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Jun 30, 2010

I’ve had a lot of jobs and worked for a lot of companies in a number different places, and if there’s one thing I’ve found, it’s this: I like companies that provide PTO instead of just giving you traditional days off.

And according to a new survey from WorldatWork, the global human resources association that focuses on compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards issues, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That survey (Paid Time Off Programs and Practices) is being presented to a congressional hearing today, and it shows that paid time off bank (PTO) systems are growing in acceptance, with 46 percent of organizations using them compared to a traditional vacation and sick days system. Although traditional systems continues to be used by the majority of organizations (54 percent in 2010), the use of PTO banks has grown dramatically from 19 percent of organizations in 2002, to 37 percent in 2006, to the current 46 percent.

Don’t know the difference in these systems? According to the Delaware Employment Log Blog, in a traditional time-off system, “vacation, sick, and personal time are all separate and treated differently,” while in a PTO system, “all time off is lumped together in a ‘bank’ from which the employee can withdraw, regardless of the reason.”

Forward-looking organizations tend to utilize PTO bank systems because it makes record-keeping a whole lot easier. Rather than having to keep track of vacation/sick/personal time separately, you just track PTO days. Plus, you eliminate the game-playing that can take place when people on traditional systems run out of vacation days and have to resort to subterfuge to tap into sick days when they need additional time off.

Yes, PTO days rock, and once you’ve worked in a PTO bank system, you’ll never want to go back to worrying about separate vacation and sick days ever again.

There’s another advantage to having a PTO bank system, as the WorldatWork survey found: it helps to attract and retain employees. A whopping 83 percent of organizations with PTO bank-type programs feel that such PTO programs are essential in the competition for talent. And a majority of all organizations that were surveyed (70 percent of those with a PTO bank-type system and 60 percent of those with a traditional system) say they offer paid time off , regardless of the system, as a key employee benefit when attempting to attract new employees.

Here’s my take on this: Offering time off is good for companies trying to compete for talent, but offering a PTO bank system, where workers get a pool of days to use as they like whenever they need off, is even better still.

“With the focus of the Obama Administration and Congress on expanding access to work-life benefits such as paid leave programs, our research report shows that employers recognize the competitive advantage of offering paid time off and believe in continuing these programs, even through the recession,” said Cara Welch, director of public policy for WorldatWork.

Yes, time off is a good thing, but worrying about the difference between sick time and vacation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. PTO banks are where smart organizations are headed, and take it from someone like me who has worked in both systems – the PTO bank is not only a lot more employee friendly, but also a lot easier for HR to administrate.

The WorldatWork survey does a good job of detailing that, and it’s where your organization should be going if they’re not there already.