Paid Time Off Programs Compared In Survey

When it comes to time off, it seems that all the talk is about paid time off (PTO) programs. But just because Traditional programs might not receive as much of the HR spotlight, it doesn’t mean these programs, which separate vacation, sick, and personal time, have gone out of fashion.


As proof, consider that of the approximately 800 responses to AHI’s 2006 Survey Of Traditional Time Off And PTO Program Practices, more than half (54%) of responders completed the survey designed for users of Traditional programs; the other 46% filled out the PTO-specific survey.


In some areas, the differences between paid time off and Traditional programs were negligible.

  • About two-thirds (64%) of the PTO group offered employees 7-10 holidays; a similar percentage of the Traditional group (60%) offered the same number of holidays.

  • Majorities of both groups do not allow employees to borrow unearned time. 86% of the paid time off responders using a calendar/anniversary accrual method replied in the negative; 56% using a during-the-year accrual method said the same. 88% of responders who separate vacation, sick, and personal time and use a calendar/anniversary accrual method refused to allow employees to borrow unearned time; 63% using a during-the-year accrual method echoed this sentiment.

  • When it comes to tracking records for their systems, the most popular method for both groups was tabbed as their payroll/software system.

  • By substantial margins (PTO: 72%-28%; Traditional: 61%-39%, for vacation), both groups allowed carryover of days off from one accrual period to the next.

In other areas, the differences between programs were much more apparent.

  • When it came to the length of waiting periods before new hires could take either vacation or PTO time off, the number one response tagged by 36% of paid time off responders was 31-90 days, whereas the most popular response from the group that separates vacation, sick, and personal time (25%) was considerably longer at 181-365 days.

  • About one-third (36%) of PTO responders pointed to half-hour increments as the smallest increment of time that can be used from their PTO program. A third of the Traditional group (33%) chose a half-day as their smallest increment of vacation time allowed.

Since the number of either PTO days or vacation, sick, and personal days offered can impact recruiting and retention efforts, the survey breaks down these categories by company size, so comparisons can be made on how one organization stacks up against its competition in terms of amount of time off offered.


Survey says: As would be expected, smaller organizations give less PTO time than larger organizations. This pattern did not hold up for Traditional users. The smallest employers were much more generous than the mid-sized organizations, but not quite as generous as the largest employers.