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Breaking news: It’s time to rethink PTO

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Unused paid time off has doubled since the pandemic; 40% of U.S. employers have changed their PTO policies.

time to rethink PTO blog cover image

In the first major PTO study since 2019, Sorbet’s 2022 PTO report exposes the PTO crisis for U.S. employees and employers, shining a light on trends across industries, salary, tenure, genders, and more.

Table of Contents

Workers are earning more vacation days but are taking less time off

Although the number of PTO days allocated has increased by 9% since 2019 from 13 to 14.2, employees are still not taking all of their vacation days, resulting in high burnout rates, and thousands of dollars in compensation they might never unlock.

The study found a colossal 55% of PTO for employees currently goes unused in the US, compared to 28% in 2019. On average, each employee only takes 10 vacation days a year, however, 4.4% of employees didn’t take ANY days off last year. But, why are employees taking less PTO?

Many factors, including the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, impact why employees have been taking less PTO. Meanwhile, work culture is shown to be a significant influence, with 24% of respondents stating they don’t feel comfortable asking their manager for time off and 31% believing it’s harder to take time off when working from home.

The PTO gender gap: why women are losing the PTO battle

Although companies are pushing an ethos of diversity, equality and inclusion, Sorbet’s survey reveals inequality among men and women in the workplace when it comes to PTO allocation.

On average, male employees receive 10% more PTO days and take 33% more days off than their female coworkers. Subsequently, research shows that women are 19% less comfortable taking PTO than men, but are actually 27% more comfortable taking sick days.

The less you make, the less you take

Lower wage earners receive less PTO and take 52% less time off than higher wage earners.

In fact, ​the highest income earners, those earning more than $150,000 annually, take an average of 11.6 days and leave 5.7 days on the table; while the lowest income earners, those earning less than $75,000 annually, take an average of 7 days PTO per year which is 60% of their annual PTO allocation.

Gen Zers are getting the short end of the stick

Nearly a quarter of Gen Z workers feel guilty about taking time off, which results in them only taking an average of 6.6 PTO days a year and having the highest burnout rate of any age group, followed closely by millennials.

However, it does get better with age. Employees over 55 years old take 51% more PTO than those aged 21-34, which also has the fewest number of PTO days allocated.

Additionally, employees with kids aged 12 and under take 12% less PTO than employees with older kids and those without any kids.

Why accrued PTO is a problem for your people and your bottom line

Since the beginning of the pandemic, workers are feeling increasingly overworked, disengaged and burnt out. The cost? $1 trillion per year in productivity loss and 48 million US workers voluntarily leaving their jobs in 2022.

For employers, accrued PTO is an unpredictable liability with unexpected payouts, growing annually at the rate of wage inflation. When employees leave their jobs, employers must settle the liability in full, which negatively impacts company cash flow and weighs down the balance sheet.

The average employee holds over $3000 in accrued unused PTO, which translates to over $318B in annual accrued PTO liabilities for employers.

How to win the race for talent, beat employee burnout and reduce PTO liabilities

Sorbet offers a means for finance, accounting, and HR professionals to optimize, automate and revolutionize PTO for both employees and the company.

Attract high-quality talent, reduce employee turnover and improve overall job satisfaction with a unique employee benefit that gives your workers the freedom to spend their PTO in a way that works for them.

Sorbet’s PTO cash-out solution and PTO types gives employees instant access to their hard-earned compensation when they need it the most while saving your company money. Our cost-saving product enables companies to stabilize unpredictable payouts, improve cash flow, increase tax deductions and free up working capital.

“Paid time off is one of the most underutilized assets employers have at their disposal in the battle to attract and retain talent,” said Veetahl Eliat-Raichel, CEO and Co-founder of Sorbet. “In a post-Covid world, employees clearly feel less legitimized and incentivized to take time off, which causes a breathtaking loss of value to both employers and employees. Value that should be harnessed towards both the companies and the employees’ financial wellbeing.”


Read Sorbet’s 2022 PTO report to learn everything you need to know about PTO patterns and usage in 2022 to update your company's policy for 2023.


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