A Look at Paid Vacation Time as We Head Into the Holidays

Paid time off (PTO) tends to be a hot workplace topic in December. Employees have questions about which days will be paid holidays, how many vacation days they have left for the year and whether any of their remaining vacation time can be carried over.

A new International Foundation report, Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results, takes a deep dive into all types of workplace benefits—including the most common policies for PTO.

A Look at Paid Vacation Time as We Head Into the Holidays

Paid Holidays

When it comes to paid holidays over the next several weeks, nearly all employers (95%) offer Christmas Day as a paid holiday, and just over half (54%) include Christmas Eve as a paid holiday. For New Year’s celebrations, 97% of workplaces offer New Year’s Day as a paid holiday, and 33% offer New Year’s Eve.

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Eight percent of organizations offer their lucky staff the full week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as paid holiday time.

For flexibility and inclusivity, 53% of employers offer paid floating holidays—most commonly one or two days—a perk that allows employees extra time off on a day of their choosing.

Paid Vacation Policies

December is often a popular time for employees to dip into their vacation time or PTO bank—and even in 2020, it’s likely that employees will be taking time off to recharge and celebrate the holidays.

The survey found that 50% of employers offer a paid vacation plan, 43% offer a PTO bank and 3% offer unlimited vacation time. Since 2016, PTO banks have risen 36% in popularity as employers have made the switch from the more traditional vacation/sick time policies to PTO banks.

Most commonly, employers offer ten vacation days after one year of service and increase that amount in increments of five days at service-year milestones: 15 paid vacation days at five years of employment, and 20 vacation days at the ten-year mark. The number of PTO days offered is a little more varied, with ten days at one year of service being the most common option and time varying widely in ongoing years.

To help with recruitment and retention, nearly three-quarters of employers are granting vacation or PTO days immediately to new hires.

Options for Unused Vacation Time

For employees who have not used all their accrued vacation time, 67% of employers allow their employees to carry over unused vacation or PTO to future years. Most commonly, employers report allowing employees to carry over just five days (29%); however, under a quarter of employers (16%) allow employees to carry over 40 days or more.   

Additionally, 23% of employers permit leave donation, which allows employees to donate time off to fellow employees in need. Fifteen percent of employers allow their employees to sell excess time off, and 6% allow employees to purchase additional time off.

The Pandemic’s Impact

Just like everything else, the pandemic has left its mark on workplace vacation policies.

COVID-19 has caused several different changes to workplace paid time off. Recognizing that employees had few vacation options this year, some employers are allowing workers to roll over more days than usual to 2021 or are paying them for their unused leave time. Other employers are recognizing the importance of time off for mental health and mandating that employees take time off within certain parameters or are giving additional paid leave to be used for any reason.

No matter what, COVID-19 will mean a holiday season that is very different. Employers should take the opportunity to remind employees of the mental health benefits available to them. Read: Signs and Symptoms of an Employee Struggling With Mental Health and How Supervisors Can Support Employees With a Mental Health Illness.

Employee Benefits Survey 2020

Learn More 

The just-released Employee Benefits Survey: 2020 Results is the seventh comprehensive benefits benchmarking survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The report covers pension and retirement benefits, health care benefits, voluntary benefits, paid leave, work/life benefits and more. Find the full report here.

Brenda Hofmann

Brenda Hofmann
Communications Manager at the International Foundation

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