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Re: Employee vacation schedules

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Typically, the switch from Vacation + Sick to PTO (Personal Time Off, or combined leave) results in the company dropping half of the Sick leave and adding that to the Vacation leave to come up with a total number. This is usually because over a large demographic, the average time taken in a given year tends to be about 1/2 the allotted sick leave.

There is an argument for and against this method. One FOR argument is that the company "pays" for these benefits, and this keeps the benefit level the same. This is a false argument. The company was paying for the full Sick leave, it just didn't show up on the P&L - it was a liability which was carried, and grows each year if rollover of sick hours was allowed (it usually is, up to a fairly large number, like 320-480hrs, or unlimited in the Federal Government). This is a tactic to get rid of that liability on the books. The real FOR argument is to level the benefit package for everyone, and - in a sense - reward those employees who stay healthy with extra vacation.

Another (not usually mentioned) FOR, as a "levelling of benefits", is that it is expected that older employees, who tend to take more sick leave than their twenty-something counterparts, will "lose," but for companies with health benefits, there is an ironic tradeoff here. The older employees are getting a much larger benefit ($$$) in health insurance, as the cost of the plan is born by the group. A good example is that an individual policy for my family is about $4500/yr if I had to pay out of pocket (two thirty-something parents and a two year old, all in good health), yet the combined premium under my wife's employer (1300+ employee group) for the identical package is $7700 (the company pays 1/2 of that). In this case, the younger, healthier generation is helping fund the premiums for the "older" workers.

The AGAINST is that employees with chronic disorders, or anyone who has kids, or anyone with Monday hangovers or Friday Golfitis, will see a reduction in benefits. Some would say that this is discrimination. I know I chaffed when my old employer changed while my wife was pregnant, knowing that I'd put in five years of 1-2 days sick, only to see my benefit drop when I needed it. That's life, imho.

I should mention that, in the case of my former employer changing the rules, they set up an "extended illness" bank, which would allow you to bank your current sick leave balance, plus any future use-or-lose vacation, for extended leave (5 days or more consecutive) due to medical reasons, with a note from your doctor of course. Naturally, I used this for paternity leave just 7 months later (and practically dared my CFO to deny my leave request).

The trend in most industries has been to reduce leave time as much as possible, and to eliminate comp time. This industry (A&E) seems to live on the unpaid overtime of its staff level. I say this with some surprise, as the Aerospace industry generally does not. I don't know whether it's a lack of planning and budgeting (which seems rampant), or lack of perceived value (also a true statement).

For those curious, the Federal Government, in addition to the 10 federal holidays and the traditional off-at-noon on Christmas Eve granted by the President each year, receives:

Sick Leave:  4 hours earned per pay period (13 days per year)
Vacation Leave: 0-3 years service = 4 hours per pay period (13 days)
3-12 years service = 6 hours per pay period (19.5 days) 12+ years service = 8 hours per pay period (26 days) Sick Leave may accrue without limit. Part of this is that the Federal Government does not offer short or long term disability as part of the benefits package. Vacation Leave may accrue up to 240hours, then its use-or lose. You'll find many higher-ups in government installations officially out of the office from T-giving through new years, as they're perpetually in U/L status. Most of the engineers I knew were in at least a couple of days a week anyway. They liked what they did, and had a job to do, so they were there. For those in critical positions, exceptions/extensions of the U/L limit could be made.

For those worried that those leave limits were necessary due to low salaries, I suggest you Google for the General Schedule of pay for executive branch employees. Most engineers will fall between GS-7 for fresh-outs, to GS-13, which can be obtained in less than 7 years. I made GS-11 in just 18 months (with extra work). Managers will generally be GS-14 or GS-15, up to a responsible charge of 20-50 engineers. Bonuses are rare, and generally token ($500-$1000).

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