Having unlimited paid time off sounds like a dream benefit to many workers, which is why companies have used it as a recruitment tool. However, not all employees with this benefit seem to take advantage of it.
In June, ResumeBuilder.com surveyed 1,351 full-time U.S. corporate workers who have been at the same company for one year or longer to ask about their vacation policies.
- Only 5% of workers have an unlimited paid time off policy
- Half of workers want unlimited PTO
- 100% of workers with unlimited PTO surveyed took less than 10 days off in the past year
- Workers with unlimited PTO take less time off and are more likely to work on days off than those with specified
4 in 10 workers with unlimited PTO will take less than 3 days off this summer
Five percent of respondents say they have an unlimited paid time off (PTO) policy, while 89% say they are given a specific number of PTO per year, and 6% say they are not given PTO.
Seven percent of workers with unlimited PTO say they won’t take a day off this summer, and 35% say they will take 3 or fewer days.
Workers with a specified number of days off plan to take slightly more vacation with 7% also saying they won’t take a day off but only 26% saying they will take 3 or fewer days.
100% of workers with unlimited PTO took less than 10 days off in the past year
Twelve percent of employees with unlimited PTO say they didn’t take a single day off in the past twelve months, compared to just 4% of workers with a set number of PTO.
Additionally, all respondents with unlimited PTO say they took less than 10 days off, whereas this is only true of 56% of workers with specified PTO.
One-third limit time off due to fear of appearing lazy
When we asked workers with unlimited PTO why they took so little time off in the past year, the most common reason given was work being really busy (62%).
Additional reasons included:
- Afraid of returning to too much work (29%),
- Not wanting to appear lazy (26%)
- Unsure of how much time off to take (20%)
- Company culture discourages vacation (17%)
- Boss didn’t take much time off (12%)
“Offering unlimited PTO is a great benefit to attract and retain talent,” says Chief Career Advisor Stacie Haller. “Employees love knowing that they have the days they need not only for vacation but for any personal reason.”
“The reality is, however, that most people do not actually take many days off, and employers offer unlimited PTO knowing that the majority of employees will not take advantage of it, so it’s easy to offer.
“There are several reasons, but it’s mostly because their workload does not allow it or there is no backup for them when they are out. There may also be a company culture that makes the employee feel as though they may appear lazy or not as driven if they take time off.
“There is no magic number for how many days off someone should take, but employees absolutely do need time off to recharge. More companies are putting coverage plans in place, so that employees can take time off without feeling like they need to work while they are away or a fear of returning to a heavy workload. Unlimited PTO should be about reducing employee stress and burnout, not creating more of it.”
Workers with unlimited PTO more likely to work on days off
Fifty-six percent of workers with unlimited PTO say they always (20%) or sometimes (36%) work on paid time off days. An additional 28% say they rarely do, while only 16% say they never do.
On the other hand, only 42% of workers with specified PTO always (7%) or sometimes (35%) work on paid time off days, while 29% rarely do, and 30% never do.
“Heavy workloads and coming back to more work than before does not make for a relaxing time off. The result is that when workers do choose to take time off, they won’t fully disconnect and will still do some work on those days to reduce the burden of work they would otherwise come back to,” says Haller.
Majority of workers prefer unlimited PTO policy
Despite it appearing as though those with unlimited PTO take less time off and work more frequently on the days they do take off, 75% who currently have this policy say they prefer it to up to 20 days of set PTO.
Additionally, half of workers who don’t currently have unlimited PTO say they would prefer this policy over 20 days of set PTO.
This survey was commissioned by ResumeBuilder.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish on June 15, 2023. In total, 1,351 participants in the U.S. completed the full survey. All participants had to pass through demographic filters and screening questions to ensure they are currently employed full-time at a corporate job and have been at the same job for at least one year.
The survey used a convenience sampling method, and to avoid bias from this component Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.