It’s prime summer vacation season for employees to take advantage of paid time off. Requests and scheduling too often coincide with confusion and misinformation. Employees can think they have more time available than allotted and polices can be so complex that individuals receive conflicting answers from multiple sources within the same company.
Put the CFO, payroll supervisor and office manager in a room and you are likely to hear three descriptions of vacation earning and eligibility. Can I take my two weeks off in January or do I have to wait until June? Who knows?
A clear written vacation policy answers two questions:
- How are vacation days earned? Employers may calculate vacation earnings based on hours worked beginning on the first day of employment or use specific calendar dates to determine vacation totals. Leave is granted based on an anniversary year or calendar year which can necessitate prorating during the first months of employment.
- When can employees take earned vacation? A waiting period can be established for new employees or during each vacation year or employees can request the days off as soon as they are earned.
Employers tend to use the terms accrued and earned interchangeably when they may mean different things. I think of accruals as the benefit piling up based on how long you work and earned is the amount available. After 10 years of employment Sal earned 4 weeks of vacation but continues to accrue new days each month that he can take next year.
Make certain everyone understands your own definitions, policy and process. Take out the document and have three different people read it and tell you what it means. If you get three, or even two, interpretations it’s time for a rewrite. The person who is least knowledgeable about benefit is a good person to include in a test panel. Even the clearest document should be revisited, revised and reissued once each year. While everyone else is away pull out your policy for a check and have it ready for presentation in time for fall open enrollment.