As a result of COVID-19 and quarantining at home, more employees are vacationing less and refraining from using their paid time off (“PTO”). Employers are left to worry about their PTO and vacation policies and have to decide if they can afford to pay for employees’ unused vacation time. But like so many aspects of our everyday lives impacted by COVID-19, employers may need to adjust their PTO and vacation policies to meet today’s reality.
At some point in the future, the pandemic will subside and employers will be faced with the following issues:
The answer to the above questions: it depends.
So, what should employers do? Employers may want to consider whether they should modify their existing PTO and vacation policies based on their expected short and long term business needs in 2020.
Most employers who have written PTO and vacation policies will include in their policies that they have reserved the right to change those policies at the employer’s discretion. If appropriate, we have provided some helpful ways employers can modify their PTO and vacation policies below.
Employers should also be cognizant of how employees will view a policy change. Before implementing any of these changes, employers should take great care in not only deciding what, if any, action to take, but how any changes to your PTO and vacation policies will be communicated to your employees. If you are going to change your policies, provide as much advance notice as possible before implementing the policy change. Also, be sure that all employees are aware of the policy change, which can be verified through their electronic or written signature, or other proof of acknowledgement. Employers should also consider holding a team meeting or virtual format to communicate the reason for any extensive policy changes and to answer any questions your employees may have.
Most importantly, employers must remember that in most jurisdictions, employers are not permitted to take away any PTO time that has already accrued, as accrued but unused PTO is considered wages earned.
Written By: Haley Trust, Associate, SilvermanAcampora LLP