Ask The Readers: What Is a Fair Vacation Policy for a Part-Time Employee?

by Evil HR Lady on November 4, 2017

At the request of a reader, I’m asking you all to throw your two cents in.

Situation: Jane works as a salaried exempt full-time employee (5 days a week, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week)for a small company for 10 years. On her 10th year anniversary, she is awarded an additional 5 days of vacation, so now has 15 days of vacation.

After reaching this milestone, Jane has an adorable baby and wishes to spend more time with her offspring. With her boss’s blessing, Jane drops her hours to 32 hours per week by staying home on Mondays. Now she works 4 days a week, 8 hours a day, 32 hours a week.

The current company policy is:

  • 5 days of vacation for 0-4.999 years
  • 10 days of vacation for 5-9.999 years
  • 15 days of vacation for 10-14.999 years
  • 20 days of vacation for 15 years and more.

Jane is the only part-time employee in the company. How many vacation days should Jane receive?

(Based on company policy, mind you, not based on what you think is the morally correct amount of vacation.)

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

12 days. She works 80% of the FTE hours so should get 80% of the benefit for her tenure.

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 10:55 am

Policy says nothing about how many days a week are worked, just years of service. If she has worked one day a week for 10 years she would have received 15 days vacation. So right now she gets the same 15 days.

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Parker Davis November 4, 2017 at 10:56 am

0, zippo, nothing
She has every Monday off. Since you did not offer any indication of company policy of exactly what is considered a full time employee and what constitutes eligibility for vacation. Absent that, if you begin prorating, then someone who works 8 hours per week would also get vacation.
Advise them to clarify their vacation policy.

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Michelle Marts November 4, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Eh but that would effectively drop her salary, as she would have to take unpaid time for vacation. Ideally this would have been negotiated as part of her new benefit package (which I assume includes a drop in salary already). I think the way they calculated her new salary is the most important thing here. If she is getting paid 80% then she should also get the 80% of her vacation days. If it changed her package in some other way and that would need to be taken into account. Regardless the employee made a choice to go part-time and rearrange her family items with no mention of her vacation being taken away. Taking it away now would be incredibly unfair and act like the company was not behaving in good faith.

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DD November 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

Policy is only based on years of service so her vacation should not change. The company should look at revising their policy to be based on contracted hours in the future and pro-rated for part-time.

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Chris November 6, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Agreed

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 11:29 am

She should receive 15 days, as the policy doesn’t define what constitutes part-time or that benefits for part-time workers would be pro-rated based on FTE percentage. In addition, since the part-time schedule request is following the birth of a child, is it possible that it’s a temporary request?

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Sue November 4, 2017 at 11:36 am

She’s working 80% of a full-time schedule so should receive 80% of the full-time vacation benefit, or 12 days annually..

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Nana November 4, 2017 at 11:51 am

She should get 15 vacation days because the vacation time is based on number of years worked, not number of days or hours worked.

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HelenB November 4, 2017 at 12:13 pm

12 days = 80% of full time equivalent

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 12:40 pm

15 days on a literal reading of the policy (because it doesn’t distinguish between full and part time). From a logical (and moral) view of what it should be (not asked, I know), also 15 days because she has earned that right from previous service, which appears to be what the policy is based on; then once she is there 15 years, 19 days; the 15 she earned at full time, and then an additional 80% vacation of 4 out of the potential 5 days (if she remains at part time).

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Anonymous November 7, 2017 at 1:29 am

I agree

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kimberly November 4, 2017 at 1:16 pm

12 days based on the “spirit” of the policy.

Since there aren’t any other PT employees, they haven’t needed a policy for how much vacation to give a PT employee.

If/when she goes back to 40 hrs/wk, her vacation should go back up to 15 days/yr.

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Linda Motschiedler November 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Of course she should still receive her 15 vacation days!!

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Chris Hogg November 4, 2017 at 1:37 pm

There is no mention of a distinction in policy between FT and PT, or between exempt and non-exempt, when it comes to vacation — so I think she should get 15 days (and maybe it’s time to re-examine the vacation policy going forward).

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Coffee November 7, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Yes.

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Krystal M November 4, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Based on company policy, she gets 15 days. That seems very clear cut to me. Perhaps the policy could/should be adjusted to give her 12 days (still the equivalent 3 weeks) but as it stands that is not what it says.

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AdAgencyChick November 4, 2017 at 2:52 pm

12 days, but a company policy that makes you wait FIVE YEARS just to get a SECOND week is pretty stingy.

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BethRA November 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm

One more vote for 15 days since the policy as stated makes not distinction between full and part time employees, and the matrix refers to years of service, not days worked.

(our organization gives vacation to PT staff on a pro-rated basis, but then we also START people with 15 days of vaca. Jane’s company is wicked stingy)

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Cary November 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm

12 days. Not every situation you’ll face as a company can be covered in the handbook, so don’t be afraid to extrapolate and set a precedent. Presumably she’s doing less work on 4 days a week so they reduced her salary so it follows that reducing paid vacation is acceptable. However, if she’s still getting through the same amount of work on the reduced hours then keep her salary and vacation allowance the same.

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Wonder Aloud November 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Jane is now a 0.8 FTE, if her other benefits were adjusted to reflect the reduced status then her PTO time could be as well. 15 days x 0.8 = 12 days. If her policy does not address adjusting benefits for part time work, then she could argue for it remaining 15 days. Ultimately anything between 12 & 15 could be considered ‘fair’.

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TeacherinTX November 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm

She is still working what we’d considered full time in CA and her 15 Days is based on her years of service.

Since she has changed her hours and this hasn’t been seen before, they could write a pilocy to compensate her 80% of her vacation, and reinstate her once she returns to full time at 40 hours, if this becomes a huge issue.

I’m dealing with a somewhat similar situation. (I used to be in HR, and I love this blog so I stay updated.) I’m in my first year as a teacher; but my contracted hours are 50%. As teacher here in TX, they call it vacation and sick—they call it “state” and “local”. Local being temporary days that don’t carry over. During the offer call, the (new) HR person said I get half of what a full time person gets. (5 Days as opposed to 10 Days) What I didn’t know until after I started the job, was I actually get 2.5 Days—only 50% of state time and NO local time. I’m frustrated because even though im contracted at 50%, I’m actually only get 25% of what a full time employee gets.

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Maria Rose November 4, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I hope that contracted “50%” is for a designated time period and you get re-classified. I got out of teaching here in NYC because they classify all newly hired teachers as “substitute “ status so you only get paid for days worked with 25% benefits for minimum of 5 years. That’s how they keep the long term higher paid non-working teachers on payroll until retirement. Working 5 years with no benefits and no guaranteed days of work was not my cup of tea.

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Candace November 4, 2017 at 4:04 pm

15 days. Policy is based on tenure. However I would rewrite the policy and give her 80% of that since she is working 80% of a full time schedule.

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 5:11 pm

She created a new level of employment by becoming part time and they need a new part time policy. Same issue at my company when I was the first salaried, part time employee (30 hours) and we use PTO accrual and I accrue at 75% of the FT hours. She should receive 80% of the days in my opinion.

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Ella November 4, 2017 at 5:34 pm

15 days. The policy is tenure based, not based on time spent at work. Now, if the company wants to address this policy and make it based on whether an employee is part time or full time and their tenure, that is fine. But I’d err on the side of giving Jane 15 days. Why create bad feelings with a long time employee over 3 days? She also may return to full time hours once her child is older. Would she then get bumped back up to full time vacation?

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Maria Rose November 4, 2017 at 5:48 pm

She made the change to a part time after working 10 years as a full time employee so she earned those 15 days vacation time. As far as getting more time, based on the listed requirements, she has to continue to work another 5 years.
Apparently someone at work has complained about that the fact that this woman has 15 days of vacation. The fact that the company agreed to her working 32 hours weekly Tuesday thru Friday shows how valuable her skills are.
There’s nothing in that company policy that states anything other than years worked for earning vacation time so there is no reason to cut her vacation time unless policy was in effect at time of change in amount of hours, plus that change with effect future vacation time to be earned after year 10 in.
Now if she had been going from part time to full time, her vacation time could have been cut because part time vacation is based on working a minimum of 1500 hours yearly per days vacation earned with same 5 year breakdown.
Furthermore under today’s rules of classification of a part time worker versus a full time worker, the cutoff is any worker who maintains over 29 hours weekly is considered a full time employee, which for this specific employee equals her being a full time employee.

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Tracy November 6, 2017 at 8:13 pm

She should get the 15 days. I’m assuming she still gets the other benefits (medical, vision, dental) and that those benefits were not treated any differently — so unless the policy specifies otherwise, the same should apply here.

Like some of the others have said, I’d consider her full time as she is working 30 hours or more (unless something in their policy specifically designates her as part-time and specifies that benefits may be handled differently for part-time employees).

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PJH November 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm

15 if no separate policy for PTE (most cromulent interpretation)
80%=12 if pro-rata based on less hours worked (unstated).
5 days if change of contract/hours restarts the clock on service (again, unstated) and no separate policy for PTE.
4 days if ditto but pro-rata.

Very badly worded policy IMNSHO. Didn’t you post in the past few days about getting lawyers in for drafting exactly this sorta thing?

And, morally, since I’m ignoring that bit, 12 days until, and unless, her hours change again.

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Kelly November 4, 2017 at 7:18 pm

I think the pro-rated amount of 12 days is what she should get (but she should not lose any leave she’s already accumulated before the schedule change that would not otherwise be lost).

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jdgalt November 4, 2017 at 7:44 pm

The way the company policy is written (I assume you’ve shown the whole thing above), I believe Jane is entitled to the same vacation as if she were still working full time — 15 days. The boss has to take responsibility for the fact that he could have put in a part-time clause and didn’t.

The moral view (or “what company policy would I have written”) gets trickier. On that basis I would give her 12 days (and also pro-rate years she will work part-time to count as less than a full year each toward future increases). But that isn’t the question you asked, and the first answer is.

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 10:08 pm

What my company does and I found fair in the 15 years I worked partime is prorate out PTO hours according to a published schedule. I can’t get to our portal right now to confirm the exact numbers, but our standard work week is 37.50 and I know at 20 hours, employees get 50% of what a full time employees PTO would be, at about just over 25hours it goes to 75%. I know when I went from 20 hours (4 days a week, 5 hours a day) to 30 hours (5 days a week, 6 hours a day), one reason I went to 6 hours a day instead of 5 five hour days was because of that.

I’m not sure if there is any other increment as I then went to full time.

Our PTO is expressed in hours, so if it’s 6 weeks of PTO, that is 225 hours as our standard week is 37.5 hours.

For example, if the based on service date, my full time PTO hours would have been 225, when I worked 20 hours a week I got 112.5, which was 5.6 weeks. When worked 30 hours a week, I got 168.75 hours, which was also 5.6 weeks.

I found it fair as it is clearly laid out in our policies and there didn’t have to be complicated calculations or discussions each time someone was part time and we are a company of over 15,000 employees.

As she is the first employee, I think the company should establish that percentage now. For this instance, as she is working 80% of a full work week, it makes sense that she gets 12 vacation days, which would be 3 of her work weeks.

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Anonymous November 4, 2017 at 10:16 pm

And I apparently answered the headline “what’s fair” and not “based solely on policy ” 🙂

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Aphrodite November 5, 2017 at 1:07 am

I work at a community college where full time is considered 40 hours a week. If you are permanent part time (that is, not hourly with no benefits), your benefits are pro-rated to the percentage you work. In other words, if you work 20 hours a week, the minimum for permanent PT, you pay 50 percent more for your part of the benefits and you get 50 percent of the normal FT allotment. Everyone gets “raises” in their vacation and sick time when you reach milestones but if I, as a FT employee, get 16 hours per month of vacation time after xx years, a 50 percent employee who has the same amount of time in that I do, get 8 hours.

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Rachel November 5, 2017 at 3:13 am

Very straightforward in the NZ context : if she works 0.8 then her leave is 0.8 of the FTE ( full time equivalent)

So while she is working 4 days or 0.8 then she gets 0.8 of 15 days or 12 days, or 3 of her normal weeks

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GeekMissy November 5, 2017 at 5:06 am

The last big company I worked for, 32 hours would still be considered full-time. (The cutoff was 30.) So she’d get the 15 days.

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April Troendle November 5, 2017 at 4:05 pm

We give no vacation for part time employees. Their vacation is there weekly days off. They do however receive holiday pay if the holiday is on a scheduled day.

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Lylie Grace November 5, 2017 at 8:53 pm

15 Days. Company policy does not (seem) to reference minimum numbers of days/hours worked.

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Australian November 6, 2017 at 5:39 am

Wow, is that how it works in the US? Amazing.

Come to Australia. 20 days annual leave a year (pro-rata for part timers). Plus 9 public holidays (more in some states).

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HRGEN November 6, 2017 at 3:44 pm

The policy does not define eligibility. With the policy written how it is, all FT and PT employees should receive the same number of vacation days per the tenure indicated. She should remain at 15 vacation days even with the change in status.

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NJE November 6, 2017 at 5:07 pm

15 days…the policy does not comment on how many hours employees need to work to be eligible.

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Tardytracy November 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Policy doesn’t identify full-time vs part-time requirement, so vacation is based on years of service. We ran into a similar situation, although our policy indicates full-time employment, with the ACA our FT is now 3o hours, and we have employees working 30 hours, but earning 40 hours vacation. It certainly frustrates some of the 40 hour people.

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FiveWheels November 6, 2017 at 11:15 pm

She had three weeks leave. Pro rating it to 12 days gets her three weeks – keeping it at 15 would give her almost four weeks, which is more than she’s entitled to.

The OP didn’t state the actual policy in full, but it’s reasonable to read into it that benefits and pay will be pro rated.

Of course if this is real the employee should have had it confirmed beforehand.

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Mike Mathis November 7, 2017 at 12:13 am

First, their vacation policy is weak for 2017, I have to assume this company’s employees don’t care for it much. I would keep the vacation accrual the same for her because she is the only “part time” employee. It will take an employee five years to get to two weeks of vacation, that is a long time to have only one week of vacation. If they don’t have many part time employees, keep it the way it is, you don’t want to reduce the vacation on their already anemic policy. If it causes a huge uproar at the company, they will need to rewrite the policy and they should define a full time employee as someone who works on average 32 hours per week. She lasted 10 years to get 3 weeks! give it to her.

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Agile Phalanges November 7, 2017 at 5:47 pm

I think giving her 15 days x 32/40 (so 96 hours or 12 days) to account for her part-time status would be fair. As someone pointed out above, she’s already getting one day off a week, so she won’t need as many full or part days off for miscellaneous errands like doctor’s appointments, but it’s still fair to expect to be able to take some paid time off for vacations. So it seems like a good compromise that she’s still given the equivalent of what she got when she was full time, but pro-rated to account for her part-time status.

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nuqotw November 8, 2017 at 7:14 pm

15 days! The letter of the law is on the side of 12 days, but the company should be generous here: 3 extra days is cheap for them, a morale booster for Jane and everyone else, and she’s been there for 10 years which should count for something towards company generosity.

You didn’t ask this question but for the love of vacation, the company should increase all of those amounts in every tier by at least 5 days. That’s a ridiculous schedule.

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Sara November 10, 2017 at 12:00 am

Do you all understand that since she has one day off per week, keeping her at 15 days is actually giving her extra vacation? When she takes a week off, she only needs four days of vacation to get five days off. She doesn’t have to work that fifth day of her vacation week. Am I crazy?

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