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Unlimited Paid Time Off:
The Pros and Cons

As job satisfaction surpasses salary for 54% of candidates, companies are embracing progressive policies like unlimited PTO to cater to the changing needs of the modern workforce.

Katie Jones
Content Writer

Key Chapters:

Unlimited PTO, in theory, sounds wonderful, right?

Providing employees with a numberless amount of days to recharge and enjoy a well-deserved reprieve from the daily grind…

However, with great flexibility comes great responsibility – meaning the success of this policy largely depends on clear communication and a shared understanding of expectations.

In this article, we’ll break down exactly what unlimited time off work means, its pros and cons, and how organizations can implement this policy successfully.

What is Unlimited PTO?

Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) is a flexible paid time off policy that combines vacation, sick leave, and personal days into one category. Employees have the freedom to use their time off as needed, without being restricted to a specific number of days.

While the concept of unlimited vacation days suggests employees can take time off whenever they want, that’s not exactly the case.

Of course, when we say “unlimited,” we don’t mean employees can take six months off and still get paid! The policy is grounded in an understanding that employees will tie up any remaining work or projects beforehand. An employee’s leave will also have to be granted by their manager, who can approve/deny PTO at their discretion.

Before adopting such a policy, organizations must be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Why Do Companies Offer Unlimited PTO?

Given its complexity, you might wonder why so many companies are starting to offer this policy to begin with.

Well, quite simply, it’s what employees want.

According to a survey conducted by MetLife, unlimited paid time off is  one of the most desirable benefits across generations—among 80% of Millennials, 70% of Gen Xers, and 63% of Baby Boomers.

It’s also been revealed that individuals could enhance productivity by working fewer days or hours—up to a 20% reduction—potentially resulting in reduced operational costs for your business.

So why is it still such a contentious topic in the workplace? And should it be part of your people management strategy?

Let’s dive right into the pros and cons.

Pros of Unlimited PTO

Offering employees greater flexibility to control their own work-life balance is hugely empowering. Beyond the evident advantages for physical and mental well-being associated with vacation time, here are some additional benefits:

  • It saves money and HR time: Traditional PTO policies involve accruing unused vacation days, creating potential payouts upon an employee’s departure. Unlimited leave eliminates this issue, streamlining processes for employers and saving HR from tracking and managing accrued vacation time – approximately 52 hours a year!
  • It’s a great recruitment and retention tool: Offering unlimited vacation days is more than just a perk – sometimes it can be used as a retention strategy. And if companies like LinkedIn and Netflix offer it, other jobseekers are going to want it.

  • It builds a culture of trust: Whether you’re a supporter or critic of the policy, unlimited PTO undeniably cultivates trust between employer and employee. When an employer recognizes productivity over mere presence, it contributes to a healthier work culture based on mutual trust and respect. And trust is an all-important factor in employee engagement.

Cons of Unlimited PTO

The common caveat with unlimited PTO is that it often comes with the challenge of employees feeling uncertain about how to use it.

  • It can cause burnout: Despite the good intentions behind the policy, the consequences of unlimited PTO can occasionally yield counterintuitive results. Employees might feel unsure about how much time off is okay, causing differences in how vacation days are used and potential feelings of unfairness among the team. After establishing an unlimited PTO policy, some companies found that employees took fewer days off because the policy lacked clear guidelines.

  • Employees may abuse the policy: On the flip side, the policy can have the complete opposite effect. Although low, there is always the risk that employees may abuse the system. To prevent missed deadlines and increased team workload, a clear and comprehensive policy, along with a defined process for time-off requests, is crucial.

  • Logistical challenges: Unlimited PTO policies can increase the likelihood of multiple employees taking time off simultaneously, which may strain remaining team members and the overall departmental productivity.

  • No vacation payouts: Under an unlimited PTO policy, you cannot accrue or retain unused PTO, meaning you do not have a claim to these funds as part of your severance package. It also means that time off can no longer be used as a reward for good work.

Tips for Managing Unlimited PTO

So how do you successfully implement an unlimited leave policy?

Firstly, it’s important to still maintain a time off request process which can simply be tracked in any leave management software. There needs to be a level of trust with your managers that they’ll say no to requests that could leave you understaffed.

Here are some other tips to help you successfully manage unlimited leave:

  • Lead by example
  • Regularly review the policy
  • Emphasize responsible leave usage
  • Establish a policy oversight and approval process

Are the goals and objectives for your staff clearly defined? Is there a high level of trust in your staff? Does your business have the right culture to have an unlimited PTO policy?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of the above questions, now might not be the right time for your business to implement this policy.


Introducing unlimited PTO can prove advantageous by offering employees increased flexibility and cultivating a trust-based culture.

However, the policy isn’t without its challenges and is certainly not a universal solution for a better work-life balance. Without clear guidelines, there’s a risk of misuse or ambiguity that could undermine its intended benefits and impact overall organizational efficiency.

If you decide this is the right leave policy for your business, clear communication, and proper management will go a long way.

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