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I'm working for a global company for over than 5 years and I'm still not quite sure if the term MTA (Mandatory Time Away) is common across other companies and, if so, if it means the same as a vacation?

I'd guess that, if it's a common expression, it only differs to a vacation because it's mandatory (whereas in some countries vacations aren't mandatory, as far as I know).

I don't believe splitting this question in two ('is MTA a common practice' and 'is MTA the same as vacations') would be valuable, but I'm looking forward to your opinions.

I hope this MTA is location-agnostic. Before asking this question, I did some research (including THIS question) and discovered (to my surprise) that in the US a paid vacation isn't a common practice.

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    Haven't seen MTA in Canada or the US. Is this like public holidays like Christmas that are fixed days off or is it at the employee's choosing of which days to take off? – JB King Aug 16 '13 at 23:21
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    it could be like SPA days at GM - special paid absence - where the plant is going to have maintenance or something so you have to be off but it isn't vacation – Kate Gregory Aug 16 '13 at 23:45
  • Yes, in the US, vacations are not mandatory--to take OR (sadly/crazily) to give. – DA. Aug 17 '13 at 0:38
  • @KateGregory: Yes, in Germany there is something similar called "Betriebsferien" (literally "company vacations"), where a whole company or plant is shut down. It's typically done for manufacturing plants which cannot operate if too many employees are on holiday. – sleske Dec 16 '16 at 8:31
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    Also see: What is the purpose of a holiday shutdown?. – sleske Dec 16 '16 at 8:31
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Mandatory Time Away is typically used in the financial industry or industries where there's a high chance that employees in a position of responsibility could commit fraud or steal from the company and manipulate the numbers in order to hide the theft.

This is especially common in the banking industry. The idea is that if there's some fraudulent activity occurring, sending away the manager or accountant for two weeks and having someone else fill in would likely uncover any discrepancies, since the offending party wouldn't be around to continue manipulating the data during the period while he/she is away.

There's at least one claim here, from an alleged bank employee, that the IT department of the bank locks employees out of all systems when they are on their mandatory time away period. See this Banker's Online forum thread for more details.

A better source is Section 4-2 of the FDIC Regulations and Safety Manual, which states the following about vacations in the banking industry:

Vacation Policies

All banks should have a vacation policy, which provides that officers and employees be absent from their duties for an uninterrupted period of not less than two consecutive weeks. Such a policy is considered an important internal safeguard largely because perpetration of an embezzlement of any substantial size usually requires the constant presence of the embezzler in order to manipulate records, respond to inquiries from customers or other employees, and otherwise prevent detection. Examiners and bank management should recognize that the benefits of this policy may be substantially, if not totally, eroded if the duties performed by an absent individual are not assumed by someone else.

As an aside, fraudulent activity can also be detected by rotating personnel at random:

Rotation of Personnel

Planned and unannounced rotation of duties is an important principle of internal control. The rotation should be of sufficient duration to be effective. Rotation of personnel, besides being an effective internal check, can be a valuable aid in the overall training program.

In summary, it's not incorrect to think of mandatory time away as a vacation, since an employee in this status would essentially be relieved of all work duties for a period of likely two consecutive weeks. Thus, assuming the mandatory time away is something the employee can plan in advance, it could be thought of as a vacation. In fact, the FDIC refers to this as a "vacation policy" in their regulation and safety manual.

However, a vacation is not the same as mandatory time away. They're not reciprocal. While MTA can be used as a vacation and is a vacation, it more importantly serves as a safety check to mitigate financial risk and to detect and reduce losses.

Note that, there's at least one person who alleges that they're able to meet the MTA requirements without using all of their vacation time simply by combining their leave time with time away on business at a conference. See this Banker's Online post. Since the FDIC's policy recommends two consecutive weeks absent from normal duties, it's conceivable that this time could be used for paid professional development approved by the bank or organization.

As far as the statement about paid vacations not being a common practice in the United States, it just depends on what kind of work you do. If you're an engineer, teacher, scientist, researcher, manager, historian, banker, or work in some kind of professional capacity, you most likely have some form of paid time off. This also includes some blue collar professional work. However, if you work at the local Plaid Pantry, 7 Eleven, Circle K, or whatever the local convenience store is around the corner from the section 8 housing, you most likely don't get paid time off and earn minimum wage. In general, if your work is in high demand or involves skilled labor, you're more likely to receive a better benefits package. Hope this helps!

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    In the UK this tends to be known as "Garden Leave". It's also used for some after a resignation as we tend to have contractual notice periods (1-3 months), so you may be holding someone to notice, but don't want them accessing stuff so they get stay at home on full pay. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 17 '13 at 10:53
  • Awesome answer, J! If I could, I'd upvote it twice. I left it unchecked for some days just to see if the community had something else to add, but it doesn't seem to be the case (and I'm not surprised). – Tiago Cardoso Aug 22 '13 at 18:54
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    @Mark as I understood it, Gardening Leave is a bit different, it's only used after a resignation, to prevent an employee taking sensitive information to a competitor. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_leave and gov.uk/handing-in-your-notice/gardening-leave – Will Sheppard Aug 13 '14 at 9:41
  • No I've seen it on termination of a contract without cause, so the person leaves immediately, but is being paid until the end date, but is still technically employed by the original company so can't take a new role until then – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 13 '14 at 9:53
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    "Gardening leave" has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with MTA. – TheMathemagician Jul 4 '16 at 17:06
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Front Office Personnel at Banking, Finance and Tech firms in the US are generally all subject to MTA and generally all have at least 2 addition weeks paid leave in addition to MTA.

So when Banker A takes starting Front Office position at Investment Bank A - they would generally start out with 4 weeks paid annual leave. Two weeks would be MTA that they MUST take as a block and the remaining two weeks would be optional (generally you'll get paid for it if you don't take it or it will get rolled).

Most global banks and top tier tech firms then give employees and additional day for each year of service and a full year at each 5yr interval (so you get 3 days every 5th year).

Many banks also tier this with titles so: Analyst: 4 Weeks (discouraged from taking more than 3) Associate: 4 Weeks VP: 5 weeks SVP/Director: Six Weeks (where it normally tops out)

You keep accruing as above but no senior level banker is going to be out more than six weeks and keep her job...

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