining employees. While the cost of offering PTO may seem high, it's far less than the costs of high turnover. Those include having to find and hire replacements and onboarding and training new employees. Switching to a PTO policy may save time and work for busy small businesses. A simple all-inclusive system like PTO is easier to administer than having to keep track of different types of absences. Offering paid time off is beneficial to small businesses in several other ways, including:

  • Allowing employees who don’t use up all their sick days to enjoy more vacation time, providing better work-life balance.
  • Acting as a recruitment and retention tool to attract and keep top talent who want flexible work arrangements.
  • Making tracking and recording time off easier for your human resources professionals.

Having a paid time off policy can also promote honesty. Employees won't need to use specific days when they want to be out. So they will have no incentive to call in sick when they want to take a vacation. It's a benefit for employees to be able to tell the truth without having to worry about consequences. That honesty helps create a more positive work environment.

How is PTO calculated?

There are several methods of calculating paid time off. For example, you may give employees an annual allotment, or you may allocate time off according to how many hours each employee works. For a small business, it's important to ensure that you have adequate staffing. Small businesses often use a system that awards a certain number of days per year. This makes it easier to schedule coverage and stand-ins when needed. Ultimately, as a small business owner, the choices of how much PTO to give and how to calculate it are yours. Small businesses often use payroll services, which may have their own method of calculating time off. Often, this is based on how many hours an employee worked in a pay period or a month (accrued PTO).

What to know before you create a PTO policy

If you decide to replace your sick days, personal days, and vacation pay policies with a paid time off policy, you should be upfront with your staff about the ground rules. Small businesses have a limited number of employees. It creates problems if too many take PTO at the same time. For this reason, many small businesses have rules about how PTO can be used and how to properly request it. Many smaller organizations may require that staff request PTO far in advance. They may deny PTO requests if too many staff members would be out at the same time. Comprehensive PTO policies should cover:

  • How many PTO hours or PTO days employees will receive.
  • What happens to unused PTO. Is it use it or lose it, or does it roll over?
  • How employees should make PTO requests.
  • The policies for both unpaid and paid leave.

You may want to use a sample PTO policy as a guide and then fine-tune it to meet the needs of your company. In this current fast-paced business market, there’s fierce competition for top talent. Consider the fact that the flexibility of a paid time off policy can be an enticing recruiting and retention tool. It's also a time-saver for overworked business owners juggling human resources responsibilities along with everything else. For more on HR and business management, count on news, tips, tools, and other resources at TriNet.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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