As companies battle to attract and retain top-tier talent, they develop new benefits to entice workers to join their teams.
One of the newer benefits that arose in the past decade is unlimited paid time off.
What’s Unlimted Paid Time Off
In theory, unlimited paid time off policies allow employees to take time off whenever needed. There’s no cap on their vacation time or sick time. Workers can take time to manage their personal affairs or take a much-needed week-long holiday without worrying about how much time off they’ve earned.
Companies typically offer this perk in highly competitive industries to pretend they care about work-life balance.
Does it Work in Practice?
In practice, most unlimited paid time off policies aren’t as attractive as they seem. A user in the popular antiwork community on Reddit asked the crowd if these policies actually work or if it’s just a tactic designed to attract applicants.
The users had a lot of varied experiences with unlimited paid-time-off policies.
You Can Never Use The Time Off
The most common complaint concerning these unlimited time off policies is that managers don’t actually let you take time off.
You may have unlimited time off on the books, but you can’t take time off unless your manager approves, and your manager will always find a reason to say no.
“It’s unlimited, but you have to ask Steve and then find someone to cover your projects, and Sara is on family leave, so now isn’t really a good time, and we have some new folks starting next week, so that’s not a good time either and then, of course, the week after that is the harvest moon and then….” shared one user, highlighting how manager’s use any excuse possible to prevent employees from using the leave.
Even if a manager lets you go, they’ll tell you they don’t like it. The entire work culture works because everyone agrees that taking time off is terrible. If you dare to take time off, your boss, colleagues, and underlings will all side-eye you.
“You have this odd peer pressure to not take PTO. Especially extended periods of PTO,” said one user of how the culture rather than leave posted on the books limits your time off.
“The limit is guilt and implied idea that taking too much will make you take very little,” added another, saying that as a result, “You take less than you [would] actually get a set amount.”
It Protects Companies Profits
One user pointed out a more insidious reason companies offer unlimited paid time off: They don’t have to pay cash outs for unused leave.
Most companies offering paid time off as a benefit consider those days part of your compensation package. If you don’t take them, you’re still entitled to compensation. Some companies offer leave payouts annually, while others only provide payouts if an employee leaves the company. Either way, they’re paying for the leave.
However, a business doesn’t need to worry about these payouts if they offer unlimited paid time off. No leave on the books means nothing to pay out.
Unlimited PTO is a Scam
Although it sounds nice in theory, most users agree that, in practice, it’s a scam. Perhaps one day, we can shift our toxic work culture to make unlimited time off policies work for employees rather than for companies.
Until then, working a job with a defined time off benefit is better, even if it’s less time off than you would like.