PTO Accrual: Everything You Need to Know

PTO accrual relates to precisely how paid time off is accrued and then monitored. PTO, the abbreviation of "paid time off," is the combination of all paid time off work that an employee is entitled to under a PTO plan. This includes:

  • Vacation days
  • Sick days
  • Personal days

PTO Policy

PTO policy outlines the way in which PTO entitlement is calculated and accrued.

As standard, all staff, whether they are part time, full time, or employed only for a certain term, start accruing PTO from the moment that they join an organization, and they may utilize their PTO days as they are accrued. Accruals are generally shown in days; however, they are gained and monitored in hours (for example, 20 days equates to 160 hours based on a typical 40-hour, 5-day working week).

PTO accrual can vary depending on the particular employee's amount of service to the company and their FTE (full-time equivalent). There are relative variances depending on whether the employee is considered exempt or non-exempt.

Non-Exempt Accrual Rates

PTO is accrued based on the hours that an employee has worked up to 40 hours per week. If the individual works less than 40 hours a week, this is calculated pro rata. It is important to note that the hours which contribute toward this do not include unpaid absence from work, hours on-call, or overtime.

Exempt Accrual Rates

These rates are prorated based on a certain percentage of full-time equivalency, and the rate increases at the point of the employee's pay period for their service anniversary to the company. (For example, a non-exempt employee who receives payment on the 12th of each month and who will be celebrating three years of working at the company on September 14, 2018, will start to accrue PTO at the increased rate as of September 12, 2018.)

Purposes for Paid Time Off

PTO plans intend to give employees more flexibility in managing their time away from the office. Rather than being entitled to a separate allowance of days for sick, vacation, personal days, etc., a PTO scheme combines all of these days into one total time off allowance, therefore enabling an employee to take these days off as and when they see fit to do so.

From the company's perspective, there are several benefits to introducing such a scheme. Namely, this allowance stops individuals from taking sick time off purely for the purposes of utilizing their sickness quota. It also reduces the amount of tracking that has to be done to manage each employee's various entitlements as these are now combined and centralized.

Guidelines for PTO Use

As a standard, employees wishing to utilize a portion of their PTO allowance should provide their manager with at least two days of notice, with the exception being in emergency circumstances or if unexpected sickness occurs.

Every employee who is employed full time will earn PTO that varies depending on their time of service to the company. This will be accrued in hourly increments at the point of which the employee's bi-weekly paycheck is provided. If an employee does not work during a particular period or leaves for reasons such as worker's compensation leave or disability leave, then PTO will not be earned during this time.

Exceptions to PTO

If an employee attempts to take more days off than what they are actually entitled to under their PTO allowance, then this can result in disciplinary action being taken against them, and this may even result in the employee being terminated from the company. Exceptions to this rule and extenuating circumstances must be approved by the president of the company.

Any employee who misses more than three unscheduled days off work consecutively may be requested to provide their Human Resources department with a doctor's letter that details their reason for absence and permits their return to the workplace.

If an employee is granted a period of unpaid leave of absence (for example, for sickness or compassionate leave), then they must use the PTO which they have accrued before the unpaid leave can commence. Any unscheduled absences that result in several consecutive days of absence could subject the employee to disciplinary action.

If employers are faced with issues of absenteeism, the steps that they can take against the employee are as follows:

  • At the first 1-3 incidents of absenteeism, no disciplinary action will be taken against the individual; however, the matter will be discussed with them by their supervisor.
  • On the fourth occurrence of absenteeism, the offending employee will be given a verbal warning to deter them from further incidents.
  • On the fifth occurrence of absenteeism, the employee will be given a written warning which will be documented in their personnel file.
  • At the sixth incident, the employee will be terminated from the company.

The above process resets every 12 months; however, if an individual receives more than one written warning within a 24-month rolling period, then their employment contract will be terminated.

Employees will also be terminated if they have used up all of their Short Term disability or FMLA benefits and are still unable to return to the workplace, or if they miss two days of work consecutively without notice. In the latter case, the employer may deem that the individual has decided to leave their job.

If you are currently in the process of changing your company's PTO scheme and would appreciate some further information and guidance on the matter, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's Marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top five percent of lawyers to its site, and they come from schools such as Harvard Law or Yale. Our lawyers have an average of 14 years of legal experience, which includes working with prestigious companies like Google and Twilio.