sick paid time off pto.

Sick Paid Time Off – PTO

What is Sick Paid Time Off  (PTO)?


Sick Paid Time Off (PTO) is a policy that allows employees to take time off from work while still receiving their regular pay when they are sick or need medical attention. The specifics of sick PTO policies can vary widely between companies and jurisdictions, but they generally serve the same purpose: to allow employees to recover from illness without suffering financial hardship.


How is Sick Paid Time Earned?


The way Sick Paid Time Off (PTO) is allocated can vary from one organization to another, and sometimes even within different departments of the same organization. Here are the two most common methods:


Accrual System:

In an accrual system, employees earn sick days over time. For example, an employee might accrue one sick day for every month worked or one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The specifics can vary widely but generally, the longer you work at the company, the more sick time you accumulate.


  • Fairness: This system is often seen as fair because it ties the amount of sick time directly to the amount of time you’ve worked for the company.
  • Reduced Abuse: Accrual systems may reduce the likelihood of employees using all their sick days at once since they have to earn them gradually.


  • Waiting Period: New employees might not have accrued enough sick time to cover an illness, leading to financial stress or coming to work sick.


Lump-Sum System:

In a lump-sum system, employees are given a set number of sick days at the beginning of each year or upon the start of employment.


  • Immediate Availability: This system allows new employees to have sick days available immediately, which can be beneficial in case of illness early in employment.
  • Simplicity: It’s straightforward and easy to understand how many days you have available.


  • Potential for Abuse: Giving all days upfront may encourage some employees to use them irresponsibly.
  • Lack of Flexibility: If an employee uses up all their days but then faces a serious illness later in the year, they may be left without coverage.


Some companies use a hybrid approach, offering a few days upfront and then allowing additional days to accrue over time. Others may offer a “PTO bank” where all time off, including vacation, personal days, and sick days, are lumped together, and employees can use them as they see fit.


It’s also worth noting that some jurisdictions have laws governing how sick leave must be accrued, so legal requirements can play a role in how companies structure their policies. Always consult your organization’s specific policy and any relevant laws to understand how sick PTO is allocated in your situation.


how is sick paid time off pto earned


What is the frequency of accrual of sick paid time off?


The frequency of accrual for Sick Paid Time Off (PTO) can vary widely depending on the organization’s policy and sometimes even by jurisdictional laws. Here are some common methods for how sick PTO might accrue:

Per Pay Period:

Employees earn a certain number of sick hours or days each pay period, whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. For example, an employee might accrue 1 sick day for every month worked.

Per Hours Worked:

In this system, employees earn a certain amount of sick time for every hour worked. For example, an employee might accrue 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Annual Lump Sum:

While not technically an “accrual” system, some organizations give employees a lump sum of sick days at the beginning of each year, or upon the anniversary of their employment.

Hybrid Systems:

Some organizations use a combination of these methods. For example, new employees might receive a small lump sum of sick days when they start, and then begin accruing additional days after a certain period of employment.


What kind of rollover policy is used for sick paid time off?


The rollover of annual Paid Time Off (PTO) depends on an organization’s specific policies, and these can vary widely. However, there are several common approaches to PTO rollover:


Full Rollover:

Some organizations allow employees to roll over all unused PTO into the next year, without any limitations. This approach benefits employees who may not have had the opportunity to use their PTO in the current year.

Partial Rollover:

In other cases, a company may limit the number of PTO days that can be rolled over to the next year. For example, if you have 20 days of unused PTO, the company might only allow you to roll over 10 days.


Some organizations have a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy, where unused PTO is forfeited if not used within the given year. However, many jurisdictions regulate this type of policy to ensure it meets legal requirements, and some jurisdictions don’t allow it at all.

Cash-Out Option:

Some companies offer to “buy back” unused PTO days, either at the full rate of pay or a percentage thereof. This practice provides an alternative to rolling over unused days.

Rollover with Cap:

In some instances, organizations will allow employees to roll over unused PTO days up to a certain cap. For example, you might be able to accumulate a maximum of 40 days of PTO over time, after which no more days can be accrued until you use some of your existing balance.

Grace Period:

Some companies have a grace period at the beginning of the new year during which employees can use the previous year’s unused PTO. After the grace period ends, the unused PTO may be forfeited or cashed out.


sick paid time off important factors to consider in this pto


Factors to consider in sick paid time off.


Cap for the total amount of sick paid time off.

Many accrual systems have a cap on the number of hours or days that can be accrued. Once employees reach this cap, they must use some of their accrued time off before they can start accruing more.

Carryover policy for the sick paid time off. 

Policies may or may not allow employees to carry over unused sick days into the next year. Some policies might have a “use it or lose it” rule, while others might allow a certain amount of carryover.

Waiting Period or Probation Period.

Some organizations have a waiting period for new employees before they start accruing sick time or are able to use it.

Legal Requirements:

Some jurisdictions have laws that dictate the minimum rate of sick time accrual, so organizations must ensure their policies are compliant with local, state, or federal laws.

Also Read: PTO payout laws by state.


Are you aware that ClockIt’s PTO tracking system offers a comprehensive suite of features designed to streamline your leave management process? With ClockIt, you can effortlessly automate PTO tracking for your entire workforce. Our platform is fully compatible with both iOS and Android through our dedicated time clock mobile apps, enabling seamless access for all employees. Team members can conveniently submit PTO requests, while managers and administrators have the capability to approve these requests with ease. Additionally, ClockIt ensures real-time communication by sending out timely notifications, allowing employees to monitor their leave balance in real-time.


More Information on the other types of paid time off:


Maternity and Paternity Paid Time Off – PTO.

Annual Paid Time Off –  PTO.

Bereavement Paid Time Off –  PTO.



Our Final Comments


In conclusion, Sick Paid Time Off (PTO) is an important aspect of employee benefits that serves to protect both the well-being of employees and the broader public health. The way sick PTO is allocated can vary significantly between organizations and jurisdictions, with some companies opting for an accrual system based on pay periods or hours worked, while others may offer a lump sum of days either annually or upon the start of employment. Hybrid systems that combine elements of both are also not uncommon.

Factors like accrual caps, carryover rules, and waiting periods can further complicate the landscape, making it crucial for both employers and employees to have a clear understanding of the specific policies in place. Legal requirements can also play a significant role, as some jurisdictions mandate minimum accrual rates or other sick leave provisions.

Given the complexities and the high stakes involved—for employee well-being, productivity, and public health—it’s essential for organizations to have clear, fair, and well-communicated sick PTO policies. Employees, in turn, should make it a point to understand these policies and plan accordingly, so they can make the most of this important benefit.

Also Read: Study by Florida Atlantic University about Sick Paid Time Off.





Basil Abbas

Basil is the Founder and CTO at ClockIt. With over 10 years of experience in the products space, there is no challenge that is too big in front of him be it sales, marketing, coding, etc. A people person and loves working in a startup for perfection.