There are a variety of approaches to providing paid time off (PTO). Personally, I’ve experienced the following approaches the most:

  1. Accrue as you go, rollover
    • Downside:  This is tough when you start somewhere and need time right away.  You often have to borrow or you are just out of luck.
    • Downside:  Doesn’t always encourage people to take vacation, which then remains on the books for the organization. Plus, I’ve seen people want to take consecutive 3 months off as they’ve accrued that over the years.
    • Upside: The benefit is truly yours, you get paid for your vacation hours as part of your package.
  2. Accrue as you go, capped rollover
    • Downside: If you don’t take the time, you loose the benefit (up to the point of the capped)
    • Upside: Minimizes the downsides of the first one
  3. All immediately available, no rollover
    • Downside: if you don’t take the time, you loose the benefit
    • Downside: if you leave the company, you are not paid for what was immediately available.
    • Downside: Some companies also track accrued, so if you take all available and leave before you accrue, you owe the company money.
    • Upside: You can take time immediately if an emergency arises
  4. No tracking – take what you need when you need
    • Downside: People might not take time appropriately
    • Upside: Ownership is with the individual to take time appropriately
    • Upside: No balance on company book
    • Upside: Reduce cost of tracking
    • Upside: People can take what they need and when they need it

My preference is for 4 hands down. It’s what I have today and I will struggle if and when I ever have to go back to another approach.

Which approach do you prefer?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.


  • Jim Dusseau says:

    With “unlimited” PTO, I’ve been in the situation where it’s unlimited as long as it’s convenient for the company. I had vacations pushed back or denied. Without hard numbers to back up that someone has “earned” vacation, a company may view it as a privilege, rather than a right.

  • Matt says:

    I’ve heard of a new one: minimum vacation time. It started as a way of addressing the problems with unlimited vacation time. I’d be willing to try it.

    I don’t think I’d have a problem taking enough vacation with unlimited vacation time, but I’d worry I’d feel guilty and end up either working on vacation or not taking vacation when I would have at a place that accrued. I’d be more than willing to learn how to do that though.

    • Avatar photo Tricia says:

      Would you mind sharing a few more details on what minimum vacation time means? I can guess but I want to make sure.

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