In today’s job market, a well-crafted Paid Time Off (PTO) policy is important for several reasons. 

Whether you're a startup or an established business re-evaluating your benefits package, understanding how PTO policies work can make a big difference. It's more than just giving time off; your PTO policy should resonate with your company's values and culture while also giving you an edge in attracting top talent.

In today’s guide, we’ll explain what a PTO policy is, how it works, and discuss three main types with a few factors to consider when choosing the right one for your business. We’ll also highlight why using a PTO tracker like Timetastic can help handle your entire leave management process. Let’s get started! 

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Firstly, what is a PTO policy exactly?

A Paid Time Off (PTO) policy outlines the days an employee is entitled to take off with pay for various reasons, including holidays, maternity and paternity leave, bereavement leave and sick leave. Unlike traditional vacation policies, PTO combines different types of leave into a single bank, giving employees more flexibility in how they use their time off.

Types of absences PTO typically covers:

  • Annual leave. Refers to time off that employees are entitled to for leisure or personal activities. The statutory minimum annual leave for full-time workers in the UK is 5.6 weeks, which can include bank holidays if they are part of the employment contract. 
  • Sick leave. Paid time off due to illness or medical appointments. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provides financial support to those who are unable to work due to illness, and some employers may have their own sick leave policies
  • Bereavement / Compassionate leave. Allows employees time off work to deal with the death or serious illness of a close family member or dependant. It enables them to attend funerals, make arrangements, or take time to grieve. 
  • Bank holidays. In the UK, bank holidays are days recognised as national or regional holidays where most businesses close. Common ones include Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Easter Monday, among others. 

How do PTO policies work?

PTO policies grant employees a set number of days off per year, which they can use for any purpose covered under the policy. This can vary depending on whether you work full-time or part-time, which should be outlined in your offer letter, employee handbook, or contract of employment.

Note: If want to figure out how many weeks’ vacation you’re owed, we’ve got a guide for you on how to calculate annual leave.

What are the main types of PTO Policies? 

Standard PTO

As mentioned earlier, nearly all employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks (equivalent to 28 days) of paid holiday per year. This standard PTO entitlement often grows with years of service, granting additional days as a token of appreciation for long-term commitment. Part-time employees typically receive a proportional amount based on their contracted hours.


  • Predictability: Employees know exactly how much time off they have.
  • Ease of management: Simple to track.
  • Accrual control: Companies can control liability by accruing PTO over time.


  • Rigid structure: May not accommodate all employee needs.
  • Unused Days: Employees may feel pressured to use all days or lose them.

Unlimited PTO

On the other hand, unlimited holidays mean employees can take as much time off as they need, provided it doesn't interfere with their job responsibilities. It's like having the freedom to manage your own schedule and strike a good work-life balance, which has its benefits but also comes with a few challenges.


  • Flexibility: Employees can take as much time off as they need, when they need it.
  • Trust: Promotes a culture of trust and responsibility.
  • Recruitment advantage: Attractive to potential employees. 


  • Ambiguity: Lack of defined limits which may lead to confusion or abuse.
  • Potential underuse: Employees might take less time off than they actually need.

Flexible PTO

Flexible PTO combines sick leave and vacation time, letting employees decide how to use them. Instead of separate allocations, such as 15 days for sick leave and 10 for holiday, employees enjoy 25 versatile days off annually.


  • Customisation: Allows employees to tailor time off to their individual needs.
  • Adaptability: Can accommodate varied work styles and personal circumstances.
  • Boosts Morale: Employees appreciate the freedom to manage their own schedules.


  • Complexity: Requires careful tracking and management. 
  • Equity concerns: Potential for employees to perceive favouritism or unfair treatment.

What do I need to consider when choosing a PTO policy? 

When deciding on a PTO policy for your UK business, consider the following factors:

  • Company culture. Align the policy with your company values and culture. Does a more traditional or flexible approach suit your team's dynamics? 
  • Employee needs. Understand what flexibility means to your employees. Conduct surveys or have discussions to gather insights on their needs and preferences.
  • Legal requirements. Remain compliant with UK employment regulations. In other words, make sure your PTO policy meets or exceeds these legal standards.
  • Financial implications. Evaluate the cost of different PTO policies. Understand how they might affect payroll, accruals, and overall financial planning.
  • Administration. Choose a policy that is easy to manage and implement. Consider the resources and annual leave software like Timetastic to track and approve leave—start your free-trial today

Manage your team’s PTO with Timetastic!

Using Timetastic can help streamline the entire process of managing PTO, regardless of the policy you choose. When you use Timetastic’s PTO tracker, you get:

  • Keep everyone on your team updated with accurate PTO info.
  • Have an easy-to-use app (web and mobile) where your team can check their PTO balance, view the company time-off calendar, and request PTO.
  • Make it quick and simple to approve or decline PTO requests.
  • Integrate the PTO system with your calendar and workspace tools.
  • Use a Burnout Board to know when someone needs some well-deserved time off.

Final Thoughts

Whether you opt for a standard, unlimited, or flexible PTO policy, each has its own pros and cons. Take the time to evaluate your options and select one that best suits your business. Your employees will thank you for it, and your business will reap the rewards of a happier, more engaged workforce.