Employment Law 101: Accounting for Vacation Pay

Employment Law 101: Accounting for Vacation Pay

I am losing 120 days of unused sick leave that I won’t get paid for (10 years worth at one sick day earned per month). We can’t use the vacation days to extend our time (and benefits) before leaving so I’m just gonna take the money and run. My final paycheck with be equivalent to 3 months pay instead of one. Employees begin accruing vacation benefits the first day of work in companies that require workers to earn vacation time based on the number of hours worked during specific pay periods.

How to Handle Accrued Time Off

For example, company policy might provide that an employee earns one vacation day per month or a certain number of hours per pay period. Some companies impose a waiting period before new employees may begin accruing vacation time. And some companies allow employees to accrue more vacation days when they have more tenure at the company. For example, a company may allow employees to accrue three weeks of vacation per year for their first five years, but allow employees who have passed the five-year mark to accrue four weeks per year. Sometimes employers allow employees to “cash in” their accrued vacation hours at their full value or at a lesser cash value (such as 50% or 70%, if allowed according to state law).

If your business has employees, you may have a policy for paid time off (PTO). Many employers would find it simplest to just grant each employee PTO to use as sick leave or vacation time. The risk in granting PTO before the employee earns the total amount for the year is the liability the employer incurs if the employee takes the full allocation and then leaves the company. For safer and more accurate PTO calculations, companies instead allow employees to incrementally earn PTO with each pay period. It may come as a surprise that there are no U.S. laws requiring employers to offer vacation time whether paid or unpaid to its workers.

There is no holiday for those responsible for administrating vacation policy. Unlike unused vacation days, which are covered by state law in some locations, employers are not required to pay employees for accrued sick time. More and more organizations are moving from designated vacation and sick pay to paid time off (PTO) days. With PTO, employees can elect to use the days as they wish—vacation, sick time, personal leave, bereavement, etc. PTO days are treated the same as vacation days in terms of employment law, so they would also be payable to the employee in the states listed above.

Federal law does not require employers to pay for any time not worked. There is no state that requires paid vacation either, but there are several states with laws that affect vacation time accrual, unused vacation, and changes to your vacation policies. What happens to your unused vacation time or sick time when you’re fired from your job? Depending on where you work, you may be paid for some, all, or none of your accrued paid time off (PTO) when you’re terminated for cause. I originally set my retirement date for July 4th of this year, but later extended it to April 1st 2016.

However, this practice is generally completely voluntary, unless required by a contract as discussed above. Companies are also free to adopt schedules for vacation accrual.

If she takes a two-week vacation, she would receive that same amount in lieu of her paycheck for working non-vacation time; if she took one week off, she would receive $962 in vacation pay. An exempt employee can work virtually any time; however, her pay won’t be affected by it. Likewise, a salaried employee’s pay cannot be docked for less than one full day and generally only when the employee has exhausted all of her paid time off — vacation or sick leave.

For mathematical ease, let’s assume that your company provides both vacation time and paid sick leave, and that you want to combine the two to make it easier for your payroll and benefits clerks. Based on a 40-hour workweek, if you provide two weeks each of vacation time and sick leave, the combined PTO is four weeks, or 20 days or 160 hours. If you have accrued vacation days that you haven’t yet used when you quit or are fired, you may be entitled to be paid for that time. About half of the 50 states have laws requiring employers to pay out an employee’s unused vacation when the employment relationship ends. Check with your state labor department to find out your state’s rules on this issue.

Employers generally aren’t required to provide benefits such as vacation time or paid sick time. The only exception to this is Executive Order that mandates paid sick leave for employees who work on federal contracts.

It’s an employee benefit that’s not required by law, but provided by most employers in their attempt to attract the best-qualified candidates. In exchange for putting in weeks and years of dedication to the same company, employees generally get rewarded with increasing vacation days. The purpose of time off is step away from work duties to recharge your batteries and return to work well-rested and ready for the ongoing challenges your job provides.

PTO accrual by state

The staff member can begin using the accrued vacation days after working a set period of time, typically after several months or the stated probationary period of employment. Stepped vacation benefits give accrued hours based on the number of years on the job, and federal government workers accrue vacation time based on this type of seniority system. Stepped systems give new employees fewer accrued vacation hours for hours work compared with staff with more years of service on the job. Employers are also permitted to pay out (or allow employees to “cash out”) any accrued but unused vacation time at the end of the year, or another specified time.

If the employee is terminated or laid off, the employer must provide the final paycheck at the time of the employee’s termination or layoff. If the employee quits and provides 72 hours’ notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck on the employee’s last day.

I was saving my vacation for a payout (based on accrued hours or about 2 weeks worth), but since we have a use it or lose it policy, I will now have to use 4 weeks between now and the end of the year (looking forward to it!). I will probably save the 5 days or so that I will earn between Jan 2016 and April 2016 for a small payout. Not sure if I get a 401(k) match on the payout or not, but interestingly enough, if I use the vacation normally, I would get the match plus earn vacation on my vacation. Not much on only 5 days, but it could be some real $$ for someone with a big pile of vacation time saved up. I’m being paid for 40 days of unused vacation time (2 years worth) at the end of this month when DH & I are FIREing.

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  • Employers generally aren’t required to provide benefits such as vacation time or paid sick time.
  • For mathematical ease, let’s assume that your company provides both vacation time and paid sick leave, and that you want to combine the two to make it easier for your payroll and benefits clerks.

If the employee quits and provides less than 72 hours’ notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck within 72 hours of the date the employee gave notice. Because vacation time is considered wages, waiting time penalties will apply should the employer fail to pay the employee within these time frames.

For more information on waiting time penalties, see California’s Waiting Time Penalties for Final Paychecks. Some employees’ absence is protected by laws that do not require them to take it as vacation time. Many state laws require employers to compensate employees for accrued vacation when they terminate. Establishing and carrying out policies so they are fair and do not violate other laws can be a complicated enterprise.

Employers can’t prevent it and some employers expect it, but the purpose of a vacation isn’t for the employee to continue working while away from the office. Calculating PTO (Paid Time Off) can be a confusing task for some employers. The first step to track employee vacation time is to decide how many hours you want to allocate to full-time employees each year. Based on a 40-hour work week, you may want to give 40 hours (1 week of vacation time), 80 hours (2 weeks), or some other number in between. Based on the accrual method you choose, you can calculate how much time employees accrue each pay period.

Finally, employers often inquire about if they need to pay out vacation time after an employee has been terminated. Accrued vacation or paid time off is normally paid to employees who leave the company voluntarily or involuntarily. Here is Ohio’s stance on payout of paid time off upon termination. For example, Nebraska law states that paid vacation is a type of fringe benefit, and that is considered part of the employees’ wages.

Because employees are being paid for their earned wages, this type of policy is also perfectly legal. California law provides that accrued vacation time or PTO belongs to the employee. Employees may either use their vacation time during their employment, or cash out the value of those hour at the time of their separations. When an employee quits or is fired or laid off, all accrued, unused vacation time must be included in the employee’s final paycheck. You may be wondering what happens when you terminate an employee.

Vacation Accrual and Caps

Where this is the case, remaining PTO days are generally treated the same as vacation days under the law. These days are considered to be accrued by the employee and payable when the employee leaves the job. In this respect, accrued sick time is unlike accrued vacation time which, in some states, must be paid as part of an employee’s final paycheck. Some employers do pay employees for unused sick time, possibly as an incentive for employees to not misuse sick leave.

Therefore, employers can’t change their vacation policies in a way that would take vacation time away from an employee who has already earned it. They also can’t have so-called “use it or lose it” policies, in which employees forfeit unused vacation time after a certain date.

In addition, when an employee leaves your company, you are typically required to pay them for their unused vacation time. Employers cannot, under any circumstances, refuse to pay an employee accrued vacation if the employee quits or is fired or let go. All unused vacation time must be paid out upon separation from the company in the employee’s final paycheck. The timing for final paycheck in California depends on the circumstances of the separation.

There are, however, extra payouts associated with this option and employers must determine if the payment will be calculated based on the employee’s current base pay and/or base pay after pay enhancement, etc. This option is by no means common, but is a nice perk to offer employees as part of your PTO plan. When an employee receives vacation time, she’s paid her normal rate of pay for the time she’s off work. Whether the employee takes five days of vacation or just one day of vacation time, she receives the same fixed rate of pay that she receives for working. For example, if an employee earns an annual salary of $50,000, she earns approximately $1923 every two weeks.

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations where the government does not regulate benefits in the private work sector. On the bright side, once a business establishes a policy, they must be sure they comply with related federal and state laws. In other words, once promised, employees are entitled to their vacation time and pay. So, if you are currently receiving vacation time, you will not have to worry that the rug will be pulled out from under your upcoming Fourth of July plans.

Can accrued vacation time be taken away?

Accrued vacation pay is the amount of vacation time that an employee has earned as per a company’s employee benefit policy, but which has not yet been used or paid. This is a liability for the employer. The following discussion of accounting for accrued vacation pay can also be applied to holiday pay.