Employees: What Types of Leave Are You Entitled To?


What is a reasonable Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy?

Most businesses recognize that a comprehensive benefits package attracts high-quality employees in a competitive market.

As such, successful companies often have a Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy that gives workers time off for vacation or personal reasons. A reasonable policy is:
  1. Flexible
  2. Clearly defined
  3. Motivating

That being said, each policy will vary based on a company’s size, structure, and culture.

For instance, a large and successful company might grant unlimited paid days off. In this case, employers trust their employees won’t abuse the system. Employees are responsible for managing their time in a way that allows them to meet project goals and deadlines.

Other companies might have banked or accrued paid leave policies. Often, employees under these policies can use a “personal day” at their discretion (e.g., to care for a sick child, attend appointments, or take a vacation). However, there may be a limit to the number of hours accrued or banked per year.

Holidays and vacation time

Again, it’s up to employers to include holidays in their PTO policies (though most businesses pay workers for time off on popular holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas).

Employers can also set rules for vacation days, such as:

  • Asking employees to refrain from taking vacation during their busy season
  • Mandating vacation days at certain times of the year (e.g., an annual plant shutdown)
  • Requiring employees to request time off before planning their vacations
  • Requiring managers to approve time off requests
  • Paying out unused vacation upon termination of employment

Keep in mind that rules around vacation policies must also abide by any state or local labor laws.

Bereavement leave

The FMLA doesn’t cover bereavement leave, and only a few states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington) require employers to provide it. That said, employers recognize the emotional toll of losing a loved one and often include bereavement leave in their PTO policies.

Even if the allotted time off is unpaid, there’s value in giving employees the space and time to mourn. For one, the employee will feel respected. They can also take time to heal, as grief can have as much of a physical toll as an emotional one. If they’re the executor of the deceased person’s estate or in charge of funeral arrangements, they can also use this time to organize their affairs.

Of course, grief is something that people carry with them for the rest of their lives. But, with some time off, they can at least avoid the stresses of work while they grieve. When they return, they’ll be in a better state of mind to resume their responsibilities.

Generally, employers offer a bereavement leave of three to five days, although this time may be flexible depending on the employee’s relationship to the deceased. For instance, the employee may be given more time to grieve the loss of an immediate family member such as a parent, spouse, or child.

The importance of an employee handbook

As we mentioned, a reasonable PTO policy is flexible, clearly defined, and motivating.

So, as an employer, find a policy that suits your business and document it in your employee handbook. Employees will refer to this book whenever they have questions about the way their company operates.

In the end, employees that understand how their employer helps them achieve a healthy work/life balance are more productive and satisfied with their jobs.

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