February 13, 2024
What is Discretionary Time Off? (DTO)
We’re in an age where new workplace terms are being thrown at us from all angles. One you might have heard ...
Most workplaces today offer personal days as a leave type. Yet the personal day is quite often misunderstood.
Details can be cloudy, in terms of how a personal day is different from things like sick leave and vacation, when someone should take a personal day, and more.
Time to clear things up. Sit tight and we’ll explain all you need to know about personal days in this article.
A personal day is a day off from work, which can be paid or unpaid, generally for private or personal reasons.
Personal days are different from vacation and sick leave. Most commonly, a personal day (sometimes referred to as personal time off) is a distinct leave type, with its own limits and balance.
A personal day can be taken for any purpose not covered by sick leave, vacation or other types of leave.
This can include:
Some companies have specific leave types for some situations, such as jury duty, mental health or bereavement. Yet others might require you to use a personal day to cover these situations.
The exact way that personal days work will vary from company to company. However, the commonly accepted way it works is that you don’t need to give a reason why you’re taking a personal day.
The idea is that it’s personal. An employee may not want to talk about their family member who is ill or just passed away, or talk about how they’re struggling with stress or anxiety.
A personal day may also be for a doctor’s appointment related to a sensitive health issue.
Though there are not many legal requirements to the way personal days work, if you offer them, it’s best to do so with trust and discretion.
There are a lot of questions we see about personal days. We’ll endeavor to answer all the most common ones below.
Are personal days required by law?
Personal days, by definition, are not required by law. However, some legally required reasons for time off can sometimes be covered under personal days in a company’s leave policy.
For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide unpaid, job-protected leave in certain situations. The company may consider this time off as personal leave.
Other examples include jury duty and bereavement leave, which in some locations is required by law, and may be classified as personal days.
Who can take personal days?
As there’s no legal definition for personal days, this (and other details) is up to each company to decide.
Most often, personal days are given for permanent, full-time employees. However, it’s not uncommon for part-time employees to be allowed to take personal days as well.
Are personal days paid?
This is another question that’s up to the company’s discretion.
There’s about a 50/50 split between companies that offer paid personal days and those who offer them as unpaid.
Can personal days be denied?
There’s nothing against companies declining a request for a personal day. But the idea of a personal day is a compassionate, “no questions asked” day off, which means it’s rare for personal days to be denied unless there’s a clear pattern of abuse.
What’s the difference between a personal day and a sick day?
Sick days are specifically for illness or injury, and most often paid.
Personal days are more of a catch-all leave type intended for circumstances that come out of nowhere (like a family emergency). Personal days are also more likely to be unpaid time off than sick leave.
Are personal days and vacation days the same?
Personal days are specifically distinct from vacation.
Your vacation time is to be used for just that – vacation. It’s paid time off to take a break from work and enjoy yourself.
Personal days are meant so that you don’t need to use up your hard-earned and valuable vacation time for emergencies and obligations that come up out of the blue.
How many personal days do you normally get?
The number of personal days can vary greatly from company to company.
There’s likely to be a big difference depending on whether they’re paid or unpaid. If a company offers paid personal days, they’re usually limited to 1-5 days per year.
With unpaid personal days, the limit is likely to be a lot wider. There may even be an unlimited number of unpaid personal days available (some companies might provide a maximum of 3 paid personal days, for example, while any after that are unpaid).
Do personal days roll over?
Usually, personal days do not roll over at the end of the calendar year. They are there for use when needed (like sick leave), not an earned benefit (like vacation time). So it’s most common for unused personal days to expire, and not continue to accrue.
The process to take a personal day is usually the same as any other type of time off. The employee should simply contact their manager or the person they report to, and request a personal day.
If it’s something that the person is comfortable sharing, they can mention the reason in the request. But if they don’t feel comfortable, the manager should not ask further details.
If possible, it’s best to give as much notice as possible for a personal day. Though the reason for the request will affect how much notice can be given. For example, days off for life events or scheduled appointments can be requested ahead of time, but an unplanned event like a family emergency is hard to give advance notice for.
Users of Flamingo can request personal days through the app.
First, the manager or admin of the team should set up personal days as a leave type:
Once that’s done, users can request a personal day right in Slack, via the Flamingo app.
This is easy and convenient – by far the best way to manage and track personal days in your business.
It depends on the reason for a personal day – but if you’re taking a personal day as a way to recharge and de-stress, you should pay attention to how you spend your day off.
Avoid checking in with work or doing anything work-related on this day. It’s easy (especially with most of us being able to work from home these days) to log in and check email, answer Slack messages, and keep your mind on work when you’re supposed to switch off.
When you’re off, make sure you’re actually off. Do something enjoyable, get away from your usual routine, and make an effort to properly disconnect.
In general, businesses should be open and accommodating when it comes to personal days.
Your employees are your most valuable asset. It’s worth investing in them, and providing benefits like personal days that help them stay happy and healthy, with their personal and professional life in balance.
Employees with a positive work-life balance are more likely perform at a high level, and also more likely to stay with the company long-term.
The issue is that excessive personal days can really hurt productivity, and be open to abuse. Limiting the number of paid personal days is a good way to lessen these risks.
A good approach is to provide a small number (1-3) of paid personal days per year, to allow your team members to handle unforeseen circumstances without losing pay. Beyond that, let them take as many unpaid personal days as they need, so that they’re able to attend to all the things that are important to them outside of work.
Flamingo makes managing your team’s paid time off a breeze.