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The Importance of Paid Time Off & Personal Days

Published on | Elyse Braner | Point of View

By Elyse Braner, Pacers Running

As small businesses, in a competitive industry, it is important that we support our employees to the extent that we are able. PTO (paid time off) has been a big topic of conversation since I started my role as the director of people + culture at Pacers Running. 

It is my belief that store managers and our floor staff have the hardest roles within our companies, so it is vital that we give them the proper time off to pursue passions outside of the store and to take a break to prevent burnout. In recruiting, I am finding that employees value a generous paid time off package more now than in previous iterations of hiring. It is sometimes more valued than salary amount. 

At Pacers Running, all employees who work an average of 32-plus hours per week are considered full time and eligible for our PTO program. Based on 40 hours per week, employees will earn 3.34 hours of PTO per pay period, or 10 days per year. After two years of employment, this moves to five hours of PTO per pay period, or 15 days per year.  The average employee in the United States receives 11 PTO days per year, so when we implemented this it was a market based decision and one that was sustainable for the company.   

This year, we moved the threshold to receive the higher PTO hours to after two years of service, as opposed to three. We shortened this threshold as a perk to help with retention and reward employees who stay with the company past two years. Staying with an organization for two years shows commitment and a desire to grow with the company, and that should be rewarded.   

PTO is paid out if an employee leaves the company, and employees are allowed to carryover 20% of their balance at the end of the year to the following year, but the balance must be used by the end of March.  The 20% carryover gives employees, who don’t use all of their PTO, some immediate time that they can use in the beginning of the year, but is still a sustainable number that the business can handle.  We want our employees to use their PTO, as opposed to bank it, so they can recharge through the year. 

A tough part of any retail position is that most retail stores are open on holidays. To address this, Pacers Running started offering six personal days to each full-time employee this year, to use as the employee sees fits. Three days are released to the employees in January, and three in July. These days must be used in the calendar year. Unlike PTO, the employees don’t get paid out these days if they leave the company, and the days cannot be carried over into the next year, so it is in the employee’s best interest to take the personal days. 

We went with a hybrid plan of PTO and Personal Days, instead of just one or the other for a couple of reasons. One was to be able to give employees more time off, while keeping it sustainable for the business. We wanted to keep PTO payouts at a manageable cost for the business. This way we are able to offer more time off, without owing the employee a payout for these additional days if they leave the company. This made giving these extra days off easy for the business, and a nice perk of working at Pacers.  Since personal days are in lieu of  holidays, we also wanted to be able to able to give the same amount of days to each full-time employee, regardless of length of service, unlike PTO. 

When it comes to PTO transfers, I believe that PTO transfers should only be used in cases where an employee is going through a crisis. A regular practice of PTO transfers can create situations where PTO transfers can cause favoritism by managers, or can be traded improperly for favors, like good performance reviews. Thus, if you do have a policy allowing PTO transfers, my suggestion is that you only allow them among the same levels. The other issue with PTO transfers among different levels, is the differential in pay, thus you would need to decide if you are paying the employee at the pay rate of the employee who transferred the PTO. I truly believe we should be encouraging our employees to take their time off, to explore their passions outside of work and to recharge. 

We do what we can with time off to accommodate employees who are going through tough times. In addition, we also offer family leave, bereavement leave, and leave for jury duty. Each state has different laws when it comes to things like sick time. You will want to make sure that you are familiar with these laws and are in compliance.

My advice to other running store industry employees, or owners managing HR, is to create the most generous leave policy possible, as happier and well-rested employees produce higher results.  Consider innovative and creative approaches to time off that won’t necessarily cost your company any additional funds. Let’s create an industry where we have attractive benefits that lead to higher retention rates, where employees stay with us and grow.

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