October 4, 2021

5 Changes Insurance Organizations Make to PTO Policies

by Kris Gibson

For as long as people have been working, they have sought to not have to work. Well, at least not all the time! Vacation policies (yes, for you youngsters, that is what it used to be called) have long been in place but, like most aspects of American life, work, and culture, they have continued to evolve over time. We now hear Paid Time Off (PTO) as the preferred terminology. The process from Vacation Time to PTO has moved along with the comfort and grace of two 12-year-olds at their first Junior High dance rather than a flawless Cirque du Solei performance, but nevertheless, here we are.

The insurance industry is in a massive state of change. Employers are racing at every turn to entice people to entertain or retain their employment with them. PTO is one area insurance organizations see as an opportunity to evolve and attract top talent. Here are four things you should know when evaluating your PTO situation at a current employer or in a prospective future employer.

Vacation vs. Paid Time Off

The original definition of “time off” was a segmented group of the following: vacation, sick, family sick, emergency, and so forth. You had individual allotments with most days falling into vacation. Over time the buckets changed, some were added, some evolved, some went away, but separation or categorization of time remained in most cases.

Today’s definition is all about “Paid Time Off”, a pot of PTO that you can use for whatever you wish rather than needing to justify any time away and demonstrate how it relates to a specific allotment.

The Standard Amount of PTO Is...

An ‘old school’ company starts at two weeks of vacation and then limps in with five days of sick time and two personal days. This is that ‘bucket’ I describe above.

In today’s market, employers don’t want to ask the reason why you need to take time off, nor does HR want to track it. Three weeks, sometimes outlined as 15 days or approximately 120 accrued hours, is the baseline most companies offer. In fact, with even just a few years of similar career experience, we see a lot of people negotiating & receiving 20+ days.

Unlimited PTO: Is It a Thing?

Absolutely! Expect to find more insurance organizations (carriers and brokers alike) offering unlimited PTO policies as a positive consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of witnessing how productive employees are outside the office (flex time and 100% work-from-home schedules) with the need to retain top talent in a hugely competitive market means unlimited PTO becomes a very conceivable benefit (and retention tool).

Monikers for unlimited PTO are changing a bit. Should you run across any of the following phrases just know it all means the same thing- Discretionary PTO, Responsible Time Off, and Managed Time Off.

Payouts Are Disappearing

Many people remember a time when they left a job with some vacation time or PTO banked up and received a payout for unused days upon their departure. While this practice has not completely gone the way of the dinosaurs, it is getting there. Today it is pretty uncommon to see organizations with policies in place to pay departing employees, at least those leaving of their own choosing, with financial compensation for unused time off. 

Remote, Work-From-Home Status Can Affect PTO Expectations

As many people place a premium on 100% remote, work-from-home jobs, we are starting to see a correlation between remote work and PTO allotments. Most insurance organizations offer some version of flexible scheduling, but insurance is also a conservative business, and many executives believe that if you work at home, you already enjoy time off that otherwise wouldn’t be available save for using PTO.  

From my experience, speaking with many people who work remotely, this seems to be a fair assessment. Whether it is dropping kids off, picking them up, caring for kids who are home as well, laundry, the grocery store, pharmacy pick-ups, or anything else, one of the perks to being home is some ‘baked in’ flexibility.

It is not to say that employers drastically alter or cut PTO benefits if you work partially or fully remote, but in some cases, they do seem to be less willing to negotiate and/or offer more time off in these arrangements.


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