The Pros And Cons Of PTO

Posted on December 13, 2016

Is paid time off the right benefit strategy for your company?

Day Off Circled On A CalendarIronically, calling in sick for work can be a real headache – and not just for the employee. Days lost to illness are challenging for the employer as well. Not only does it cost the company productivity, but a system of compensated time off that uses sick days can be tricky to manage. Some workers take advantage of the benefit, using sick leave when they should really be taking vacation. Others fret over whether they are really sick enough to take the day off at all.

The goal, it would seem, is to find a system that gives workers the flexibility to more easily and honestly manage the time away from their job that they are paid for. On the surface, paid time off (generally known as PTO for short) helps with this issue. At its core, a PTO system is simple: employees earn a certain amount of time off for each hour they work. This time is banked and can be used for either sickness or vacation (total time off is usually the same as if you offered vacation and sick days separately). Workers are rewarded for staying healthy, because their pool of time off can then be used for vacation instead of sick leave. On the other hand, if a serious illness occurs, employees have access to more time off while still being paid.

PTO is not a perfect system, however, and it may not be right for every company. If you are considering a change – or if you don’t currently offer time off as a benefit – here are some of the pros and cons you should take into account when you consider implementing PTO.


  • PTO is often popular with employees. They like the idea of taking more vacation if they 
 stay healthy.
  • Employees feel better about calling in sick even if they don’t need to see a doctor. With PTO, they don’t need to make up excuses to stay home.
  • PTO can be a valuable tool in recruiting.
  • It can be easier to administer PTO up front. This can lead to administrative cost savings.
  • You may reduce employee burnout. Most PTO systems include caps on the number of hours that can be banked, and that encourages workers to use this time off.
  • Employees feel more in control of the time off since they no longer have to justify it.


  • If you are switching from a system that uses sick days, some employees may feel like they are 
 being penalized for taking sick time (because it now “costs” them vacation time). Usually, this happens only when the previous system was not closely monitored.
  • PTO is treated almost exactly like vacation time by the law in most jurisdictions. If your particular jurisdiction calls for your business to pay out unused vacation time when an employee leaves, PTO can cause you to pay out more (compared to a system that uses sick days, which are generally not required to be paid for when an employee leaves).
  • For the most part, employees look at PTO as vacation (even though it is meant as both vacation 
and sick leave). This means that a healthy worker will have the ability to take more time off, because some of those days are no longer set aside specifically for illness.
  • Ironically, PTO can also lead to employees being reluctant to take time off for sickness, because they want to conserve their time for vacations. For some, this means coming into work sick when they should be staying home.

To get started or to make a transition, you may want to consult a human resources professional. He or she can help you to create a benefit program that is right for your business, ensuring that it is a strong selling point for your company with prospective employees, no matter which system you choose.


Ten Silliest (But Actually Used) Excuses For Calling In Sick recently took a survey of reasons for taking the day off, and Business Insider reported the results. True or not, here are 10 of the wackiest responses.

  • Employee claims to have broken arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich.
  • Employee was stuck under the bed.
  • Employee was poisoned by grandmother’s ham.
  • Employee was poked in the eye while combing their hair.
  • All of the employee’s underwear was in the washer.
  • Employee was going to the beach because the doctor recommended more vitamin D.
  • Employee’s cat was stuck inside the dashboard of the car.
  • Employee chugged a bottle of mouthwash thinking it was Powerade.
  • Employee was kicked by a llama and suffered a broken leg.
  • Employee’s mate threw a pan of hot grits in their face.