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HR rep explains why 'unlimited PTO' isn't actually as good as it sounds: '[It] only works if you have a solid manager'

Unlimited PTO — paid time off — is always an enticing benefit when you’re comparing the pluses and minuses of working for a new company. But one HR professional on TikTok says you shouldn’t always take the bait. Or at least, not unless you know what you’re really being offered.

According to a TikToker named Amy (@hackyourhr), accrued PTO (paid time off) is usually a much better deal than unlimited PTO — and here’s why.

“Accrued PTO ensures that you can either take time off or that you are paid for the time that they say you should take time off [when you leave the company] for your mental health,” Amy explains in the clip.

So, if a prospective employee is talking to a company with an unlimited vacation day policy, she recommends that they dig a little deeper into that during the interview process.

Specifically, she says that interviewees should ask how HR, managers and other bosses are trained to incentivize employees to ensure that their teams are taking time off throughout the year.

“It saves the company a ton of money not to carry this on the books,” Amy continued, since this arrangement means they won’t have to pay back any accrued PTO once the person leaves.

In the comments, a lot of people agreed with her.

“Unlimited PTO only works if you have a solid manager,” one person shared. “I feel super lucky.”

“I refuse to go for a job that has unlimited pto,” another person said. “my job has 4 weeks accrued pto and you can accrue up to 600 hours and sell it back.”

Someone else said that while they have unlimited PTO at their company, they struggle to actually take it, which defeats the purpose.

But plenty of other people had a different take on this based on their personal experiences.

“As a working mom I respectfully disagree,” one person said. “Unlimited > all day.”

“I’ve had unlimited PTO for 3 years and I’ve never been denied time off,” said someone else. “I love it!”

“I’ve had both and unlimited PTO is the way to go,” yet another person chimed in. “I never have to worry about running out.”

That said, the same person admitted that having this kind of a program run smoothly is really “all about the culture, your team and your manager,” which isn’t always positive at all companies.

Others pointed out that while they have accrued time off, it doesn’t always roll over or get cashed out when you leave, which negates a lot of the benefits. The amount of PTO you actually accrue can also take time, which means you may work for a company for a while before you feel entitled to take any sort of break.

Ultimately, Amy said that the best PTO plans she’s seen have been from companies that offer unlimited vacation days but call it “flexible time off.”

In most of these cases, a company offers a financial incentive if you take at least five days off in a row (in other words, one week off = $1,000). They also have a minimum number of days you are required to take, which helps encourage employees to take a break and reduces the likelihood of burnout.

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