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Time off policies 2020-12-26 21:51:14

Years ago, I remember a problem with people coming into the office sick. When I was a supervisor, I had to send people home who clearly should not have been at work. Why do people insist on coming to work even though they are sick? My theory is that this behavior was created by a change in the policy of time-off.

Most companies with official paid time off (PTO) policies used to accumulate sick days and vacation days in separate buckets. This clear separation meant that if you were sick, you could take sick days and not lose vacation days.  

I used to work for a company that seemed to have a higher-than-average PTO accrual. I thought they were very generous with time off until I discovered that they included holidays as part of the PTO bank. Hourly workers quickly discovered that when a holiday was coded as PTO, it was not counted as hours worked for overtime pay. People also ran into problems when they "overspent" hours of PTO and didn't have sufficient hours to cover a holiday. I think that policy was technically illegal, and it wasn't long before the policy changed and holidays were separated from PTO.

Companies started shifting the PTO policy to include one bucket of hours for all PTO. It doesn't matter the reason: sickness, vacation, malingering, it's all considered PTO. Once this policy change was made, there was no longer a distinction between sick days and vacation days. If you only have two weeks of PTO per year, every day you're out sick is one day less for vacation. End result? People don't want to waste their PTO being sick, so they show up at work with the potential to get others sick just to avoid the loss of PTO.

Years ago, I worked for a company that was bought out by a much larger company. One of the policy changes was to pay out all PTO hours beyond 40. I was the only person in my department who was near the max of 496 hours of PTO. In fact, I was about ready to start taking a day off every two weeks so that I wouldn't reach the max and lose the accumulation. That check for a little over 11 weeks of salary was quite a windfall.

This year, the company I work for was acquired by another company. I've been through this dance before, and they are rolling out a new PTO policy in 2021. Previously, my company offered the standard federal holidays as well as three weeks of PTO. The PTO did not carry over from one year to the next, so it was a true "use-it-or-lose-it" policy. Many of my colleagues and I often left many hours on the table due to how we are paid. My compensation is a combination of a guaranteed salary and bonus for billable hours. This structure rewards working more hours and leads to less time off. Unlike most jobs where people are paid the same for time off, I actually lose bonus money when I don't work.

The new policy will be four weeks of PTO with the ability to carry over 40 hours at the end of the year. This is a more traditional policy, and it will be interesting to see whether our compensation structure changes or if the bonus will still be based on billable hours. Money isn't everything, though, and every year I say I will take more time off only to see time off left on the table at the end of the year. 

More from Brandon Wilson

Like how this touches on not only PTO and sick days, but also the nature of compensation. I believe organizations shoot themselves in the foot by attempting to design and moderate every aspect of how compensation works down to not only the day but the hour. 

All of that thinking and administration isn't free. Energy I argue would be better spent elsewhere. 
2020-12-27 15:03:26
You're right. Companies waste a lot of time on administration. If you take time to hire the right people, you don't have to set up all these systems to micromanage them.
2020-12-27 15:43:42
Who has time for Quality HR? I'd rather use this billable seconds app!!!
2020-12-27 15:50:39