April 20, 2021

Considering an Unlimited Paid Time Off Policy? Weigh The Pros and Cons First

Tighter labor markets and the changing workplace dictate that businesses get creative to attract top talent and keep employees engaged.

One approach many organizations are considering is offering unlimited paid time off. It’s a progressive policy concept that allows employees to take as many days off work as they need or want to. 

While it seems like a perfect solution for demonstrating a company’s willingness to evolve and stay competitive, there are drawbacks. Before adopting such a policy, be sure to carefully weigh these pros and cons. 

The Pros of an Unlimited Paid Time Off Policy

If an unlimited PTO policy is implemented correctly, your business may experience some or all of these benefits. 

It Saves the Company Money

If this policy isn’t abused by employees, it can save you money in the long run. Because employees aren’t accruing time off, employers don’t have to pay out unused time at the end of the year or the end of employment. 

It Builds a Culture of Trust

By adopting an unlimited PTO policy, you show employees that you trust them to manage their time off. This creates a culture of trust that can lead to improved employee morale and productivity. “Where unlimited time-off policies have been successful, the crux of that success has been a culture of mutual trust.” writes the team at Deloitte

It’s a Great Recruitment and Retention Tool

While it’s a perk that is growing in popularity, it still isn’t a standard policy at most companies. Therefore, those that do offer unlimited PTO have a competitive edge for recruiting and retaining top talent. By offering such a benefit, companies demonstrate to potential and current employees that they value and trust their employees. 

It Saves HR Departments Time

Monitoring accrued time and PTO requested and taken by all employees across the company monopolizes a lot of HR’s time. By eliminating this administrative burden through unlimited PTO, you free up your HR team to focus on more strategic tasks.

vacationer with backpack looks out on beautiful mountains; unlimited paid time off policy (PTO) concept

The Cons of an Unlimited Paid Time Off Policy

As good as such a policy may seem, there are some potential downsides of adopting unlimited PTO you should consider before deciding if it is right for your company. 

Employees May Abuse the Policy

One obvious problem is that employees may abuse the policy, taking off weeks or even months from work without the fear of losing their jobs. Numerous workplace studies (e.g. World at Work and U.S. Travel Association) show the majority of employees don’t use all of their vacation time in a year, so this may not be as big a risk as it seems. But there are always those who try to take advantage. 

Paid Time Off Can No Longer Be Used as a Reward

If you decide to implement an unlimited PTO policy, you lose the ability to offer paid time off as a reward for loyalty and performance. This can lead to resentment, especially by older employees, who may feel they deserve more perks over newer hires or have been anticipating earning additional time off.

Maintaining an Employee Schedule Becomes Difficult

Scheduling becomes more difficult under this type of time-off policy. Without a formal system in place to track when employees plan to take time off, too many may take off at the same time. This can lead to added stress for other employees, missed deadlines, and reduced productivity.

It May Lead to Employee Burnout 

Without a policy that pushes employees to take time off, there’s the potential they don’t take enough and suffer burnout at work. After implementing an unlimited PTO policy, “some companies found that employees actually took less time off because they struggled to decipher what was acceptable in the absence of clear rules,” write a team of PricewaterhouseCoopers  authors.

The bottom line: Do your homework concerning the advantages and disadvantages of an unlimited PTO policy before deciding if it is right for your company.

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