HR Hotline: Do We Have to Grant a Request for Unpaid Leave?
Q: One of our employees has requested unpaid time off so he can save his earned but unused PTO for a planned vacation. Do we have to honor that request? We don’t have a problem granting the requested time off now, but we’d prefer to stick with our policy and apply available PTO to time off as it is taken, and if it’s possible to grant additional time off later in the year, it would be unpaid if all earned PTO has been used up.
A: Since vacation time or other PTO is not required by law (other than paid sick leave if applicable to your company), you are free to define how and when it is used, so adhering to your policy is OK.
You can tell your employee it’s a matter of taking unpaid time off now or later, and as the employer, your policy specifies that the paid time available be used first, and only when no paid time is left will additional time off, if granted, be unpaid.
Many employees believe that if they take time off without pay, it shouldn’t be challenged by management. After all, the thinking goes, “you aren’t paying me so what’s the big deal?”
What employees often fail to realize (and you can explain this to yours if you wish) is that even though an unpaid absence is not costing the company in payroll expenses, it still has costs, burdening the company and other employees because either less work is performed or coworkers are forced to put in more hours to get the work done.
If your employee still insists, and can’t understand why you can’t accommodate his request, suggest he set aside the PTO wages for the current absence as though it was an unpaid absence, and pay himself at that time in the future when he wanted paid time off for the planned vacation. Problem solved!
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