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Paid Time Off Considerations During the Pandemic

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Paid Time Off Considerations During the Pandemic

By The Employer Group - Jun 08, 2020

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have put their summer vacation plans on hold, or have cancelled their time off plans. Depending on your paid time off (PTO) policies, employees may be risking the loss of PTO, and/or you may find yourself with plenty of staff asking for time off at the end of the year, making scheduling and productivity a challenge for your business.

Employees may be apprehensive in using PTO, given the uncertainty of the economy. Employers have their own worries. If your PTO plan pays out PTO at the end of the year, cash flow may be an issue. If your plan allows for PTO carryover, you may have employees carry over a large amount of PTO into the next year, affecting 2021’s staffing and productivity.

A recent article from the Society of HR Management (SHRM) noted a substantial number of firms—42%—have made or are planning changes to PTO programs to address the situation, according to a survey by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. To minimize employees’ lost days, 24% of companies are planning to increase carryover limits. Meanwhile, 38% are requiring employees to use PTO to reduce the build-up or are thinking of going this route.

However, caution should be used when changing PTO policies. Employees are already stressed by the current health crisis. “It (time off) is the most emotional benefit we have,” said Jackie Reinberg, of Willis Towers Watson. “People don’t have a lot of control right now, and they are trying to control what they can.”

One thing you can do is communicate your current PTO policy so employees have time to plan. If you have a “use it or lose it” policy, it’s key to remind employees of that and to set expectations on how PTO can be used during the remainder of the year. For example, some companies may elect to allow only certain number of employees from a particular department to be off on the same day.

Another option is to require employees to use PTO. For example, you can require employees – including management – to identify two PTO days in a slow month that they would want a three-day weekend. Not only does this decrease their PTO balances, it also gives employees enough time to decompress from the current stressors at work.

Employers have the right to change their PTO policies at any time. However, if you are going to change your PTO policy, share the changes in writing, and ask for signed acknowledgement.

If you need assistance in reviewing your PTO policy, please contact your HR representative at The Employer Group, or send us a request via or by phone at 800.406.9675.

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