Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
A reader recently sent me a note regarding “use it or lose it” time off policies.
My company, located in Oregon, gave me three-weeks of vacation at beginning of year. Now they are forcing me to use or lose by year end. Is it legal in California?
There are lots of unanswered questions here. We don’t know if the reader’s vacation situation is based on a long-standing policy or a new one. We don’t know if the person was told about a “use it or lose it” policy when they received their vacation. I assume the employee is asking about California because they’re located there? But we would want to confirm that for sure. And we need to know both Oregon and California state laws regarding employee time off.
I realize that I’m not directly answering the employee’s question, but we’ve discussed the aspects of time off in previous articles. I’m hoping this list of articles might help someone formulate the questions about the policy they should ask their human resources department. And it could help HR departments when they are communicating with employees about benefits.
Many organizations are reevaluating their employee benefits offerings in light of the pandemic. With more employees working remotely, companies are looking at the benefits they offer in a physical office environment versus the ones that can be utilized virtually. They’re also looking at how employees can take time off.
It’s also important to note that unlimited vacation isn’t a cost-cutting measure. Yes, moving to unlimited vacation means that those big vacation accruals are gone. But smart companies are shifting those funds toward other benefits like wellness programs, student loan repayment programs, and parental leave (just to name a few.) With the increased challenges in finding qualified candidates, unlimited vacation could create a win-win.
Creating an equitable work arrangement means transitioning to a different type of accountability. It’s less focused on time and more on results. Managers should be given the training and tools to effectively handle these situations. Employees should be informed of new performance standards. We’re not just talking about paid time off, but on everything.
Employees like time off. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, flexible hours and vacations are the two most popular employee benefits after health insurance. If organizations want to remain competitive, they need to offer benefits that employees want. You would think that any benefit that gives employees more time off would be met with cheers and adoration.
Benefits are a tricky and sometimes emotional subject. They represent value to employees, so organizations need to handle them with care. Whenever an employer decides to eliminate a benefit, there is a calculus that the employer will perform to weigh the savings from eliminating the benefit against the cost in employee relations and legal risk.
It’s not unusual for employee benefit policies to change and evolve over time. And with the increased amount of remote and virtual work, it’s possible for employees to have questions about how different state laws apply to them. When employees have questions about their benefits, they should feel comfortable going to human resources to get answers. HR departments should start to anticipate these types of questions and proactively inform employees, so they’re not caught off guard.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Key West, FL23