Skip to main content

«  View All Posts

How do you create leave policies that are generous and practical? 

February 28th, 2023 | 3 min. read

By Matt Patrick

Leave policies are a delicate matter for any company. As a small business owner, I, like you, often struggle with the balance of what is truly expected and what, in my mind, is generous to my employees. I want to be fair, but also don’t want to be taken advantage of. I often fret over this area, and it is probably silly- but talking about taking time off is important for everyone involved.

I want to believe that I don’t really care how much people work as long as they are getting their work done; however, there are a lot of pieces of work that are hard to account for. Customer care, client meetings, impromptu issues that arise, team support, and strategic time... there is more than just production work that needs to be done.

So when I think of time off policies, I often think through this lens: I want to offer flexibility, but I also need to make sure all jobs tasks are covered. Unfortunately, sometimes these ideologies can’t help but compete with each other.

What are your goals for your PTO policy?

In our office, we have had a variety of iterations of time off policies—from an unlimited PTO policy (surprisingly, our team didn’t like it) to a more restrictive time off policy in which every bit of time away from the office was PTO. What we have now is somewhere in between: a more flexible PTO policy that says if the time off during a week is under two hours, find a way to make up that time. We call this a professional 40. It communicates to my staff that I expect all full-time employees to work a professional 40, but I care less about how you get there each week. Beyond those 2 flexible weekly hours, our PTO policy is pretty standard, allowing employees to take half days or whole days as they’ve accured it.

I believe this is both generous and practical for our work environment, but realize it may not be for everyone. So what is right for your business? After all, you want to create a work environment that attracts and retains great employees, while also balancing the needs of your business.

Are you creating leave policies that are generous and practical?

First, let's talk about what we mean by "generous" since that term can mean different things to different people. Generous leave policies typically include a significant amount of paid time off for employees to use as they wish. This can include vacation days, sick days, and personal days. Some even offer unlimited paid time off (like we did).

Now, let's talk about what we mean by "practical." Practical leave policies consider the needs of both the business and the employees. For example, it's important to have policies for unexpected absences due to illness or family emergencies. At the same time, you want to ensure that your business isn't being disrupted by excessive time off.

So, are your leave policies generous and practical?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How much paid time off are you currently offering your employees?
  • Are your policies consistent with what other businesses in your industry are offering?
  • Do you have a clear policy in place for unexpected absences?
  • Are you able to manage employee time off without disrupting your business operations?
  • Are you offering any additional benefits, such as paid parental leave or sabbaticals?
  • Are there times of the year you simply can’t have employees take off? (for us, that looks like tax season – I communicate these restricted weeks as “blackout” days to my accounting staff so they know from onboarding that they are expected to be present during those times.)

If you're not sure whether your leave policies are generous and practical, it's a good idea to ask for feedback from your employees. You might find that they're looking for more time off, or that they're happy with the policies you already have in place.

When in doubt, a more generous policy is usually the answer

In general, it's always a good idea to err on the side of being more generous with your leave policies. Your employees will appreciate the extra time off, and you'll be able to attract and retain top talent in a competitive job market.

What we often see though is that our clients haven’t looked at their time off policies recently or they aren’t consistently applying the rules you have established. Worse yet, your handbook is not even being followed. Start with assessing what your ACTUAL policy is today, is it being followed, and is it appropriate to help you attract and retain your ideal teammates?

If you have any questions or would like a sample of some generous and practical leave policies, we would be happy to help. Click the let’s chat button to book a call, or get some help reviewing your handbook by checking out our blog 5 Mistakes to Avoid with your Employee Handbook.

Let's Chat