PTO Programs Are Changing With Employee Needs

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By Genevieve Douglas

June 16 — Traditional paid leave programs are still the most common way to offer time off to employees, but workers are increasingly asking for leave programs that address their specific needs, and employers may want to consider expanding their paid time off policies to attract the best talent.

Nearly 90 percent of organizations that participated in a WorldatWork survey released June 14 said it's necessary to offer some type of paid time off program to attract top talent and drive organizational success.

But companies are increasingly implementing leave programs that go above and beyond current federal, state and local requirements, Lenny Sanicola, senior practice leader at WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, told Bloomberg BNA June 16.

“Organizations understand they can no longer be competitive if they don't get creative with their own paid time off benefits. For many employees, paid time off is more important than other traditional pay and benefits,” he said.

Paid parental leave is increasingly offered by employers, Sanicola said. WorldatWork also found that among organizations that offer paid parental leave, 54 percent offer fewer than six weeks, 16 percent offer six weeks and 16 percent offer 12 weeks. Nearly 45 percent of respondents said they require a tenure of 12 months or more before employees can access paid parental leave.

The survey findings are based on 625 responses from WorldatWork members polled between Jan. 20 and Feb. 5.

Updating Traditional PTO

Employers may want to assess their current leave programs and make changes to maximize their success, Sanicola said. Employers that want to tweak their paid leave policies should first address parental leave programs, as many employees are asking for these benefits, he advised.

However, for traditional paid time off benefits, including PTO banks, employers may want to consider rewarding high-performing employees with more leave, instead of basing the leave on seniority, Sanicola said.

Organizations should survey employees or conduct focus groups to find out what kind of leave is important to them, and HR should take that information and apply it to the workforce, he said.

Targeting Specific Demographics

Often, leave programs that best resonate with employees are those that address specific life needs, Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management, told Bloomberg BNA June 16.

For younger employees in the workplace, especially millennials, their “chief demand” is for more flexibility in regard to how they can use their leave, Elliott said.

PTO banks can be one way to offer this, because they combine sick leave, vacation days and personal leave into one pool to be used as the employee chooses. This is going to be an attractive benefit for those employees who would traditionally use one type of leave more than the others, Elliott said.

Paid parental leave benefits, on the other hand, are “really playing well” for Generation X employees, Elliott said. “That just shows that we are going to start to see these more targeted benefits toward specific demographic groups to deliver additional value to the employee,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris in Washington at

For More Information

The WorldatWork survey is available at