Time Off, Part 3: Extended Time Off Policies

paid family leave

The previous two posts in this series covered the trend of the paid time off bank, donating sick leave, and floating paid holidays. Today we will look at more extensive plans for paid time off. These are much more expansive than the traditional set number of days off per year. Instead, they allow for extensive time off so employees can recharge their batteries, care for a sick family member, bond with a new child, or complete jury or military duty.

Paid Family Leave

New to California in 2004, Paid Family Leave (PFL) was designed to be “A financial safety net for California workers when the need is there.” One of two states that offer this type of leave (the other is New Jersey), the program was designed to allow for any person working in California to take care of an ill family member or bond with a new infant or adopted child, for up to 6 weeks. The law does not protect an employee’s job, but it does guarantee wages. Considering that the United States is the only developed country that does not provide paid vacation by law, California’s law is revolutionary. There is a seven-day waiting period after the leave is applied for, and it is available to any person working in California that has paid more than $300 into the State Disability Insurance program. The employer may not force an employee to use their vacation days before using PFL, but they may require all sick days or PTO to be used prior to starting. There are requirements that must be met. For example, leave must be used either in the first year of an infant’s life or the first year a foster or adoptive child is placed in the home. In a situation when the leave is used for an employee to act as a caregiver, a doctor’s note must be provided. According to a study done by researchers Ruth Milikin and Eileen Appelbaum, the program “has a positive impact on morale of employees…and increased productivity.” With such positive results, it is foreseeable that other states may create similar programs in the future, especially due to the absence of related laws at a federal level.

Paid Time Off for Special Circumstances

In an attempt to help employees find a reasonable balance between family and work, employers are adding paid time off for Special Circumstances into their time off policies.

The main reasons that employers allow additional time off:

  • Jury Duty
  • Death in the family
  • Military leave
  • Maternity, paternity or adoption
  • Family illness

Just like regular PTO, these types of situations still require notice (when possible). Also it should be remembered that any “extra” paid days are at the employer’s discretion. It is advised that a policy be created to address each of these exact situations. This will help avoid disgruntled employees and provide the comfort of knowing that they will still have income in case of unexpected leave for a multitude or reasons. Offering this type of leave goes a long way in showing employees that the business values their mental health and understands that they also have a private life outside of work.

Unlimited Time Off

Depending on the study results, between 1% and 6% of companies are now offering the ultimate perk: unlimited time off. Also called “flexible vacation policies,” these allow employees to take what they need to take in order to do what they need to do. Often found in innovative or young companies, the management offers unlimited time off as a way to entice talent and stand out from the crowd. The employers find that this type of policy creates an atmosphere of loyalty and prevents stress and ultimately burnout. Often the businesses that offer this perk are high demand and high stress. Employees are expected to work long hours and go above and beyond the norm, but in turn, they are rewarded. Employers that opt to do away with PTO, are not throwing expectations out the window. Employees are accountable for their work and managers are accountable for their employees. Unlimited does not mean that limitless days are available. In order to be successful, this type of system must be tracked similar to PTO so anyone abusing the system can be identified. Being upfront with employees on the policy and the company’s vision of how it will work will go a long way in helping employees feel comfortable in using, but not abusing, the system. Also, peer pressure to do one’s job and not let it fall on coworkers’ shoulders is a powerful motivator.

In an economy that does not allow for businesses to lavish monetary rewards on employees, changing up the time off policy can show that management understands, appreciates, and cares. The balance of home and work is precarious at best. Providing workers with the ability to take time when they need it most is a great way to boost morale and loyalty. It also boosts productivity in the long run because employees are healthy, rested, and less stressed.

Revolution Law Group is located in Greensboro, NC, and serves individuals and small businesses throughout the Triad and surrounding areas. To contact us please visit Revolution.law or call 336-333-7907.

The information included here is for informational purposes only, is not exhaustive of all considerations when creating documents, is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be relied upon for that purpose. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney and do not attempt to create your own documents.


Baker, Sherry. (August 2012). Trends for Paid Time Off for Special Circumstances. The Alpha Group. Retrieved December 28, 2012.

California Work and Family Coalition. (n.d.) Frequently Asked Questions. Paid Family Leave California. Retrieved December 28, 2012.

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

Paid Family Leave Benefits. (n.d.) Employment Development Department State of California. Retrieved December 29, 2012.

Scherzer, Lisa. (July 27, 2012). Unlimited Vacation Time. The Ultimate Work Benefit? The Exchange. Retrieved December 28, 2012.