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I've been working as a full-time programmer at my current company for about 3 years. Current policy is that full-time, hourly employees receive 1 hour of sick time and 1 hour of vacation time per 40-hour work week. Over the course of a year spent working full time, I'll accrue 6.5 sick days and 6.5 vacation days.

Every time I catch a cold, I burn through all of the sick and vacation hours I have saved up at that point, and usually still end up having to work the weekend to meet the full-time hour requirements. This alone indicates to me that the two sources of PTO combined is insufficient for sick time alone. Even carefully saving up PTO I am unable to save up enough time to take a vacation. Company policy also states that if I don't cover at least 35 hours in a given week (via working or PTO), I'm no longer eligible for health insurance benefits, which takes 6 months to become eligible for. Also, if I don't cover 39.75 hours in a week, I don't receive the PTO benefit for that week. I've been told that I won't actually lose the insurance if I can't make 35 hours because I'm sick, but it's not in writing anywhere.

I'm getting burned out.

According to this article, after 3 years it's reasonable for me to expect about 17-18 days of PTO.

How can I approach my boss to explain:

  1. I am getting burned out
  2. My PTO benefit is far below US average
  3. I haven't been able to take a vacation in the 3 years I've worked here

...and tactfully request more PTO?


Details

I work in Utah, USA

Sick and vacation PTO are separate, and accrue by 2-week pay period rather than by year or by quarter. In a perfect year, I can expect to accrue no more than 52 hours of sick plus 52 hours of vacation PTO, for a grand total of 13 days. If an employee uses up all their sick PTO they are expected to use vacation PTO rather than come into work sick.

The company has less than 50 employees and contractors. It has been around for about 12 years and the owner/CEO still considers it a start-up. The company typically hires students in most departments, including Programming department.

My boss only has 1-on-1 meetings about twice a year, for performance reviews.

I don't take 13 days off for one illness, rather I get sick 2-3 times/year and also take time off here and there for doctor's appointments.

Salaried employees doing the exact same job receive 50% more PTO, and managers receive twice as much PTO as hourly employees. Of my co-workers who I know have taken a vacation, one took a month off unpaid when he graduated to travel, and the other is my boss.

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    You get just over a week a year annual leave? (PTO = Paid Time Off?). Wow, no wonder you're burned out. – Jane S Jun 17 '15 at 21:21
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    Why do you still work for these people? – Lawrence Aiello Jun 17 '15 at 21:21
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    Which country are you working in? Where I live, anything below 24 vacation days per year would be illegal and as long as you get a doctors note, sick days are paid days off that do not count against your vacation days. Some people may call that communism, but I think I'd not get happy where you live. – nvoigt Jun 18 '15 at 8:44
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    @kuhl Germany. There is a nice comparison here. – nvoigt Jun 18 '15 at 10:44
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    Get a new job, where they don't treat you like a slave. – Simon Jun 18 '15 at 15:37
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You can ask, but it sounds like your company has deliberately set its PTO policies to minimize cost. Companies like that rarely make exceptions because they fear it will set a bad precedent when other employees hear about it.

That said, there's little harm in asking. I would be confident, polite, and explain exactly what it is you want, and why. Is it a one-time long weekend? Do you want to accrue PTO at a faster rate? Be careful in sounding too much like you're simply complaining.

Also, be prepared for the answer to be No, and prepare any response to that. Are there any alternatives you or your boss can think of? Instead of extra vacation time, maybe there's a chance for comp time.

Try to see things from the point of view of your boss -- if you were in your boss' position, how would you respond to your reasons, and your request?

  • it sounds like your company has deliberately set its ... policies to minimize cost That's 100% accurate. – Martin Carney Jun 18 '15 at 15:45
  • @MartinCarney, and by doing that, they are not maximizing productivity or employee happiness. – MikeP Feb 2 '17 at 15:33
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How can I approach my boss to explain:

  • I am getting burned out

  • My PTO benefit is far below US average

  • I haven't been able to take a vacation in the 3 years I've worked here

...and tactfully request more PTO?

Assuming you have regular (weekly?) one-on-one meetings with your boss, that would be the appropriate time for a casual conversation about additional time off.

It would be reasonable to ask when your accrual rate would change. You might want to tread lightly on some of the points, though.

Indicating that you are burned out after 3 years might not be in your best interest. Some managers would be concerned about that, and might start to direct important and interesting projects away from you. That wouldn't be a good career move.

While you could point out what you believe to be a US average for PTO, your boss is likely not in a position to do anything about that unless he is a C-level executive in the company. And he almost certainly already knows the US averages anyway. Pointing that out wouldn't provide any real benefit.

As far as you "haven't been able to take a vacation", that's a bit problematic, too. Combined PTO typically covers all time off - illnesses and personal days as well as vacation time. You could have taken a vacation if you hadn't used up the days for other purposes. Certainly you know of co-workers who have taken vacations. When I worked at a company that had a Combined PTO policy, it was routine for people to come to work when they were ill, in order to preserve vacation days. I personally think Combined PTO is a foolish corporate policy, but we all have to deal with the benefits we are given, or go to a different company offering better benefits.

So be a bit careful with how your frame your discussion with your boss. Remember that he may not be in any position to change corporate policy, so there may be very little he can do for you. You don't want to come across as a whiner.

You might consider asking if the corporate policy allows for unpaid time off - and that way get your vacation time and avoid your burnout.

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    I've had combined PTO at most of the placed I've worked. It incentivizes coming to work sick. I know I've had days where I've been so sick I could barely sit up straight and ended up spending most of the day staring at the wall behind my desk, drooling on my keyboard. – James Adam Jun 18 '15 at 15:35
  • "I personally think Combined PTO is a foolish corporate policy..." I agree, but it seems the trend. I've not yet researched the legalities, but I suspect this trend is because sick leave never goes off the books until used, but they can make vacation - and thus PTO - into "use or lose" time and thus get rid of the liability relatively quickly. – GreenMatt Jun 18 '15 at 16:08
  • @JoeStrazzere: 15 years ago I'd never heard of PTO. Now I live under it. A former employer has it too, as does the prime contractor (a F500 company) my employer subs to. However, maybe it is industry - or domain specific. (I'm in IT too, but most of my jobs have been in gov. contracting, where I see a trend toward PTO.) – GreenMatt Jun 18 '15 at 17:16

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