You have probably heard of “unlimited paid time off”, a recent emerging employment benefit offered by companies to promote better work-life balance, but is this benefit really as great as it appears on the surface?
An unlimited vacation policy allows employees to take a fully paid leave without restrictions on a specific number of days, in contrast to traditional vacation packages that state exactly how many days an employee can take off with pay each year. This benefit is being used by companies to attract new hires while boosting morale of existing employees. These policies are advantageous in that they allow employees to take much needed time away from work which is essential to preventing burnout. Time off translates into increased productivity as employees return to the office energized and less likely to make mistakes.
Unlimited PTO policies have also been credited for improving time-management, communication, and teamwork in the office. Employees know that they must complete their assigned tasks before leaving on vacation, and a successful policy will require employees to collaborate to ensure work is being completed even when some employees are off work. Perhaps most obvious, unlimited PTO would allow employees to take more time for themselves, to pursue their passions and interests outside of work, and promotes overall health and wellness.
At first glance, unlimited PTO seems to be the perfect solution for encouraging work-life balance in the workplace. The old saying goes however, “If it seems to good to be true, it probably is”, and that might stand to be true about unlimited PTO benefits.
A quick scroll through Tik Tok, or any other social media platform will bring to light many employees who feel as though an unlimited PTO policy is at best, not really unlimited, and at worst, actually discourages employees from taking vacation. Some report having taken even less than what they would have taken with a traditional policy. Outside of practical implications, including the inability to bank vacation pay outside of that Provincially mandated to be paid out or to be used in negotiating severance pay upon leaving a job, unlimited PTO appears to have other disadvantages. Without clear guidelines on when to go on vacation and for how long, unlimited PTO can have an adverse effect on office culture, creating a stigma around taking too much time off. Additionally, most policies outline a process for requesting time off which can be difficult to navigate or that often declines requests out right. Unlimited PTO can also lead to inequalities amongst staff, with some taking advantage of the policy and as mentioned before, others not making use of it at all.
Overall, when interviewing with an employer who offers “unlimited PTO” we would suggest that candidates ask specific questions about the policy. For example, you might ask about the average number of vacation days their employees usually take per year, or about the actual process of requesting time off. This will help you to better understand the policy and to gauge whether it is the right fit for you.
Kristin Mead is a Summer Student with the Heller Group. She is going into 2L at Osgoode Hall Law School and is interested in Corporate and Commercial Law. When not working or in school, she loves hiking with her 3-year-old yellow lab Duke and taking new spin classes.