In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
- Excess Vacation in 2020 — What to do? What to do? – read now
Excess Vacation in 2020 — What to do? What to do?
Since March 2020, most of us have had to scrap our spring break plans, cancel our summer trips, and postpone time off from work because of travel bans, airline and cruise cancellations, and quarantine or isolation restrictions. Consequently, employees’ vacation and PTO banks are continuing to grow, which is causing some consternation among employees and employers alike.
Many employers have a “use it or lose it” policy, meaning if an employee does not use all of her vacation by the end of the year, it gets forfeited. Other employers allow a certain number of hours or days to be rolled over into the subsequent calendar or fiscal year. Still, other companies pay out unused vacation leave. But this latter option is a challenge for employers struggling to stay financially afloat and can ill afford this benefit. Other employers are concerned about kicking this can down the road, only to face the same issue in 2021, or beyond. So, what is fair?
According to a survey conducted by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, 42% of companies have made or are planning changes to PTO, vacation and sick-day programs to address the situation. To minimize employees’ lost days, 24% of companies are planning to increase carryover limits. Meanwhile, 16% are requiring employees to take vacation time to reduce the build-up, and another 22% are planning or considering the same policy. This data was reported in an article by the Society for Human Resource Management in May 2020.
Workers are stressed by the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on their daily lives, whether because of business closings, unemployment, remote learning, or high-risk health concerns. Adding to that stress is the risk that taking time off could be viewed as an act of disloyalty or trying to “get over” by asking for time off when the employee has been teleworking or if the employer is facing financial challenges.
Employers are cautioned to tread carefully when changing PTO policies. It may be best to remind workers of the current vacation policy so they can plan accordingly. If employees are nervous about taking time off, managers should lead by example and announce their plans to unplug. Companies can also choose to close down operations during Thanksgiving or between Christmas and New Years to force employees to take time off, too.
By the way, know what your employee handbook says before touting policy changes. If your policy is outdated or not followed, it’s time to revise and update your handbook before the end of the year. Employees should clearly understand what options they have to take a break from work, and employers should ensure they are communicating those options consistently and fairly. For help or guidance on how to traverse this situation at your workplace, reach out to Laura Rubenstein at LRubenstein@wcslaw.com or 410-659-1347.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane!
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