How to Create a Paid Time Off Policy for Your Hourly Staff

by Isioma Daniel, 10 minutes read
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Offering benefits to employees is a great way to attract and retain great talent. But how exactly do you build a paid time off policy that will keep them happy (and you headache-free)?

The goal is to create a policy that's simple, easy to use, and flexible. 

Continue reading to learn how to build a paid time off policy that works for everyone in your business.

What is PTO and how does it work?

In the UK, paid time off refers to the statutory entitlement of employees to take time off from work with pay. The main types of paid time off in the UK are annual leave (also known as holiday or vacation leave) and statutory sick leave.

1. Annual Leave: All employees in the UK have a legal right to a minimum amount of paid annual leave. The statutory minimum is currently 5.6 weeks, which equates to 28 days for those working five days a week. Part-time workers are entitled to a pro-rata amount based on their working hours. Employers have the flexibility to offer additional annual leave beyond the statutory minimum.

2. Statutory Sick Leave: In the UK, employees are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they cannot work due to illness or injury. SSP is a set amount of payment employers provide for a limited period. To qualify for SSP, employees must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as earning above a specific threshold and providing the necessary documentation.

The amount of paid time off your employees get can differ depending on their contract, the industry you're in, and your company policies. Some companies even offer more vacation time than the minimum required by law. Always double-check your specific rules and regulations by speaking with your employees or referring to their employment contracts. That way, you'll have accurate information on how much paid time off they're entitled to.

What is accrued time off?

Accrued time off, also known as accrued holiday or annual leave, is the accumulation of paid time off for UK employees. It's earned based on factors like length of service, employment contract, and hours worked. The calculation is usually pro-rata, and unused time off can often be carried over to the following year. Employment laws may vary, so consulting contracts or guidelines for specific details is essential.

For example, if an employee is entitled to 28 days of annual leave and works full-time, they would accumulate 2.33 days per month (28 divided by 12). If an employee works part-time, their accrued leave would be proportional to their work hours.

What are the different types of leave?

There are various forms of PTO companies offer to employees in the UK. This list isn't all-inclusive but provides an idea of what you can include in your PTO policy:

1. Annual Leave/Holiday Leave: This refers to the standard paid time off that employees are entitled to each year. The amount of annual leave is usually specified in employment contracts or governed by employment law.

2. Sick Leave: Employees can take time off work due to illness or injury. The length and terms of sick leave may vary depending on the employment contract and company policies.

3. Maternity Leave: This type of leave is specifically designed for expectant mothers. It provides paid time off for a particular duration before and after childbirth, enabling women to recover and care for their newborns. Maternity leave entitlements are protected by law.

4. Paternity Leave: This type of leave allows fathers/partners to take time off work after the birth or adoption of a child. It provides an opportunity for bonding and supporting the family. Paternity leave entitlements are protected by law.

5. Adoption Leave: Employees who adopt a child are entitled to take adoption leave, which allows them to take time off work to care for and bond with their newly adopted child. Adoption leave entitlements are protected by law.

6. Shared Parental Leave: This type of leave enables parents to share the care responsibilities for a child. It allows eligible parents to divide the leave between them or take it concurrently, providing flexibility in childcare arrangements.

7. Parental Leave: Parental leave is unpaid time off that allows parents to take an extended period away from work to care for their children. It is designed to support work-life balance and the well-being of families.

8. Compassionate Leave: Also known as bereavement leave, compassionate leave is granted to employees who experience the loss of a close family member or dependant. It provides time off to grieve and make necessary arrangements.

9. Time off for Public Duties: Employees who hold certain public positions, such as magistrates or members of local authorities, may be entitled to take time off work to fulfill their duties in public service.

Benefits of a paid time off plan

A paid time off policy provides flexibility and security for employees. They know precisely how much time they're entitled to and when to expect it. Having a clear understanding of how they earn and spend their time helps reduce confusion and misunderstanding among coworkers. 

With a paid time off policy, it's easier for managers to monitor productivity levels and identify potential problem areas.

A good PTO policy will help:

  • Reduce absenteeism by encouraging more workers to stay home if they're ill — instead of risking the spread of contagious illnesses.

  • Increase productivity by giving  employees more control over their schedules.

  • Improve morale among staff members as everyone will know what's expected of them.

  • Help retain top talent by allowing employees to manage their lives outside work.

  • Allow better leave management practices and process to ensure effective demand planning.

There are also potential disadvantages to having a bad PTO policy. For example, it may lead to legal compliance issues - failing to comply with the minimum leave entitlements in UK employment laws could expose you to legal repercussions and financial penalties. 

And if you're not careful, you may have too many employees taking time off at once, leaving your restaurant, hotel, or clinic under duress.

How to create a PTO policy

It's time to develop your PTO policy. Use these five steps to get started:

1. Understand the Legal Requirements:

Before crafting your policy, familiarise yourself with the legal regulations regarding annual leave in your jurisdiction. Be aware of minimum entitlements, maximum carryover limits, and any specific provisions for shift workers. Ensuring compliance with the law is a vital foundation for developing an effective policy.

2. Determine Accrual Method:

Choose an accrual method that suits the needs of your shift workers. Standard options include a fixed accrual rate based on hours worked or a pro-rata system that accounts for different shift lengths. Consider factors such as employee seniority, workload, and seasonal fluctuations when determining the accrual rate.

3. Clear Guidelines for Leave Requests:

Establish clear guidelines for submitting leave requests. Determine how far in advance employees should submit their proposals and how conflicts between multiple submissions will be resolved. Encourage open communication to facilitate the scheduling process and minimise disruptions to the workforce.

4. Address Minimum Staffing Requirements:

Given the nature of shift work, addressing minimum staffing requirements in your policy is essential. Define the minimum number of employees that must be present in each shift or department and specify how annual leave requests will be managed to maintain operational efficiency.

5. Flexible Scheduling and Rollover Options:

Recognise shift workers’ unique challenges and provide flexibility in scheduling annual leave. Consider allowing employees to split their holiday into shorter periods or offering to carry over a limited amount of unused leave to the following year. This flexibility can enhance employee satisfaction and accommodate varying personal needs.

6. Communication and Transparency:

Ensure clear communication and transparency regarding the annual leave policy. Clearly outline the policy's details, including accrual rates, leave request procedures, blackout periods, and any restrictions. Make the policy readily accessible to all employees and address any questions or concerns promptly.

7. Consider Shift Preferences:

Take into account individual shift preferences when managing annual leave requests. Some employees may have preferred shifts or days off, so strive to accommodate their preferences whenever possible. This consideration can foster a positive work environment and enhance employee engagement.

8. Regular Review and Adjustment:

Monitor the effectiveness of your paid annual leave policy for shift workers and gather employee feedback. Conduct periodic reviews to identify any areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to the procedure. This iterative process will help ensure that the policy remains aligned with the evolving needs of your workforce.

PTO best practices

There needs to be a single right way to implement a paid time off policy. But several factors influence the success of any given approach. Here are a few tips:

1. Make it easy to use

When creating a PTO policy, ensure it's as simple as possible for workers to access their allotted days of leave. This means having clear guidelines about what types of leaves are available, who needs approval before taking leave, and where they should go to request additional time off.

2. Be flexible

If you want to accommodate changes in business conditions, consider allowing some flexibility with your PTO schedule. For example, allowing employees to extend their leave beyond the standard length. Or allowing workers to take days off to celebrate religious or cultural holidays. 

3. Keep track of usage

Tracking leave balances makes managing your budget more accessible and ensures no one's going over their allotment. This is easier to do when you use software to track in real time and automate report generation. 

4. Make sure to include PTO for various circumstances

If you're offering unlimited PTO, remember to include bereavement leave, public service, and other particular circumstances. It might sound obvious, but these details matter because they help prevent burnout among those who need the time off.

5. Consider adding perks

Add incentives to encourage employees to stay healthy while using up their PTO. Some companies offer gym memberships, free massages, and even discounts on coffee shops. These perks can motivate workers to stick around longer than expected.

Regarding health, consider making PTO mandatory to ensure your workaholic employees don't burn out.

6. Provide training

If this is your first PTO policy, guide managers and employees along the way. Conduct training sessions to teach new hires how to fill out forms, manage their schedules, and communicate effectively with management about taking time off.

7. Create a culture of trust

Employees appreciate knowing management trusts them enough to set aside days for rest and relaxation. So, ensure your company doesn't hold back information about its policies. Let workers know why they deserve this time away and explain how long they can expect to spend recovering.

PTO laws and compliance

The law governing PTO in the UK is primarily outlined in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and is further supported by the Working Time Regulations 1998, Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, Sick Leave and Statutory Sick Pay scheme, and the Equality Act 2010

In addition, the law on holiday pay changed April 6 2020, which increased the reference period for calculating holiday pay for part-time workers from the last 12 weeks in which they worked to 52 weeks. 

Sample PTO policy for small businesses

Here's a sample paid time off policy:

[Your Company Name] PTO Policy

Effective Date: [Date]

1. Purpose

This policy outlines the guidelines and procedures for paid time off (PTO) for [Your Company Name] employees. The policy aims to promote work-life balance and employee well-being and ensure compliance with UK employment laws.

2. Eligibility

All regular full-time and part-time employees are eligible for PTO benefits. Temporary or contract employees may be eligible based on the terms of their employment agreement.

3. Annual Leave Entitlement

Employees are entitled to [X] days of annual leave per calendar year. Annual leave will be accrued pro-rata for part-time employees based on their contracted hours.

4. Requesting PTO

Employees must submit a PTO request to their immediate supervisor or the designated PTO coordinator using the company's approved process. Requests should be submitted [X] days in advance, whenever possible, for proper staffing and workload management.

5. PTO Approval

PTO requests will be evaluated based on operational requirements and staffing levels. While we strive to accommodate employee preferences, approvals are subject to business needs. Approval will be communicated to the employee within [X] working days of the request submission.

6. Carryover and Expiry

Unused PTO can be carried over to the following calendar year, up to a maximum of [X] days. However, any carried-over leave must be used within the first [X] months of the new year; otherwise, it will be forfeited.

7. PTO Payout

Upon termination of employment, employees will receive payment for any accrued and unused PTO days, subject to applicable employment laws and company policies.

8. Public Holidays

Public holidays are separate from annual leave entitlement. Employees are entitled to observe statutory holidays as outlined in UK employment laws. These days will not be deducted from the employee's annual leave balance.

9. Sick Leave and Other Leaves

PTO does not cover sick, maternity, paternity, adoption, or other types of leave governed by separate policies and applicable laws. Employees should refer to the respective policies for information on these leaves.

10. Policy Compliance

Employees are expected to adhere to this PTO policy. Any misuse or abuse of PTO may result in disciplinary action.

11. Amendments and Review

[Your Company Name] reserves the right to modify or update this PTO policy at any time. Any revisions will be communicated to employees and will comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Deputy Disclaimer: Please note that this sample PTO policy serves as a starting point and should be customised to align with your company's specific requirements, legal obligations, and industry practices. It is advisable to seek legal counsel or consult relevant authorities to ensure compliance with current employment laws in the UK.

Leave Balances

With this system, you set aside money for paid time off. Once an employee uses their allotted time, the balance rolls over into subsequent years. To avoid paying out twice, require employees to sign a waiver stating they will only claim additional PTO after exhausting current allotments.

Always have the right coverage

Paid time off policies vary widely among employers. Some companies provide only limited or partial coverage, while others cover everything except holiday pay. Regardless of the specifics, ensure your PTO policy is straightforward and considers various life situations. 

If you're in the process of implementing a PTO program, do your research to design a comprehensive plan that meets your business goals.

Then if you need help tracking paid time off, consider adopting scheduling software like Deputy. If you want to see if it's right for your business, join Deputy for free today.