Is It Normal to Have Different PTO Policies for Different Employees?

Andrew Buck's avatar Andrew Buck July 25, 2023

In some companies, you’ll find that some employees are allowed to take a different number of paid vacation days, sick days and other types of paid time off, like personal days or sabbatical leave.

Is this normal? Is it right? And is it legal?

That’s what we’ll get to the bottom of in this article.

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Can Different Employees Get Different PTO?

Yes, employees can have different PTO policies or allowances. This is completely legal, providing you avoid any discriminatory reasons for it.

Paid time off is a benefit, just like wages, healthcare, or access to the executive bathroom. So it’s possible for some employees to have different PTO policies.

Some employees may have negotiated a higher benefits package when they started their role. In other cases, employees may receive additional paid time off as an earned benefit or a bonus.

PTO policies could also be tied to the role – e.g. part-time vs full-time, or marketing vs support.

Just ensure that you don’t show discrimination by offering different PTO policies for different employees.

You don’t necessarily need to treat all your employees the same, but you should treat them fairly and equally. That means not discriminating based on certain characteristics, particularly when it comes to benefits like PTO.

You can’t give different amounts of PTO, or any other benefits, based on certain characteristics, such as age, rage, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, or marital status. Take care to avoid the image that this may be the case as well, even if you’re not consciously doing it.

Check the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a full list of protected characteristics.

When Can You Have Different PTO Policies for Different Employees?

So what kind of characteristics or criteria can you use to define how much PTO someone gets?

Some examples include:

Essentially, you’re allowed to use any reason you like to decide someone’s PTO limit, as long as it complies with any relevant leave laws, and it’s not based on any protected characteristics as above.

Whether you’re allowed to do this is one thing. Whether it’s a good idea is another. Below, we’ll look at the pros and cons of having different PTO policies for different employees, and sum up whether you should do this in your business.

Benefits of Individual PTO Policies

Here are some reasons why it might be a good idea to have individual PTO policies.

Downsides of Different PTO Policies for Different Employees

Now let’s look at some reasons why this could not be a good idea.

So… Is It a Good Idea?

It’s difficult to give a clear answer either way. Installing different PTO policies per employee can work well or it can go very badly, depending on how you manage it.

In general, it’s not a great idea to have radically different PTO for each employee. It creates a feeling of inequity between colleagues who have different benefits packages in their contract.

With staff who are on different pay rates, or have different levels of healthcare coverage, it’s not easily noticeable. This kind of thing is usually kept private, so you’re less likely to have concerns with staff who do a similar job seeing their peers getting paid more.

With PTO, it’s much easier to notice. Employees can tell when one person takes a lot more time off than others. And though you might have the legal right to do it, and may be justified in doing so, it still looks unfair to other employees, even if they don’t consciously complain about it.

Further Reading: How to Calculate Accrued PTO

Best Practices for Dealing with Individual PTO Policies

If you’re going to have individual PTO policies for different employees, here are some tips on managing this so it doesn’t become an issue.

Managing PTO Policies in Flamingo

Flamingo is the perfect tool to use if you’re a business with different PTO policies for different employees.

Flamingo tracks all your PTO requests and automatically manages each employees’ PTO balance as such.

Here’s how you’ll set up individual leave policies in Flamingo.

You’ll first set up your team-wide leave policy, when you set up your team.

If you want to alter the leave policy for a particular employee, go to the “Users” screen and select the employee you’d like to edit.

From the user’s profile, select the “Overrides” tab.

For the part of the leave policy you’d like to change, click the toggle that says “Override settings from [team name] team, set up the new PTO limit, and save.

This will change their yearly allowance for that leave type.

If you’d rather make a one-off change (perfect for incentive-driven bonuses), click “Adjust”, add the new limit, and save.

These new settings will override anything from the team-wide settings.

This is an awesome feature that gives you full flexibility to run your team and your PTO policies the way you want.

Andrew Buck's avatar

Andrew Buck

Andrew is the content manager at Flamingo. He has managed teams in multiple industries, for both physical and remote businesses, and has experience dealing with the ins and outs of HR and leave management on a daily basis.

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