Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach


Paid Time Off (PTO) is the answer to employee time administrators' dreams - one bank of hours accrued at a set rate for each employee to use for any reason they need to be out of the office.
The alternative, which is still quite common at many companies, is to track leave for each employee in separate accounts. One bank of vacation hours, one of sick leave, and one of personal leave - all accrued at different rates and with different rules for when an employee can use them.
Even with the simpler PTO account, the one excuse fits all, companies still manage to introduce arcane rules governing how an employee can use those hours. Few things shine a light into a company's bureaucracy brighter than examining their employee time off program; or better yet, living inside of it.
At the last company I worked for, there was a, frankly, terrible leave policy. Each employee had to accrue a bank of 40 hours of sick leave before any vacation was accrued, and upon using sick time, it had to be replaced first. To use vacation time, a form had to be filled out in advance explaining the reason for the time off, and had to be approved by the office manager. To use any sick leave, you had to actually get a note from your doctor!!
"Excuse me, Dr., could you tell me when you think I can go back to work? Oh, and could you put that in writing?"
The company granted 3 days off without pay for bereavement of a close relative (no going to your best friend's funeral! how dare you!) Maternity leave meant going on short term disability, and you can just forget about paternity leave.
And that was just the structure; living in it was another story. The only time I ever saw someone try to take sick time, it failed miserably. We'll call my friend JD, because, well, that's his, actually his name is James Dale, but everyone called him JD. Anywho, JD had some medical emergency and had to go to the doctor (I think it was strep throat?). He had to ask the doctor when he could go back to work, and get that in writing. That week, he put the time on his timecard and made a photocopy of the note to fax to corporate. The next week the president of the company called JD himself and told him to change that time to vacation time! JD tried to explain that he had a doctors note, but the president just bullied over his protests and insisted that JD correct his timecard.
How much more demoralizing and demeaning can you get? Really; does anyone have a good story of a company ramrodding its employees over time off?
Fast forward to my new job. The leave policy is a PTO account, but the company still fails to get it right. For some unexplained reason, employees are only allowed to take PTO in 8 hour increments! No leaving 2 hours early on a Friday and billing those hours to your PTO account!
Insisting the time is taken in 8 hour chuncks is a bad idea for several reasons. It is counter productive because rather than taking those last two hours on a Friday afternoon off, an employee is forced to stay at work most likely while zombified staring at the monitor without accomplishing anything. It is demoralizing because it implies that the company does not trust its employees to manage their time off professionally. Finally, it leads to integrity problems because in all likelihood you take off those two hours on Friday anyway and charge it to some job or report on your timecard that you worked two extra hours on the previous day.
When employees have to sacrifice their integrity to work with in the system, everyone loses.

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