Give Employees the Option of Donating Vacation Time

During this past holiday season, I spoke with several colleagues who were being “forced” to take their vacation time. You know how this works. Year-end is approaching. The finance department does not want a huge vacation accrual on the books. The policy says “use it or lose it.” So the manager says, “Start taking some vacation each week.”

According to a study supplied by the Northern California HR Association (NCHRA), over $65 billion is in limbo each year due to employees not taking their entire vacation accrual. This represents a total $224 billion liability for U.S. businesses. Their study indicated that on average $1,898 or 5.7 days per employee are unused with 48 percent of employees taking all vacation for use-it-or-lose-it hours.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for employees to take their vacation time. We need time to decompress and relax. It’s necessary for our well-being. But I also think it can be counterproductive to “force” people to take vacation time. I mean, how can someone really relax when they’re being forced to take vacation.

Organizations need to become more flexible and offer options when employees are approaching their vacation deadline date and have a few days left on the books. It’s great when organizations have put policies in place to allow employees to carryover vacation. Some companies will actually pay the time out. But if your company doesn’t do either of those things, instead of “forcing” an employee to take a vacation, maybe they can donate it to a worthy cause.

NCHRA shared with me an organization called We2o, a philanthropy platform that allows employees to donate vacation time to a designated charity. NCHRA is actually using this platform to give their employees an option to donate vacation time to the American Heart Association. I had the chance to chat with Michael Vo, founder of We2o, about the platform and its capabilities.

Vo explained that We2o offers employees the ability to donate excess vacation and paid time off (PTO) to nearly 1 million U.S. charities that are eligible for tax deductible donations. The other great facet to the program is that, along with the altruistic benefits to making a donation, employees do reap the financial benefit because their donation is tax deductible.

Yes, it’s important that we take a little time away from work. But, if circumstances don’t allow an employee to use up their paid vacation, it’s nice to see there are options besides “lose it”.  We2o is still relatively new but if you’re looking for another option for employees to manage their vacation time, donating it could be a triple win.

Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby