vacation, sabbatical, sick leave, floating holidays

Paid Time Off, Sabbaticals and Floating Holidays

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The Changing Landscape of Vacation and Sick Leave

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Whether you’re an employee or employer, you may have noticed the age-old two-weeks vacation a year formula is no longer ubiquitous. A lot of companies are switching to a combined vacation time/sick leave PTO (paid time off) bank, in which all paid time off is treated the same. Fifty-four percent of companies that implemented the policy have seen unscheduled absences drop by up to 10 percent, according to the Alexander Hamilton Institute. This may be due to fewer incidences of people “playing sick” in order to use sick days.

The downside? If an employee or family member has a lot of health care needs or is chronically ill, they may end up using most of their time off for health issues instead of a real vacation.


While the term “sabbatical” has its roots in higher education, where teachers may be sent off to travel and study, it’s become the term applied to any extended leave offered by an employer. It can be paid or unpaid, but more and more companies are realizing the advantages of providing paid sabbaticals. A 2017 study showed that people who took a sabbatical experienced a decline in stress after returning to work, compared to their peers who didn’t take one.

The point? Employees return to work thoroughly rested, refreshed, and motivated. It can be used to spend more time with family, to travel, to learn a new skill or hobby or to just relax and take a step back from normal routine. A sabbatical is often offered at a period of four to six weeks every four or five years of employment.

Floating Holidays

Since we don’t all celebrate the same holidays, allowing employees to rearrange those days to accommodate their own beliefs and celebrations makes sense. It acknowledges that the workforce is a diverse place.

According to a 2015 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, 42 percent of employers offer floating holidays. Frequently, they offer one or more floating holidays in addition to their regular holiday package. These can be taken whenever the employee wishes — on a religious holiday, on their birthday, or just a random day of the week.

The bottom line is, companies are getting creative with time-off packages and making an effort to appeal to employees diverse and changing needs, and it could actually be making them more productive.