Time Off, Part 2: Floating Holidays and Donating Sick Time

time off

The last post took a look at the shift happening from a traditional time off structure with separate sick days and vacation days, to a combination bank called Paid Time Off. The next two posts will delve even further into time off, looking at new trends being tried by various companies. From unlimited days to donating sick time, businesses are looking for a way to balance home and work as well as to reward overworked employees in ways that are not monetary in nature.

Floating Paid Holidays

Today’s workforce is ethnically diverse, and it is not out of the ordinary for one or more employees in a company to be of a different religious background. In an attempt to be sensitive to those differences, it is becoming more commonplace to offer floating paid holidays. The average company offers 9 paid holidays on top of PTO. Allowing a certain number of holidays to be floating allows employees to celebrate the holidays of their own culture. There are two different ways of doing this. The first is to have the employee work on the traditional day that most others are off and use their day off at their discretion. The second is to give every employee a certain number of floating days at the beginning of each year that can be used at the employee’s discretion.

The following points must be taken into consideration when setting up floating paid holidays:

  • Can they be used for anything, or only for religious holidays? This is important, and must be closely considered. Restricting them to religious holidays can be seen as unfair by non-religious employees.
  • Is there a time frame when they must be used? Many companies state that the day must be taken within one month of the holiday they are provided.
  • How much time in advance must the day be asked off?
  • Determine if or how it will be accrued. The most common system is for there to be no accrual, they are just part of the paid time off. Therefore, each employee has their floating days available as of January 1.

Donating Sick Leave

Companies often have requests for donating sick time arise before there is an official policy in place. It is a great idea to decide ahead of time if this is something your company will allow, and how you want it to work. Making this decision ahead of time will avoid acting under the time sensitive or emotional pressure if an employee requests to do this. If a company opts to allow donating sick days, there are two structures to consider: (1) a person-to-person donation, or (2) employees donating hours or days to a “sick-days bank” that anyone can then borrow from once their own allotted amount has been exhausted.

The following potential problems must be considered:

  • Will allowing more than a person’s allotted time off cause problems in productivity or morale?
  • Beware of anger or resentment if the donation is not reciprocated. For instance, if someone does not donate but uses donated hours.
  • Tax issues for the HR or payroll department.
  • The possibility that once hours are donated the employee then has an unforeseen illness or emergency.

Each of these pitfalls is avoidable when a comprehensive policy is set. There must be strict guidelines concerning both the donation and the use of a donation. Setting a cap of hours that can be donated, and requiring that a certain amount must remain for that employee is a good way to avoid many issues. It is imperative that thought is given to what and why an employee can request donated hours. Also, the policy must be explained in length to all employees and the precedent set that pressure by anyone for a donation is a serious offense.

Tomorrow’s post will cover unlimited time off, paid family leave, and paid time off for special circumstances.


Fegley Shawn, et al. (April 2009). Examining Paid Leave in the Workplace. SHRM. Retrieved December 20, 2012.

Miller, Stephen. (April 16, 2012). Employers Offering Paid Time Off for Special Circumstances for Employees. SHRM. Retrieved December 28, 2012.

Paid Time Off Programs and Practices. (May 2010). WorldatWork. Retrieved December 20, 2012.