Parents vs. nonparents. Gen Y vs. Gen X and the baby boomers. In some workplaces, there’s growing tension over benefits inequality. HR better listen if employees complain that they're getting worse benefits than their co-workers—especially when those on the short end feel they’re shouldering a bigger workload.
Paid time off (PTO) banks may help calm worker discontent by providing more leave flexibility for all.
These days, parents and others who have caregiver responsibilities don’t hesitate to take time off. Whether it’s unpaid FMLA leave to care for new children or elderly parents, or time off to attend a Little League game or parent-teacher conference, employees are taking advantage of benefits that foster work-life balance.
Even the EEOC has entered the game, with newly released guidance aptly titled “Unlawful disparate treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities.”
But where does that put employees who don’t have children or elderly parents to care for? What does all this work-life balance do for workplace morale when some employees feel they’re carrying a larger workload than those seen walking out the door early for an afternoon recital or ballgame?
Single and unencumbered employees may resent what they perceive as special treatment. And they’re beginning to demand equal time off. They, too, deserve work-life balance, they argue. That balance may mean something different, of course, ranging from time off to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, campaign for their favorite political candidate or just watch the World Series.
PTO: All leave created equal
The answer may lie in a paid time off (PTO) program, which allows employees a certain number of hours off per year to use as they please without having to dig into sick leave or vacation time.
Advice: Structure your PTO policy to promote flexibility. It should specify that employees can use time off for any purpose, including family care responsibilities. (Just be sure, since the time is paid, to run any FMLA time concurrent with the PTO time.)
An effective PTO plan has two big benefits:
- Reduced workplace tension. PTO removes managers and supervisors from the decision-making role. No longer must they decide whether a request to attend a parent-teacher conference is legitimate, while a request to attend an afternoon baseball game is not.
Note: You can and should insist that employees seek their supervisor’s approval in advance to ensure staffing remains adequate to get the work done. But make sure bosses don’t weigh in on whether the purpose of the leave is “worthy” of approval.
- Fewer chances for inadvertent discrimination. When supervisors no longer have to decide who gets time off for what purpose, they’re less likely to accidentally discriminate against protected classes of employees. For example, no longer do you risk a sex discrimination lawsuit by approving time off for a mother but not for a father.