A program for donations of paid time off strengthens workforce satisfaction.
When I switched jobs and started work in the US in late 2011, I was prepared for the sticker shock of a system that relied on employers to provide health benefits.
What I didn’t expect to find was that, despite the tremendous costs of this system, there were times when employees with good benefits coverage would nevertheless find themselves in personal hardship situations with little support.
Imagine a single working parent who has to undergo cancer treatments but has already exhausted the limits of short-term disability insurance and all of their own paid time off; a parent who is now facing unpaid leave and the possibility of coming up short on their monthly pay check. Or a colleague who takes time off to care for a sick family member. Or an employee who needs additional time off after a storm or fire has damaged their home.
We all want to believe that the companies we work for will be there for us in the event of such an emergency. But there are limits to what organizations may be willing or able to offer, no matter how tragic the situation. In that moment, will a loss of income be covered by insurance? Too often it is not.
Such a case was presented to me in the first week in my US role. It led me to conduct broad research and ask other HR professionals about creative solutions they may have encountered. I found organizations in the public and the private sectors that ran employee donation programs for paid time off (PTO), a basket that includes vacation, sick and personal time. These programs allowed employees to donate unused PTO into a pool available for colleagues in emergency situations. Many smaller companies had donation programs in place, started at the request of employees looking for a way to support a colleague in need.