The Great Bugaboo - Paid Time off Benefits

Sick Days vs Vacation DaysAdmittedly, the word “bugaboo” was only used to grab your attention. Still, it actually connotes the feeling that most HR managers get when dealing with paid time off (PTO). Indeed, the seemingly intractable problem of what the difference is between sick, vacation and personal days is enough to bug any sane person to crying.

Sick days, vacation days and holidays are essentially interchangeable when it comes to the efficiency and productivity of
a company but they are vastly different in the minds of employees. This disconnect between the expectations of management and of the employees is simply a breeding ground for dissatisfaction and lowered morale.


The Old Days

Let’s be honest. Employees feel entitled to their sick days even if they are not sick. Similarly, management is not interested in gaining that extra day at the expense of a dissatisfied employee since the expense has already been accounted for.

The traditional procedure in the United States is that personal/sick time accrues at a set amount every month after a certain vesting period and that vacation should be used in a one-time deal for the appropriate time period. This method works well enough unless the corporate bigwigs impose a “use it or lose it” methodology and every employee is “inexplicably” sick for the last four days of the year.

A New Paradigm

Most European companies still provide four to six weeks of vacation for their employees. We should all be so lucky in the United States. Still, forward thinking business leaders are reexamining the way that PTO is dealt with in their companies.

Instead of various PTO benefits that are clearly delineated for specific purposes, companies are now considering and implementing a single-tiered method of calculating time off benefits. This new paradigm may seem problematic but it accomplishes several goals simultaneously. Record keeping is absolutely diminished - and the need for doctors’ notes vanishes - while employees are empowered to take their time off at a mutually convenient time for themselves and for management. In fact, much of the “holiday” disagreements are tempered by employees negotiating with each other. It is simply a win-win situation for the employees and for management.

The Future

The Internet has allowed potential employees to be well educated on the ins and outs of their employer. Any company foolish enough to manipulate its PTO policy will, almost immediately, be “outed” by their own employees. It is simply in the best interests of all involved that companies devise a simple, easily tracked and fair method of providing PTO benefits.

The gains are immediate and influential, not only with potential employees, but also with those already employed. PTO rules should not be cumbersome or unduly complicated for this is in no one’s best interest, neither the interest of the employee or the HR department in charge of managing PTO. Make the rules plain and simple. In short, nobody really minds playing by a company’s PTO rules, just tell them what they are.

How Does a Human Resources Information System Apply?

Ultimately, the decision of how much PTO to offer current and potential employees lies with the HR department, as does the decision to switch from the “old days approach” to the new paradigm. The best approach and way to track PTO appears to be the newer model, a Human Resources Information System, or, HRIS. An HRIS is the newer model in comparison to the paper and file system. The single-tiered time off method should streamline the tracking of PTO and so should utilizing an HRIS. Newer does not always mean better but in the case of determining and tracking PTO, it certainly does.