With vaccination rates high and COVID cases low, workplaces are experiencing a surge of PTO requests. The influx of vacation requests is caused by a variety of reasons including:
- Long-delayed vacations
- Family visits
- Delayed weddings or family reunions.
It’s imperative for employers to have a clear PTO policy to help managers prioritize requests and reduce pushback from employees. In this article, MP’s HR services team offers guidance on how employers develop a comprehensive time off request policy for their employee handbooks.
The optimal tool for handling multiple vacation requests simultaneously is developing and distributing a strong PTO request policy. Employers may need to update their current policy, or they may develop a new one if there isn’t an existing policy. (Note that MP’s HR experts are experienced and ready to guide employers on this task.) The completed policy should be added to the employee handbook and shared with all employees on their first day of work. If the policy is created or updated in 2021, then the employer can should share the new policy. MP’s HR experts advise that a PTO request policy should be shared via a method employees can easily access later. To reach compliance, many employers will post the most recent version of an employee handbook on their intranet or give employees a digital copy that can be downloaded and saved.
Employees should sign an acknowledgement of a policy if it’s new or a recent update. If it’s part of the employee handbook that they received on their first day, employees should simply sign an acknowledgement of the whole handbook upon receipt. Acknowledgements should be kept on file and easily accessible. They may help protect the company in the case of a lawsuit or other legal action.
Developing a Time Off Policy:
An employee time off policy should include:
- The type of paid time off offered:
- Sick Time (may be required in accordance with local, state, or federal laws)
- Personal Time Off
- Policy accrual rates, limits, and plan maximums per policy year.
- When a request should be submitted and how, or whom it is submitted to
- Policies for busy seasons or holidays
- How requests are prioritized (by tenure, by the order of requests, etc.)
Another important item to note regarding PTO policies is HR compliance. If employers include sick and vacation time in one policy (PTO), they must be in compliance with local, state, and federal sick time laws. State sick time laws vary and some are especially rigid and pro-labor. Employers may want to consult with a local employment lawyer as they create their policies, especially if their workplaces are in states where labor law is heavily regulated, like California. To avoid running afoul of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers should be mindful of disparate impact based on protective classes. Employers should keep tenure, equity, and business needs in mind when approving or rejecting time off requests.
Improving employee engagement:
If employers want to boost employee engagement as they create this policy, they can seek feedback from employees. A brief, anonymous employee survey on the topic may yield some helpful responses. Another option is to set up a meeting and invite employees to come and offer ideas or feedback on the PTO policy. Even if employers can’t utilize all feedback, any of these tactics will assist in building trust, respect, and a better relationship between employer and employees. Employees will feel heard and valued by their workplace.
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