How Much Vacation Should a Part-Time Employee Receive?

by Evil HR Lady on November 9, 2017

A reader asked me a question about calculating vacation for a part-time employee. Frankly, I thought the answer was obvious–it should be pro-rated based on the number of hours. If a person working 40 hours a week received 15 days of vacation (120 hours), then a person working 32 hours a week should receive 12 days of vacation (96 hours). Either way, the employee gets three weeks of vacation.

The company had never had a part-time employee before and, as such, had no policy. Vacation was strictly based on years of service. My reader thought the employee deserved 15 days of vacation based on the years of service.

But, because we disagreed, I threw it out as a question on my blog and on LinkedIn and got a whole variety of answers:

To keep reading click here: How Much Vacation Should a Part-Time Employee Receive?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Rabbit November 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

In my experience, no part-time employee has ever recieved paid vacation and this is a Fortune 100 company that’s bigger than Facebook, Time Warner, etc.

Full-time employees recieve a prorated amount of vacation based on hours worked. If you take a sick day then that day is not worked therefore that portion of vacation time is not earned so it’s possible to have a fraction of a day.

At the beginning of the year, all full-time employees have zero vacation days. There are 2080 working hours in a regular year (40 hours * 52 weeks). If a FT employee gets 2 weeks/80 hours vacation, then they need to work 2000 hours during the year. For each of those 2000 hours, assuming all hours are worked, 0.04 hours of vacation is earned per hour worked. After the first 40-hour workweek of the year, the employee has earned 1.6 vacation hours in their bank. With this system, employees never have the potential to get to their full allottment of vacation time until Dec 31.

Assume that on week 2 of the year, the employee uses a day of vacation (8 hours) so they now have 1.6 – 8 = -6.2 hours in the bank. If they leave the company they now have to pay the company for the negative balance of 6.2 hours.

Assume that instead of taking a vacation day on week 2 of the year, the employee was sick for one day. In this case, hours are not deducted from the bank, but since the employee only worked 32 hours, only 32 hours of vacation allotment are added; 32 * 0.04 = 1.28 hours get added and 0.32 vacation hours are lost forever. To later use a vacation day the employee must pay the company for the non-vacation portion of that day.

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grannybunny November 9, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Just kill me now. That system is way too complicated.

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Roger Rabbit November 9, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Grannybunny, I actually simplified it a bit for the vacation/sick examples by assuming that the other 32 hours for the second week of the year didn’t exist and not including those in the bank calculations. 🙂

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Anonymous November 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm

My company, currently 15,000 employees, but this has been our policy since at least since 2000 when we were about 3,000 employees has provided benefits and prorated PTO for employees working 20 hours and week or more, sonyes, it does exist

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Sara November 9, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Pretty sure it’s illegal to make an employee pay back vacation pay if their vacation bank is negative when they leave the job – sorry to say.

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Caring HR Person November 9, 2017 at 8:21 pm

In my company our non-exempt employees earn a certain amount of PTO for every hour worked. So for example if an employee worked 40 hours in a week, they would receive 3.38 hours of PTO. If another employee only worked 36 hours, they would receive 3.04 hours of PTO. By setting up this calculation in our payroll system, PTO accrual is administered fairly.

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Me November 10, 2017 at 4:51 am

That makes the most sense to me.

In my job, vacation is quoted in hours, with the assumption of a 40 hour week being full time. So if I get 3 weeks vacation, that’s 120 hours.

So if you have someone working 32 hours/week (80% of full time), then they get 0.8*120=96 hours of vacation. Someone working half time would get 60 hours.

Functionally, a part time employee would still get to take three weeks total away from the office, but would be paid less for their time away than the full time employee.

For irregular hourly part time work (after school job, shift work), it’s a little more complicated. You can do pro-rated vacation pay. When I worked part time in high school in Canada, for example, I got 4% of my total pay as vacation pay at the end of the year (this is mandated by law). But I think you also need to consider time away – the ability to arrange shifts or coverage so that a part time employee can be absent from the job for a large enough chunk of time to take a vacation away or to visit distant family.

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Maria Rose November 9, 2017 at 8:55 pm

You covered some interesting options for giving vacation to a part time worker ( it is important in today’s labor scenario) . Granted giving paid vacation, sick and personal time is classified as benefits and some are required by law depending on geographic location. Any good employer would prefer to keep happy employees but as we all know, that is not today’s world— Look at Silcon Valley—they encourage turnovers in employment ( keeps ideas fresh).
A good article about these benefits which were negotiated and detailed out in union type jobs because of lack of labor laws for these rights. We need articles like this to clarify the fact that certain things are not necessarily given rights in a workplace. Many jobs because of the right to work setting only pay for time worked, nothing else.

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Sara November 9, 2017 at 11:41 pm

So bottom line – for those of us who assumed pro-rated was implied in our policies, what kind of legal implications do we have if we are implementing pro-rates without explicitly saying that? I had an employee asked after he was given a 36 hr a week schedule in lieu of part of his pay raise. Ugggg.

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Nicholas Moses November 10, 2017 at 11:09 am

Nota bene: in France, where employers are obligated to give five weeks of paid vacation per year, Suzanne Lucas’s pro-rata calculation strategy is exactly how employers calculate vacation days for part-timers.

In the United States, where there is no uniform vacation policy, wouldn’t the legal implications generally depend on a contract-by-contract basis? Is “company policy” legally binding if it is not stated or referenced as such in an employment agreement?

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fposte November 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Most workers in the U.S. don’t have contracts.

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