As a former school teacher, my time off consisted of X number of days of sick leave and X number of days of personal time.
If I were not sick or going to a doctor’s appointment, I was supposed to use the personal time to take a day off. And the rules were fairly well spelled out – advanced notice had to be given and lesson plans left behind.
If I came down with the flu, my children got sick or I had to have surgery, sick leave was granted. This type of leave didn’t need prior approval; I could call in at the last minute and take a day.
But 5-7 sick days a year, when you have children (especially more than one child) is sometimes not enough. As we know, newborns have routine appointments up until one year, and most children I know end up with numerous ear infections, viruses or other maladies within the first four or so years of the life, especially when they begin preschool. What happens when a mother runs out of sick days and is only left with personal days? In some instances, she has to take off without pay, which is never a good situation.
Robin Russo, president of Robin Leedy & Associates, first heard of Paid Time Off (PTO) from her daughter, who worked for a large clothing manufacture. Russo used the standard sick, personal, and religious holidays for time off days, but found it became too complicated when someone came up to her in the middle of the day requesting to go home because a child was sick and needed help.
Says Russo, “In a small company it can be problematic, since one person’s absence can mean that others have to cover for the person out and how do you say yes to one and not the other, etc. I always felt in a bind balancing the needs of the company with staff personal problems that I really didn’t need to know about.”
So Russo did what any great business owner does when something is not working – she made some changes. Rather than allot a set number of personal and sick days to employees, she gave them a bank of days – when these days are gone, they are gone. Not only does it make it easier for employees to take a day, regardless of the reason, but it saves the employee from coming to Russo to explain situations that might better be left personal.
So far, PTO seems to be working for Russo. Though started less than a year ago, her staff seems to like it well and the office manager has found that PTO may be gaining in popularity.
“I like it because I don’t have to make a judgement about whether a school trip is more important that the sniffles or an unscheduled doctor appointment or wedding rehearsal. Plus, some staff don’t have children yet, so it can seem out of whack if parental issues take precedence over ‘single’ issues,” Russo explains.