PTO vs. vacation, sick & personal time off

Question:What are the pros and cons of a comprehensive paid-time-off (PTO) leave plan, compared to one that has separate accruals for vacation, sick and personal days? My company is considering changing, and we need to know the advantages and disadvantages of going with PTO.” — P.T., Tucson


One good thing about PTO is that generally an employee will use the leave judiciously and reserve it for vacation and illnesses, rather than taking sick days as “not feeling great/mental health” days. One negative is that in California PTO is treated like salary so at termination the entire balance must be paid out.

We use separate accruals along with a 24-pay-period year. I advocate the PTO model and 26-pay-period year because there’s just less fooling around with calculations and less debate about which leave can be used when. When it’s gone, it’s gone and no more guff about it. Regrettably, there is no interest here in changing and so payroll is a highly complex task with contentious outcomes. If you can go PTO, consider the context in which you will be using it, including the way it is accrued (fiscal or calendar year for example) and what other local big-fish companies do as that will have an impact on how your employees can use their leave to be with family. FMLA must also be considered.

The advantage is not having to seperate out whether it’s sick leave, vacation or personal pref on the payroll system and for STDL or FMLA purposes. The disadvantage is that although we tell employees that “vacation time” must be scheduled, PTO can be used like personal preference or sick leave and used unscheduled. People figure out real quick that if the supervisor tells them they can’t take “vacation” because of scheduling or other issues they just call in “sick”. It’s all PTO no matter how it’s used.


We do not use PTO, but our board wants to change how we do sick leave, vacation, and personal days. I don’t know if PTO would work for us. The only problem is with the ones that have built up there sick time to the 120 days.

Our sick leave policy is that we get 12 hrs per month and if we build our sick leave to 60 days or 480 hrs you can take a day off with pay, or get paid for it, or build your sick leave to 960 hrs.

We have PTO, but we are thinking about doing away with it, and implementing sick days, because employees take advantage of the PTO. We offered it for Doctors, Dentist, visits or immediate family emergency.However employees want to use it for anything and everything instead of what it was design for. It’s getting out of control and the employees don’t seem to care that they are abusing it.