One of the most stressful times at work is the week before I go on vacation. It’s not because I think I’m so important that the organization cannot go on without me; I just don’t want to burden others to handle my stuff. Like so many other organizations, our church trimmed its staff to create healthier margins in our compensation percentages leaving us with fewer paid staff to get it all done. While we continue to utilize more volunteers and focus on strategies to accomplish our mission and vision, there’s still a lot going on. And it’s not just churches experiencing this kind of stress; a recent Forbes article shared these statistics from the American Institute of Stress: from the American Institute of Stress:
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
- 29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work
- 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives
Paid time off for vacations are essential; they reduce stress, improve productivity, and help prevent burnout. There are three main options for providing your staff with paid vacation time. Use the summary below to see which option fits your organization’s culture best.
If you hear Connie Francis’s song (V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the summer sun) in your head when reading the word vacation, then more than likely, your work experience includes earning vacation time. In general, vacation time is a benefit for employees to take a break from work and go on vacation. When the employee has accrued enough time off, they can request specific days off in advance and receive pay during their vacation. Since employees request vacation time in advance, sick time, jury duty, mental health days, etc., are not generally considered vacation time. Employers need to track the amount of vacation time accrued and used by each employee. Employers opting for vacation time often offer a separate benefit of sick time, forcing the employer to track the accrual and use separately, increasing the administration of these benefits.
PTO (Paid Time Off)
Every organization, including churches, competes to hire and retain top talent. Offering a comprehensive benefits package is one way to demonstrate that your organization’s culture attracts the right people. Paid Time Off or PTO provides a level of flexibility that vacation misses. As one software vendor said, “all vacation is PTO, while not all PTO is vacation.” PTO provides the employee with the freedom to decide how to spend their earned days off. PTO encompasses sick time, mental health days, or whenever an employee needs time away from work with pay. Even though it’s less administrative for the employer to track the accrual and use of one benefit vs. two, PTO has a couple of potential downsides, like employees coming into work sick to save their time for a vacation. Another example is without a solid policy defining the amount of time an employee can accrue, and depending upon your state’s labor laws, there is an unbudgeted liability to consider when they leave your organization.
Unlimited Time Off
At first glance, this option solves many problems for the employee and employer alike. It reduces the employers’ administrative tasks of tracking the accrual and use of time off. It gives employees an attractive benefit giving them carte blanche to use their time off whenever they want and as frequently as needed. Unlimited PTO is extremely attractive to skilled employees and increases an employee’s sense of value to the organization, often increasing morale, productivity, and employee health.
But before you start putting this benefit into your employee handbook, there are a couple of disclaimers every employer should know. Unlimited PTO is not a great fit for nonexempt (hourly) employees due to the complexity of determining overtime per the FLSA. Additionally, calculating unused PTO or vacation time upon termination is almost impossible but required by many states.