What is PTO?

Paid time off (PTO) is a valuable employee benefit that allows people to take leaves of absence while still receiving their salary. 

Reasons for doing so could include vacations, personal time, illness, or family emergencies. PTO is a vital part of a comprehensive employee compensation package. It plays a significant role in maintaining work-life balance and job satisfaction.

How does paid time off work?

Even though PTO policies differ from company to company, the fundamental concept remains the same. Some businesses may base their policies on a general PTO policy template.

There are a couple of paid time off policy approaches:

  • Accrued PTO. Professionals in a company accrue PTO based on factors like years of service and the number of hours worked. They can then use these accrued hours as paid leave when needed. A company’s PTO policy usually outlines the accrual rate and maximum accrual limits for team members.
  • Yearly allotment. This is a fixed, annual amount of PTO companies give to every employee. If there’s any paid time off remaining for a team member at the end of the year, it may expire or roll over, depending on company policy. The amount of paid time off may be the same for everyone or may vary according to a professional’s years of service at the company.

Paid time off examples

  1. Vacation PTO. This is the most common type of PTO, allowing people to take time off for leisure and travel.
  2. Sick PTO. Sick leave is meant for professionals who are ill or require medical attention so they don’t lose pay while recovering.
  3. Personal PTO. Personal days provide flexibility for team members so they can attend to personal matters, like appointments, family events, or other non-medical-related reasons.
  4. Parental PTO. Whether or not parental leave comes under PTO depends on the organization. Paid parental leave gives new parents the chance to bond with their newborns or adopted children.
  5. Bereavement PTO. This type of PTO gives people who experience the loss of a close family member or loved one time to settle affairs and grieve.

Unlimited PTO

Many progressive companies offer unlimited PTO, which means there’s no fixed limit on the amount of paid time off a person can take. 

Some employers with an unlimited PTO policy require professionals to ask their managers for approval before taking any leave—so that other team members aren’t left in the lurch. 

Other companies trust their people to responsibly manage their own unlimited paid time off.

Benefits of PTO

  • Employee wellbeing. PTO reduces burnout and stress, leading to happier, healthier team members.
  • Increased productivity. Regular breaks boost a professional’s productivity and creativity.
  • Retention and recruitment. Competitive PTO policies can attract top talent and help retain valuable team members.
  • Healthcare savings. Preventing burnout and stress-related illnesses can reduce healthcare costs for employers.

PTO vs. vacation

While PTO often includes vacation leave, it doesn’t exclusively refer to vacations. Vacation leave is a type of PTO—paid time off is a broader term that includes many different types of paid leave, including sick days, personal days, bereavement leave, etc. 

PTO laws

Paid time off laws vary by country, state, and city. 

It’s important for employers to be aware of these regulations. Some regions mandate that employers provide a certain minimum amount of PTO for their people, while others allow companies to establish their own policies. They may also require organizations to offer their people PTO during national holidays. 

PTO tracking and HR tech 

PTO can be difficult to manage, especially for larger organizations with hundreds of employees. 

Some HR software solutions come with a leave management system to make it easier for employers to manage PTO requests, accrual, and usage efficiently. HR departments can purchase specialized stand-alone software that exclusively manages PTO, or they can use HRIS systems that include PTO management features. 

Either option can be appropriate. It depends on the size of the company and on how well the particular HR platform integrates with the organization’s wider systems. 

These software solutions help HR departments comply with labor laws and enable people to easily request and schedule their own time off—saving HR professionals valuable time.

Making the most of PTO

Paid time off is a critical component of modern employment, giving professionals the flexibility to manage their work-life balance effectively. 

By understanding how PTO works, the different types of leaves of absence, and the legal aspects surrounding it, employers and employees can make the most of this valuable benefit.