There are some employers in the United States today that don't offer employees paid time off (PTO), even if they're sick or there's a public holiday. Others restrict PTO to employees who have been with their organizations for 1 year or more.

I understand the reasoning: "If an employee isn't producing, why pay them?" Followed closely by: "They'll only take advantage of it."

There's just 1 problem with this line of reasoning: It's wrong.

If you don't allow paid personal time, sick time, etc., you are essentially saying that there is no defined limit to how many days an employee can be absent (with notice, of course), provided that they are willing to forgo pay for that many days. That being the case, what actually happens is not multiple days taken off in one go - it's a day or two taken off each month, every month.

That's right - you've unintentionally consented to allow employees unpaid time off that totals 12 to 24 days a year - and to resent you for making them show up for work sick (getting everyone else sick in the process).

But give even a new employee 5 personal days up front, and here's what happens (provided you hired the right person): They hoard them.

That's right - limited to just 5 days that they can have off per year, the end of the year rolls around and people still have days left that they could take off, but haven't. Why? Because they never know when their child might be ill, or their hot water heater might spring a leak, or one of their parents might die. Against the unknown, they take those 5 days and bank them. Especially since so many of them are working 2 jobs just to make ends meet.

But really, do you really want employees that haven't taken their 5 days? Think about it: 52 weeks in a row of 40 or more hours per week, without a break. How productive do you really think this employee is going to be, even if they don't get sick?

If you really want someone fresh and sharp, why not offer 5 days of personal/sick time, and 5 days for mental health (what we used to call a 'vacation').

So, for the cost of 10 days' pay, you get:

  • Employees who are less likely to leave
  • Higher production because no one is spreading the plague
  • Sharp, fresh employees
  • Few employees who actually use all 10 days
  • An employee who has to work harder to pay for an even better vacation next year
In other words, if you're going to bean count, do it here only if you prefer employees that are mentally and physically unfit.

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