PTO Is a Benefit But Could Also Be a Curse


Paid Time Off (PTO) policies have evolved over the years from vacation pay and sick pay to PTO to (now) unlimited PTO.  While some espouse unlimited PTO as a huge benefit to employees, could it actually be hurting them?



Telling kids on campus that your company offers unlimited PTO will be a huge hit.  Think about it.  When their parents ask, “how much vacation time do you get?”, the son/daughter will say, “as much as I want!”  Their parents will feel their child hit the jackpot!


Now, let’s look at reality.  In the public accounting world, charge hours are king.  A CPA may be asked to get 1,600 or so charge hours per year.  They’ll also be asked to get another 40-80 training hours, 200-300 business development hours and 300-400 administrative hours (evaluations, billing, technical reading, mentoring, etc.).  While numbers vary by firm, level and role, the overall “firm hours” will likely be in the 2,100 to 2,300 hours per year.  If a firm expects total hours per person to be around 2,400 to 2,500 per year, that leaves around 200 PTO hours or 5 weeks of PTO.

In some ways, I feel employers could be misleading their employees about unlimited PTO.  With the expectations levied upon employees, they really do not have unlimited PTO.  Their PTO is limited based on these other expectations.

In addition, while 5 weeks of PTO may be very generous, remember this is really an average.  Some may have less PTO because they work more “firm” hours.  Others may have more PTO, but is there still a risk that supervisors/partners will see those who take more PTO as employees who are not “dedicated”.  Let’s admit it, that risk exists.


The other issue I have with unlimited PTO is that the very thing companies are trying to achieve contradicts what an ever growing millennial workforce wants.  Unlimited PTO gives employees flexibility and allows them to use their own judgment with their time.  Millennials want structure.  They want certainty.  If they are given an opportunity for unlimited PTO, they may struggle managing themselves.


I’m all for giving employees flexibility and great benefits.  I just feel an unlimited PTO policy could be more detrimental to an employee’s well being than employers want to admit (or know).

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