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Even your most devoted employee needs a break at times, whether it is to take a vacation or care for an elderly parent. Some companies are grouping sick time and vacation days into a category called paid time off, or PTO, days. They can be used for anything from leaving work for an hour to attend a child’s school event to two weeks annual vacation.

“They’re offering PTO because employees can use it at their discretion,” says Libby Anderson, president of TalentForce Solutions, a human resource consulting and customized training and development firm in Naples. Some companies are responding to market forces and their desire to have an employeefriendly corporate culture by creating more generous PTO benefits for workers. Here are three tips for shifting to a PTO policy.

1. Consider your cost. PTO can be a benefit that attracts and retains employees, and it may be cheaper than the cost of replacing an employee, which can run from 16 percent to 21 percent of an employee’s annual salary, depending on the position, according to the Center for American Progress.

2. Determine how to track it. Workers generally can use PTO in increments as small as one hour, or take up to two weeks off. Employees will keep track of every minute of their PTO, so you have to as well, to avoid any confusion. Your payroll service may offer a way to track PTO, which can be easier than you or someone in a human resources role keeping tabs on the used hours. Also, require workers to fill out a request for time off, such as two weeks’ notice, if it is a planned event.

3. Emphasize that it’s a benefit — a good thing. When making the shift to PTO, be careful that it doesn’t come across that you’re removing benefits or limiting time off, Anderson says. Communicate well in advance (at least six months), that you are going to be transitioning to a new system.

FEDERAL LEAVE REQUIREMENTS The federal Family Medical and Leave Act of 1993 requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid time off to workers who have qualifying conditions, including the birth of a child, caring for a newborn or an adopted or foster child within one year of placement, or caring for a family member’s serious health condition or their own serious illness. Florida has no law mandating paid time off or paid maternity or parental leave.

Federal contractors are required to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave annually, according to a federal order signed by President Barack Obama in September 2015. But his proposed Healthy Families Act, which would extend that to all businesses with 15 or more employees, has not moved forward in Congress.

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