PTO balances are becoming a bigger challenge for employers now as employees are reluctant to take time off during this precarious time. Many employees are canceling their vacation plans or pushing them out to later in the year, hoping they will be able to travel which could cause issues.
While many employees look at R&R as leaving town and getting away, the mental break is a critical part of the concept of R&R with Rest being the first “R”. Allowing employees the time to unplug and rest even if they don’t get to go to their desired vacation destination is still important for employers to consider.
Many employees are already stressed by the turbulent times caused by the pandemic and don’t want to struggle with more uncertainty. Which is why it may be important for them to take a break and unplug.
Several employers are modifying their PTO policies to account for business and employee needs going forward.
Here are some ideas being considered by other employers which may be appropriate for your organization, depending on your company’s specific circumstances:
- Initiating a cap or increasing the cap on PTO hours so that employees continue to accrue time that is consistent with applicable state or local laws.
- Allowing for carryovers with a cap (i.e. 40 or 80 hours) or increasing the cap that can be carried over into 2021.
- Conditional carryovers, i.e. “Carryover PTO must be used in Q1 of 2021.”
- Offering a cash-out of unused PTO (also known as a “buy out”), perhaps at the end of 2020. This can include a cap, such as “up to 40 hours”. A buy out may not be feasible for some employers due to limited cash flow.
- Closing down operations company-wide for a week, forcing people to take vacation/PTO time.
- Requiring employees to take their time within certain parameters. For example, “Everyone must take a week in July or August.”
- Imposing fixed or conditional blackout dates during expected busy times, where employees will be prohibited or limited from taking PTO.
- Giving priority to employees based on tenure, or those that were deemed essential/had high risk roles during the pandemic, over those who worked remotely full-time during the pandemic.
- Limiting, deferring or halting the future accrual of PTO benefits that are in excess of what is legally required.
Using a combination of actions can be effective for employers and appreciated by employees. Like a company-wide closure for a week, requiring employees to take a week within a specific time period, or making a buy out conditional upon taking time off on a 1-to-1 basis. i.e. “We will cash-out one week if you take at least one week in August.”
Providing proper notice to employees is essential and in some states, there may be required notice periods. Check your local state time off regulations prior to implementing any of these ideas.