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    14 Replies Latest reply on Jun 15, 2010 4:09 PM by stokestrip

    Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit

    Bluesuit Adventurer
      I was reading an article in the Sunday paper about how the U.S. is second to Japan in offering their employees the least amount of vacation days, averaging 10 vacation days per year. And there are some companies that are no longer counting vacation days, but offering unlimited vacation days for their employees (mainly companies in the high tech industry). It sounds like a great employee benefit perk, but what they've found so far is that when this is offered, employees take fewer days and/or continue to bring their laptop or blackberry with them on vacation...staying connected to the office!
      What are your business' vacation policies? And what do you actually encourage your employees to do? And as a business owner when was the last time you went on vacation?
        • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
          LUCKIEST Guide
          Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit, Great question

          Now throw in the R word, The cost of gas, Fewer families going on vacation (again costs)

          Companies being bought out (like the Wall Street Journal)

          and the car companies letting employees go, you should get some very interesting answers.

          LUCKIEST
            • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
              whirlwind3 Wayfarer
              Hello all... it has been 6 months since the last post and since I took over the PTO from the last office mgr. I am happy to say the change has been great. Not hard to manage by accruing 9 hrs/mo (12 hr/mo for those with longer work history) and don't have to categorize between sick/vac/personal. If I were sick, that would be personal to me. (Besides, I always know when they are feeling under the weather.) I have to brag a bit that I have the best staff in town. We have had several issues from ranging from true illness to vacations as well as a school field trip or two and I can say we haven't been happier. At least with the small team of 1.5 medical providers and 5 staff, we have been able to cover the absences and continue business as usual. I once read somewhere that job responsibilities belong to the position not the individual so I encourage cross training as much as possible. In effect, it has boosted morale by "trading spaces" for awhile giving one the opportunity to break from the day to day routine of your own job while giving you a sense of empathy for the other duties that exist in the office. Even I have learned a few new things besides direct patient care except I couldn't scan a document to save my life. I keep the staff updated monthly on their PTO, accrued and used. No one has ever dipped below a few days which I encourage keeping in case of emergency. And the birthday benefit? A very nice perk motivating loyal employees... Don't think I would do Unlimited however... As far as the last vacation I've had? Umm good question. Even if I had unlimited days off myself I don't think I would do so. No work = no money so I'm pretty limited on what I would/could do within a certain comfort zone. During the holidays off combined with the slow insurance payout over January, that was a pretty hard hit for me. I don't think I'd feel comfortable to take a week straight until I have the ball rolling far enough ahead of me to take a dip in AR.
            • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
              Lighthouse24 Ranger

              Good questions. We don't have "flavors" of time off (vacation, sick leave, family emergency, etc.) -- employees earn x number of "paid days off" and use them however they want or need to. We encourage them to do what they want with it (use it, carry it over, sell it back) -- they're adults, and different people have different needs at different times. I travel a lot, and will sometimes take an extra day or two before or after a business engagement to do something fun in the area I'm visiting -- so my "vacations" are more like a dozen long weekends spread over the course of the year, rather than the "traditional" two week period of time off.
              1 of 1 people found this helpful
              • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                Iwrite Pioneer
                "The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."

                I haven't been on vacation since 2003, I think. I love working, I'm sick like that. Seriously, it is something I struggle with - my father and the other men in my family never took vacation. He retired from the Army after 21 years having never taken vacation or sick leave.

                I am still working on the vacation policy but I am leaning towards breaking out vacation days from personal days and sick days. I know to some this may seem like a lot but in our field you are always working, even when you aren't in the office - I believe this calls for some creative addressing.

                I am still in the planning stage on this so it is still up in the air.
                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                  snipperred Scout
                  Hi there,

                  Now here's a question I hold dear. I had to manage an intense policy in my last position in the healthcare field. We used a per hour accrual rate and separated VAC/ SIC so we didn't have to pay out the SIC hours on termination. The accruals were truncated based on years of service- so essentially .0385 per hour for VAC and .01925 per hour for SIC to start- if I recall. If the employees worked full-time they could earn two weeks of VAC and a week of SIC.

                  The business sense of it was smart. First of all, it limitted the liabilities and rewarded employees for attendance. In healthcare, there are more lower level staff such as MA's available than you would imagine in such a high demand/ low supply field for the higher grade staff..nurses and physicians etc. There were always Per Diems available to cover shifts but never a substitute for the performance we got out of fully trained regular staff- especially the ones who had been working with our software for some years. However, I don't think the staff really appreciated the benefit and I certainly did not like administrating it.

                  I can relate to having your cake and not being able to eat it. I never took a sick day in five years in the Corps with the exception of a broken rib and a hernia surgery- and they had to make me against my will. Since, I've been salaried management working between 50 to 80 hours a week; a lot of late nights and weekends I never saw an additional penny for. What I was paid for was results. Vacation was always a Salary Continuation policy expecting a manager would not abuse nor be able to deliver the results by taking too much time off. So in the last five years I delivered the results and took I think 2 weeks of vacation, and two weeks of SIC for an emergency gall bladder removal. I left my last position when I started networking with other managers in the same field and saw them getting paid twice as much and burning out in half the time.

                  It would take an incredible benefits package to win my interest at this point- I'd definately need to have my cake and eat it too this time. If I'm going to be putting in so much work ethic, I figure I'd be better off working for myself and maybe slowing down for a while to take advantage of my VA college benefits before they expire. I didn't even have the time or energy to take advantage of benefits I've had waiting outside of what work offered. How do you calculate benefits lost?! Wasn't worth it to me even with an incredible golden handcufffs offer. I think benefits today must necessarily be presented from a customer service standpoint- so employees are completely satisfied. Otherwise, whatever you do could just as likely be a source of dissatisfaction.
                  • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                    LUCKIEST Guide
                    Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit

                    Hold My Calls for 18 weeks, These days who in the business world takes just TWO WEEK'S VACATION??
                    In Corp America, everyone skips town in August, But some get more August than others
                    C E O of Morgan Stanley earns 6 weeks off
                    C E O of Live Nations and C E O of Coors Beer receive 5 weeks annually
                    Muni Mae executive V P signed a new agreement giving her 10 weeks of vacation a year.
                    At Moog, a defense co in N Y most employees only get 3 weeks off until their 10 anniversary, then they can
                    take an additional 7 weeks off once every 5 years
                    12 weeks of vacation for senior exec at S&T Bancorp and C E O of Hi Shear Tech
                    Employment Contracts at Sterling Construction granted 18 weeks of vacation

                    Sounds Good, LUCKIEST
                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                      whirlwind3 Wayfarer
                      I just broke away from a larger practice to make it on my own. Being in the medical field, the staff would be hard pressed to "make up" an illness in order to use sick time for vacation. Heck, half the time they come in sick anyway and get a free consultation while their at it. Managing the hours and the payout after termination was a pain in neck. So I decided, why not do away with vacation/sick/PTO? Once we discovered discrepancies from the prior management on staff's vac time, I decided enough was enough. Like the other posts, staff earn PTO (one class of time) monthly for fulltime work which is roughly equivalent to 1 wk vac and 1 wk sick and a few days "personal". 9 hrs/month. With the prior system, staff were not regularly kept up to date on their vac time accrued.

                      I really don't care if someone wants to take a vacation or be home with a sick child. Well, I care what is happening in their personal lives, but have no interest in classifying the leave into various categories. I am encouraging them to keep 25-40 hrs banked in case of a "true" illness however.

                      What would happen in the event of termination? Since vacation time is an earned benefit, it would be difficult in a straight PTO classification to determine how much was vac. vs sick time. So, I decided to make 50% of any remaining time paid out, 70% if employed over 3 yrs. Also as another perk, I added in a paid birthday off, not part of any paid time, and of course not, paid out in the event of termination.

                      As in other posts, there are many ways besides increasing salary to boost staff morale and increase retention....
                        • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                          snipperred Scout
                          In California, at least, vacation is payable upon termination while sick is not. PTO, despite the broader definition, is actually payable according to law.

                          The question, I think you hit on, is how satisfied were the staff with the benefits. There you have an opportunity to show some of your generosity by what system you use. I can see you were very responsive to your staff needs as if they were customers. Very good on you to reward quality staff.

                          I worked as a General Manager for a practice management and consulting firm for some years. I can tell you were not satisfied with the arrangements and the management. Perhaps they should have treated you as a customer. I personally corrected a very complex time system by comprehensive manual audit, interviewing and making good with each individual situation, and then transferring to an automated online accessible system. This was a service I offered as a benefit of working for me and as a management service to my physician clients.

                          The question is still, how satisfied were you with the benefits made available to you? The other question is just how much is reasonable, generous, or actually not cost-effective? In my experience, both physicians and staff are inclined to have inflated expectations. Appeasement is only so good as an individual's personality and situation at any given time in their life. I had to spend a lot of energy helping people account for what they were receiving in context so as to ensure they did not take it for granted. While you want everyone to be happy, I think some understanding that it is a business helps people keep their expectations grounded in reality.

                          Best,

                          Anthony
                            • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                              whirlwind3 Wayfarer
                              While not to detract from the original thread, as a "self-employed" physician, I created and supported my own benefits while working within a shared practice. The shared staff was managed by a common manager which we physicians all supported as a shared entity. My own benefits were fairly basic, but like prior posts, I usually didn't take too much time off. (At this point I would reference the "why I like being my own boss" thread)... Going from a large staff to a smaller, intimate setting allowed me (physician/office manager) to really look at the day to day duties and try to improve efficiency among various positions held. Vacation hours were something that never seemed to be a problem among the staff in years past but once I realized they weren't really sure or kept apprised of their benefits I decided I'd better revamp the system from the "old - we've always done it this way" approach to something practical and equitable. Next up: revisit our medical benefits and investigate 401Ks...
                                • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                                  snipperred Scout
                                  One thing I found particularly interesting about the healthcare field is the use of per diems. If you are using simply one MA and one front office per physician, as we did, then having cross functionality and a pool of floats implied we could have unlimitted unpaid time off. We set a limit to vacation because it could easily overextend a hard pressed physician's liabilities. However, quality of work environment and cooperation around personal lives seemed to be an enjoyed benefit. We generally asked staff to take time off when a physician was out, to cover eachother whenever possible, and to have at least one full time staff member there to supervise the office. We had to get the physicians and staff to cooperate and communicate. Overall, no one was particularly happy with the vacation benefit. Paid time off is preferrable, but in a performance based system, we rewarded them more for what they did while working. Vacation was limitted to hourly wage without bonusses applied. The same applied for physicians who were arranging personal benefits. They did not make money if they were not seeing patients. I know for a fact they preferred the security of employee benefits. For those who remain private businesses, staff and physicians both have to work harder for what they get. In my experience, the benefit structure failed as a factor to satisfy attracting and retaining the best associates.

                                  It's interesting you mention health insurance as a physician. Retirement is another issue I have experience in. I wonder if either can satisfy your expectations as a self-employed professional. The question that comes to mind is how what you can offer yourself matches up to what you could find in an employed position or group practice. The good thing is it sounds as though you are considerate of the true value of benefits. For one, there should certainly be transparency and proactive involvement. I'm not sure PTO is the best move for a physician who is just building a practice. However, it could be a slight factor in recruiting and retaining higher quality employees early on.

                                  Interesting conversation. Since we have some background in common, I would certainly welcome you to my community if you were to look it up in my profile.

                                  Best,

                                  Anthony
                            • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                              blitzlocal Adventurer
                              Unlimited vacation days-- all our people get that, since most work from home, managing their own time.
                              But true-- in the US, we have a reputation for over-working. Look at Europe, where they work 30-40 hours a week,
                              and can take of a month at a time to travel the world. Ah, but at what expense.

                              Thanks,
                              Dennis
                              analyst, blitzlocal.com
                              internet marketing for small business
                              • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                                tlyocom Newbie
                                Some companies are capping vacation days! If you don't use them you lose them! Better be careful with this policy and any other policy related to un-used vacation, sick pay, personal time, etc. You might wind up paying a huge chunk of change at the termination either voluntarily or involuntarily for that employee. Might just break the bank!
                                • Re: Unlimited vacation days as an employee benefit
                                  stokestrip Wayfarer
                                  Some of you all brought up some very important payroll management issues that I had not considered. Unlimited vacation days seems like a good idea, but there are pros and cons depending on how the money is managed and the number of employees off work at a time. Great insights.