my company decided to close for 2 weeks last year — and charged me a chunk of this year’s PTO for it

A reader writes:

I have a question I’ve been curious about since it happened to me at the end of last year. My company decided that since a “large portion of the company” had not used their PTO, they were going to close the company for the last two weeks of the year. Anyone with PTO remaining would have those days deducted from their remaining 2022 balance, and anyone who had used up their PTO days would have it deducted from their 2023 balance. As a result of this action, I lost 12 PTO days for this year, 2023. This was announced in early November.

I have a family, and I usually take two weeks off a year plus random days as needed, so by the end of the year (and before this was announced) I’ve used my PTO. I’ve never minded working the week between Christmas and New Years because it’s usually slow and I work from home.

Is this a normal thing? I understand they did it as a book balancing act, but honestly, every time I think about the fact that I’m going to be working from the beach this summer while my family has a good time, I just want to walk out the door. I was ready to enter this year looking for a promotion and now even if they give it to me, I’m so annoyed I don’t know if I want it.

No, this is not normal and it’s a horrible practice and tremendously unfair.

There are some companies that close at the end of the year and require people to use PTO for it, but that’s something that’s announced well ahead of time — like when you’re first being hired — so that you can plan your PTO accordingly. This isn’t something you can spring on people in November, after they’ve already used all their PTO for the year (as you had) if it means you’re going to subtract it from their allotment for the following year. By doing that, they gave you absolutely no way to avoid the situation you’re in now, where you have significantly less time off available to you this year and no choice in the matter.

Frankly, it’s not great when companies make people use PTO when they’re closed even if everyone knows that’s the deal going in! It’s bad for people who need or want that time for other points in the year, and it’s not particularly inclusive (the week of Christmas isn’t necessarily desirable holiday time to the many, many people who don’t celebrate Christmas). But at least when people know that’s the system from the start, they can make decisions for themselves accordingly. Springing it on you in November is remarkably crappy.

And their reasoning is bad too — a large number of people hadn’t used their PTO yet? Well, maybe there’s a reason for that! Maybe they have people saving it for childcare or medical needs (in which case they truly screwed those people), or maybe you have a culture that discourages time off and they need to address that. And obviously their logic completely leaves out people like you, who had used up your time and now are going to suffer for what seems like the company’s whim.

Have you pointed any of this out to anyone in power there? If not, it’s worth trying especially if you can get some of your coworkers to push back with you.

But no, it’s not normal and it’s not acceptable.

Read an update to this letter

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Another Techie*

    Oh man, a former job did this all the time! And completely randomly! One year it was the three days before Thanksgiving.Another year it was the Friday after July 4th. Another year it was the week between Christmas and New Year. The only effect of all this mandatory PTO is that people got even more stingy about using their PTO because everyone wanted to make sure they always had at least ten days in the bank in case the bean counters decided to yank it away. And it played absolute havoc on those of us who were on the front lines of shipping product designs on high-intensity deadlines: our relationship with our manufacturing partner meant that every day a design was late getting to the fab cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, and our managers made sure we knew it. So if a product deadline happened to fall during a “mandatory PTO” window, we’d all have to pull 14-16 hour days in the weeks leading up to “mandatory PTO” to make the deadline. It was awful and really tanked morale.

    1. Wilbur*

      Counterpoint-it’s not your problem if the company prioritizes balancing out PTO over hitting deadlines. I hope you got overtime for those long days.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        hahahah no. We were all FLSA-exempt “learned professionals”. Best we got was managers quietly turning a blind eye if we skipped out an hour or two early in the days after a deadline.

      2. NerdyKris*

        It’s easy to say that when you’re not the person who’s job is on the line if they fail. Most people can’t afford to lose their job to make a stand on principle.

    2. Llama Llama*

      I think it’s insane of a company to force a closing when they are deadlines. my company sometimes strongly recommends we take some time off (like at year end) but most of those times are bad for accounting, so we work.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        the CFO didn’t keep track of each team’s deadlines, because why would he? and only a small fraction of the employees were on the hook for meeting the product deadline. It was part of an overall pattern of the C-suite really not caring one whit about morale, and it showed in the company’s market share and product reviews online.

      2. Green Goose*

        My organization is offering “summer fridays” this year but during our busiest season so I’m not sure how we’d be able to use this perk without it impacting deadlines, which is not acceptable to leadership.

        1. Rosemary*

          Yeah I have worked several places that offer this “perk” … but it was always conditional on there not being work needs. So if you definitely wanted to have a particular Friday afternoon off, you had to schedule it and take PTO.

  2. Lance*

    Holy hell. Talk about easy ways to instantly blaze through every ounce of goodwill they ever had with their employees.

    I don’t think anyone here would blame you for getting out of there, OP… and I’d be very surprised if others haven’t already done the same, or are in the process of it.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, this. This is a tremendous incentive killer.

      I’m so sorry, OP. If you want to move on, nobody can blame you. This is a completely garbage move on the part of your management.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I bet. I would have been looking immediately. It’s one thing to tell folks to use or lose but to take from your 2023 bank when you HAVE used it in 2022? That’s terrible. But I guess people leaving is one way to not have PTO banked….

        1. Lea*

          Right we have use or lose and everybody knows well I’m advance to plan.

          This is absolutely unacceptable

  3. Cambridge Comma*

    Still time to find a new job before the summer…you mightn’t have any holidays, but as you won’t have them in your current job either…

    1. Purple Cat*

      The exceptionally terrible thing about this policy though is that you need to pay back your company if you have a negative vacation balance when you leave. So it’s not even just an issue of not having new time to take, it’s being under water with your employer.

      1. Stripes*

        Wait, is that true? Can an employer, without your consent, put you underwater like that?

        Could an employer stop an employee from leaving by repeatedly “gifting” them two weeks off during slow periods, forcing them to stay indefinitely if they can’t afford to pay?

        1. Cyndi*

          Not something my employer did to me on purpose, but when I was out with Covid last fall, I ran my PTO/sick balance well into the negative and had to postpone my intended job search for a few months until I accrued it back to zero.

        2. Nina*

          In my country, yes, they can put you underwater like that and yes, it is with your consent because your options are ‘consent (it’s in the contract) or don’t take the job’.

          It would be really unusual and considered an incredibly evil thing to do, they’d probably lose any goodwill they had and get new laws passed to stop people doing it again, but at the moment that’s completely legal.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            There are a surprising number of things that are ethically horrible but legal — right until; someone exploits the loophole and they close it.

        3. Daisy-dog*

          If it’s part of the vacation/PTO policy, then yes. Now, OP’s company is awful because they deducted it with a forced closure. In most cases, it’s an individual’s choice to take extra days they haven’t earned yet. When they leave, it gets deducted. They were provided with the additional compensation already.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Also, we would never take more than what their final paycheck would be. They weren’t held hostage or billed for the extra pay.

      2. Frank Doyle*

        Man, can they actually enforce that, though? It’s one thing if someone uses PTO that they haven’t accrued yet, that I understand having to pay back. But this was out of their control!! I wonder if that would hold up, legally speaking. (I’m confident that it wouldn’t in California, at least.)

      3. Lost PTO*

        It was asked when the policy change was announced and they are not asking anyone to pay back negative balances if they leave. I haven’t yet accrued a positive balance yet though.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I would not try sticking around until you have a positive balance. They robbed you of your PTO without warning once; who can say when they’ll decide to do so again.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            Right. If the pull this bull at the end of the year, then OP will be in red for next year again.

      4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I came here to ask, “so if you left the following February, you wouldn’t get the vacation/PTO payout?”
        And discover, holy crap, you could leave in February and OWE money?
        What the AF?

        1. Reality Check*

          If that’s the case, it’s excellent incentive to leave with no notice. Just collect the last paycheck and go.

        2. Frank Doyle*

          OP has said that this isn’t the case — “they are not asking anyone to pay back negative balances if they leave.”

          1. Momma Bear*

            How…generous…of them. So OP, a responsible employee, is now in the hole because of the behavior of other people. Wow. OP, I hope you are already looking for a new job.

      5. Flowers*

        My last employer never paid out PTO. I think I had maxed out my PTO anyways when I was let go, so it was moot. But AFAIK no one ever got their PTO so it was use it or lose it.

        I also worked for 4 months during busy season (so 50-60 hour weeks) before I was actually hired as a permanent employee. My PTO didn’t begin to accrue until I was made permanent. 3 hours every pay period, so it took 6 weeks to earn 1 day of PTO and that included sick days (in later years, they separated out PTO vs bonus vs sick etc).

        So all those months/weeks…nada. At one point I was calculating what vacations/time off I could take and a coworker/friend said that she’d never look at that – shed’ just take the time off and stay in the negative because the company could fire anyone at any time and they’d lose it anyway. That’s stuck with me since.

        Current company = 13+ hours per month for the 1st 5 years and then increases with seniority. But that includes sick days, so…not bad I think. I recall someone saying that not paying out PTO is illegal but I’m not about to ask and find out firsthand.

        1. Fergus but Not*

          In Maryland they don’t have to pay out PTO if they say they don’t in their employee handbook

        2. Orora*

          Payout of PTO upon separation is not required by federal law, although there are some states that require it.

        1. Merrie*

          Exjob used to pull all kinds of nasty little shenanigans and even they never tried this one. Though they were the sort of business that’s not likely to close.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I work for a university that’s closed between Christmas and New Year and even then we only use two days of vacation. And there are ways around it, like working remote. And it’s every year so it’s never a surprise. Two weeks would make me hornet mad if I hadn’t had a chance to plan for it, and even then that’s a full year of vacation time for some of our employees.

      1. pandop*

        I work for a University that’s closed between Christmas and New Year and we do *not* have to take annual leave for that period. They do do some dodgy things around leave every now and again, but that at least isn’t one of them.

        1. Orora*

          Same here, pandop. We have a “Check your email daily and respond to any crises.” policy.

      2. marvin*

        I used to work for a company that closed for two weeks at Christmas and made us either use PTO or take the time unpaid. Their PTO was pretty stingy already (as were the salaries) so this annoyed me. But at least we had some choice in the situation.

      3. constant_craving*

        The university I worked for closed for two weeks around Christmas. They made some of the days holidays/extra paid days off, but it still worked out so that you had to take 5-6 days of PTO or vacation to cover the rest of the days. You knew it was coming and their vacation time was reasonable (not outstanding, but reasonable) so it wasn’t terrible but it did always annoy me a bit on principle.

  4. Sunny days are better*

    “Frankly, it’s not great when companies make people use PTO when they’re closed even if everyone knows that’s the deal going in! It’s bad for people who need or want that time for other points in the year.”

    I live in a province where an entire industry shuts-down for two weeks in the summer and an additional two weeks over Christmas, so many, many people in that industry and related ones are off the same two weeks at a time. For many (most?) people, this is the only vacation they get all year.

    So a lot of places are crazy-busy those two weeks because everyone is there (amusement parks, water parks, zoos, etc.) It started many years ago to be sure that people in this industry would GET vacation time.

    I think that the time has come to get rid of this whole practice, but I don’t see that happening. I think that it makes planning vacations hard for a lot of people.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Shutting down Christmas is common in manufacturing both because you need a minimum number of people to run the line and it’s can be hard to get them in coupled with the need to shut things down at some point to do maintenance. But at least the stuff I’m aware of that’s usually a “bonus” perk rather than charged against PTO.

      1. Sunny days are better*

        In this industry it is part of your PTO. It essentially IS your PTO. If you need any additional time off during the year, you are probably getting it unpaid or not at all.

      2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        My husband is an engineer who works in industry, and his company gives the space between christmas and new year’s off. They work it out by giving fewer monday holidays during the year, and listing those days as holiday-days. Employees have a pretty standard number of paid holidays off, they are just distributed differently.

        While no system is perfect, at least calling it a paid holiday means no one has to burn their PTO for days they didn’t choose.

      3. amoeba*

        Our company closes between Christmas and the new year and you need to use your own PTO for that. Which is ok, because a) they announce it way before (like, February or March), send calendar blocks, automatically put it in the system. And b) because of the public holidays during that time it’s never more than 4 days or so (out of 25).

        You can get special dispensation from your manager to work from home though – but they’re closing the building to save on heating etc as 95% of people would be out anyway. (And working by yourself wouldn’t be safe, either!)

        The way it’s done here is a different story and horrible though!

        1. RuledbyCats*

          Yeah, I worked for a place that closed between Christmas and New Year, but they structured it so that stat days and the organization giving one or two paid days, we had 10 days off and it cost us one day, PTO or VAC our choice.

      4. Kloe*

        My Former employer used to shut down for Christmas and two weeks in summer. They no longer do because it usually took more than a month to get the machines into a good working state again.

        And maintenance over Christmas? The people who do that maintenance are also not particularly happy about losing their potential time off during Christmas because maintenance is all hands on deck for them versus 24/7 production on skeleton crew and on call duty for people not immediately needed for production.

      5. londonedit*

        Yeah, in publishing it’s common for companies to close between Christmas and New Year, because historically the printing presses would shut down and that fed out into the rest of the industry. The way it’s always worked in my experience is that if you work for a company where you get the legal minimum holiday allowance (20 days plus the 8 public holidays – sick leave is totally separate) then you’d probably get the time as an ‘extra’ on top of your holiday allowance (usually 3 days or 3.5 days as many places close on the afternoon of Christmas Eve) but if you work for a company that gives 25 days’ holiday then you might have to use some of it for the Christmas shutdown. But it’s all set out in the company handbook with all the other info about leave allowances etc, so it’s not like they suddenly say ‘hey we’re closing for three days, you’ve got to take it as holiday’. Thankfully where I work now, we get 25 days’ holiday and the company shuts down over Christmas and we don’t have to use our own holiday allowance to cover it.

    2. Colette*

      I’ve worked at places that shut down for pre-determined weeks before, and it was great – because when you came back to work, there was nothing to catch up on. Generally, no vacation days were needed, but sometimes you’d have to use a couple. In those companies, you’d still have at least 2.5 weeks of other days you could take when you wanted.

      I can see why a large industry (especially the primary industry in an area) could be a problem, but generally it’s a good practice.

      1. ferrina*

        My company does it this way- they shut down the for the last week of December, and also have regular PTO time (the week in December is not considered against individual PTO).

        1. datamuse*

          Mine, too. I work at a college and that’s winter break for us. If people do come in to work–it’s a common time for IT to get projects done because it’s less disruptive–they get time and a half if they’re hourly.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This sounds more like academia or K-12, where your vacation falls on their calendar. Yeah, there are extra days, but 1) good luck taking them 2) good luck freaking taking them.

    4. dataowl*

      Yeah, we are a university and have a hard closure that includes Christmas and New Year, and the deal is it’s usually 11 consecutive days off work, including two weekends, four university holidays and and three days of mandatory PTO.

      The Christmas thing isn’t great, but on the other hand it’s right after the end of the Winter semester (plus a lot of us have a big conference each year in early December), and many of us like to have the break. It’s also the darkest and often +/- coldest time of the year, many students are off campus, so it makes sense for power and heating to be reduced during that time. Summer isn’t a great time for a mandatory closure since it’s peak field work and outreach time. Also, a lot of units actually get to have a skeleton crew on application since there are observing services or other operational research tasks, animal care etc. which won’t stop. Those who absolutely want to save up PTO can take it as leave without pay. Not ideal, but in the greater scheme not a big reason to grumble, and it’s announced from hiring, and multiple time during the year.

      Not like the OP’s crappy employer! I’d be on my way out if I was treated like that.

    5. Teapot Translator*

      I think we’re in the same province. Not so fun fact! If I understand correctly, by law, your employer can decide when you can take your vacation time and they have to tell you four weeks in advance. Where I work, not in that special industry, our part of the office closes for two weeks and we have to use our PTO for it. And they didn’t warn the last two people we hired. Fun times!

    6. mreasy*

      My media industry shuts down for 2 weeks during winter as well. I love it, because otherwise I have to use all my PTO to visit my family for the holidays, which, I love them, but is NOTTTT a true vacation.

    7. Anon in Canada*

      I’m from that province (but no longer live there). You’re right, this industry shutdown is bad and should be abolished… but as you probably also know, that province is ridiculously resistant to change and I don’t see them abolish the industry shutdown. They’re insanely resistant to getting rid of several other bad (but entrenched) practices that they are the only ones to do – yeah, I’m looking at you, July 1.

      1. Zahra*

        Hey, July 1st came from a good intention: most leases ended in May/June and kids would change schools only a few weeks before end of year exams or, worse, in the middle of exams.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          Changing a fixed moving date from May 1 to July 1 was an improvement (for the reason you mention – cutting the children’s school year) but having a fixed moving date at all is out of sync with modern life. People change jobs/move cities/form new relationships/break up at all times of the year, and all of those situations may require moving. In all other provinces, you can move whenever you want, provided that you had been in your apartment for over a year.

    8. Indie*

      Quebec? I personally hate it so much when they leave all the cones on the street and take off for two weeks. Like, I still need to use the road, thank you very much! Don’t let me start on the permanent cone festival that is our city…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      With only a month of notice that they’ll be deducting it from your leave next year?

      The issue isn’t closing and making people use PTO for it (although that’s not great either); the issue is springing it on people after they’d already used their PTO for the year and deducting it from their next year’s allotment.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Unfortunately yes

        The first time it happened to me was a mere two months after I was hired, so I didn’t have remotely near enough accrued PTO to cover it, which my HR “business partner” acknowledged in writing, but then explained that everyone, even new hires, had to chip in to get the balance sheet looking good for the investors. And because I was new, I was accruing PTO at the lowest rate, so it was almost a year before I could take a single day off.

      2. Aero Engineer*

        I work in aero/defense. Most of the companies in my area give Christmas to New Years off as holiday. No hit to your PTO bank. My company periodically offers PTO buy back, but that is completely voluntary.

      3. goducks*

        It’s not something that employees tend to like, but it’s a very common thing that happens in certain industries.

        1. Stripes*

          I think the “standard in the industry” thing contradicts the “on a whim without notice” thing.

          The worst part of OP’s situation is dropping this practice suddenly into a business where it wasn’t expected.

      4. Nina*

        Yeah, I’ve been in aerospace and can second. There was a company shutdown every year around Christmas/New Year, the old hands knew about it ahead of time and knew to save about a week or so of PTO for it, but you were screwed if you started after September.

        We were given the option of taking it unpaid if we didn’t have enough PTO saved, but most people can’t afford to skip a paycheck like that.

      5. talos*

        Yeah, I used to work in legacy big tech (a PC manufacturer you’ve definitely heard of) and they loved to give you about a month’s notice that you would be required to take time off as PTO – often a specific week, or 4 consecutive Fridays, or something like that. If you didn’t have PTO accrued to do it, you could take it unpaid, which is…better? But still not good because some people can’t afford time without pay. I think your ability to borrow time from the next year varied based on which state you lived in.

        This was in addition to the mandatory-PTO holiday shutdown.

      6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        the issue is springing it on people after they’d already used their PTO for the year and deducting it from their next year’s allotment.

        I haven’t seen it happen with PTO (yet), but I have seen other policy changes come down the pike that way on that timetable, across industries. The important people know in January and the rank and file find out in December.

      7. Smith Masterson*

        Sorry Alison, I just saw this. It looks like others have experienced this, also. Unfortunate.

      8. Megan*

        I remember my mom griping about mandatory pto 20+ years ago. She was in automotive at the time.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Does aerospace usually charge that against PTO? That’s not been true of the what I’m aware of.

      1. o_gal*

        Not always. We “have” to take the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but they cover it with extra holiday leave. No hit to our PTO. And if you have a project or work that you still want to get done during that time, you don’t have to take it and can use it at other times. But you have to plan to do that and use it up earlier, because it doesn’t carry over.

    3. Sam*

      Same experience for me in manufacturing. We always have the possibility of a shutdown for the 4th of July week and usually find out by June. If you don’t have PTO, you don’t get paid.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        But if it’s always at the same time of year, you can plan. That’s different than just randomly throughout the year.

    4. ArtK*

      I’ve worked in aerospace and tech and never seen, or heard of a company doing this with PTO. The shutdown during the last two weeks of the year? Yes. Rob employees on a whim? No.

      When I worked in aerospace, we weren’t charged PTO for the shutdown at all.

      1. President Porpoise*

        As a current aerospace employee with a top company, I can confirm. At my company, they consider those days ‘holidays’, and we get them instead of the more minor bank holidays like President’s Day.

        1. Ann Onymous*

          Also an employee at a large aerospace company. We shutdown from Christmas Eve through New Years Day every year, but it’s considered a holiday – we don’t get charged PTO for that time. My mom is in a different industry, but her employer also shuts down during that time and doesn’t charge PTO for it.

          1. Trotwood*

            Yeah I’m in biotech and we get the period between Christmas and New Year’s as holidays, separate from your vacation days.

      2. Venus*

        It’s also fair to do it as PTO if they account for it. If they give you 15 days of PTO and two weeks of holidays or 25 days of PTO with the expectation that you use 10 days for those two weeks then it’s all the same. Clarity during the interviews, consistency, and fairness are key.

        1. doreen*

          I don’t understand why they don’t all just give 15 days PTO and then a paid shut down for the two weeks. Because although you are right that it’s all the same , nobody ever thinks “They gave me extra PTO to cover the shutdown”

          1. coffee*

            It’s a useful set up if *most* of the staff take the shutdown, but not all, since those staff then take the ten PTO days elsewhere. I can only assume some companies didn’t realise that’s the point and just copied the arrangement.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve never worked at a tech company that even shuts down and has people use PTO, but I’m aware of some that do. Those all have standing policies announced at least a year in advance.

        The only tech companies where I can imagine something like this not being a disaster would be unlimited-PTO companies.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      Routinely shutting down a factory/company for a week or so in late December for logistical reasons? Yes. Deciding last-minute to do this for accounting reasons and then unilaterally to charge banked or future PTO for it? Not that I’m aware of.

      I worked for a very large company that had an annual late December shut-down – it was not counted against accrued PTO but against federal (US) holidays. As in, we got 3 holidays plus Thanksgiving and that Friday plus the shutdown time between Christmas and New Year, instead of 10-12 paid federal holidays.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Long ago, my husband worked for a company that definitely shut down for logistical reasons in late December for a week, and everyone knew it.

        But then one year they added an additional two weeks in FRONT of the shut down (for bean-counter reasons) and everyone had the option to use PTO or take it unpaid. Or, because in our state, it actually qualified you for unemployment for one of the two weeks…everyone just filed for unemployment for at least week 2. Maybe week 3 (the shutdown week) if they’d used up their PTO before week 1 started.

        Yup. They expected everyone to willy-nilly cover three weeks with pitiful PTO and no real notice (usually announced the Monday after Thanksgiving). What happened was that everyone made darn sure they had zero PTO by the first week of December, and then proceeded to file for unemployment benefits. It wasn’t the only related-to-feces thing that this company did by far, heck, it barely scratched the surface.

    6. Fake Old Converse Shoes*

      My company does it, but a) they tell you about it in the second interview and b) it doesn’t consume PTO.

    7. Peanut Hamper*

      Planned shutdowns (planned months or years in advance) are common.

      Telling people that they’re going to charge your PTO at the last minute is not common. (In fact, it’s downright cruel.)

    8. Lavender Provence*

      The shut down is common, but I have always seen the time charged to a special shutdown time, similar to how holidays are handled. Yes, it is a form of PTO, but it’s not the same bucket of PTO that is available for vacation and sick time.

    9. GreenShoes*

      The counterpoint to this is what happened at my company this past year. Historically our manufacturing shuts down for 2 weeks over Christmas. This past year they didn’t shut for 2 weeks only a handful of days.

      They lost a lot of workers who were upset at the last minute (~1 month notice) change and that they had less time off than their friends and family even though they made more (typically the time is not paid.

      I suspect that decision won’t be made again and we’ll go back to our normal 2 week unpaid shutdown.

    10. Fourth and Inches*

      I work in manufacturing and my plant closes for one week every year where everyone has to use PTO (usually around July 4th or Christmas), but this is always announced the previous year. We found out that we have to take the week before Christmas 2023 as PTO in November of 2022.

    11. Spread the Love*

      If shutting down is normal, perhaps the could do what schools do for 10-month contracts: spread paychecks out to 12 months. Yes, you’re getting a little less each paycheck, but it feels like you’re getting paid regularly. I believe you are able to choose your pay schedule at many districts, but most people opt for 12 month pay periods. At least people are able to plan. If education can get THAT right, I’m sure tech and aerospace can figure that out, yeah?

  5. Troutwaxer*

    The only appropriate response to such an announcement is “Thanks for the info, boss. I’ll be working on my resume” if you can get away with it. Or just get another job and leave if you can’t.

  6. SereneScientist*

    Yikes, I’ve worked at three orgs of varying sizes and function/dysfunction, but even the most dysfunctional one didn’t deduct my PTO when we started holiday shutdowns…

  7. Bee*

    This is absolutely worth pushing back on. Some people need the extra time because of family obligations/responsibilities; others need the bank of days for health and safety reasons or for religious or cultural reasons.

    PTO is part of your compensation package, and it’s really upsetting that they are deciding how your compensation is spent. What’s next? Deciding how you spend your paycheck?

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      This is the equivalent of the LW’s bosses deciding at random which rooms of her house she’s allowed to use for X period of time.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      This is a form of theft, in my opinion. They’re stealing next year’s PTO from many of their employees for no good reason. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

      1. Buffy Rosenberg*

        I’m glad you said that because I wondered if I was being melodramatic, calling it theft. But your PTO is worth money, it’s part of your compensation package, and it may force people to take unpaid PTO in some cases.

        It truly feel like theft to me.

        1. P*

          It’s theft of an opportunity. As Alison said what if you needed that time for something like your sister’s Wedding and now you’d miss out on attending

  8. Phony Genius*

    If they were closed for two weeks, and the LW lost 12 days of PTO, it must have been a longer closure. If they charged more PTO than the amount of time that they were closed for, I think that is illegal in most places. Also, did they charge PTO days for Christmas and New Year’s Day? (Which were both on Sunday, but most companies give the Monday as it’s a federal holiday.)

    1. Lost PTO*

      They do deduct holidays from our PTO balance, so that factored in. In this change they counted the Thanksgiving holiday differently as well so that added to the count.

      1. librarianmom*

        WHAT?!? They charge you PTO for holidays? they make Scrooge look good.
        Run, run as fast as you can for the exit.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          We technically have to use PTO for holidays, but it comes from a separate pot created for ten bank holidays. The reason is that a good portion of our employees work weekends/not “standard” Monday to Fridays, so if they’re not working on Mondays for a holiday, they wouldn’t get a day off. This way, they can use it on another day. (Generally, the expectation for these days is that if you’re otherwise scheduled to work that holiday, you take it off/use holiday PTO, but there is flexibility.)

          1. Tau*

            Oh man, this is a great idea and I want to steal it. Here in Germany, public holidays don’t “roll over” to the following Monday, so if they fall on a weekend and you work M-F then tough! You don’t get the holiday that year! (And then you discover you can’t go grocery shopping on Saturday because it’s a public holiday and so the shops are all closed, to add insult to injury.) 2021 was super depressing, with a good half of our federal holidays falling on a weekend. If we did the PTO thing, we could get the time off anyway.

            1. Mameshiba*

              Japan had this issue and a while ago instituted “Happy Monday” where a number of random holidays were rescheduled to always fall on a Monday to give people a 3 day weekend.

              If other holidays fall on a Sunday you get the Monday off. Sadly if it falls on a Saturday you’re out of luck.

              1. Media Monkey*

                in the UK, almost all random bank holidays are on a monday (like next week!). other than Xmas. And Good friday obvs.

          2. Gene Parmesan*

            When we have holidays that fall on days off for our non-exempt folks they get to either (prorated to their weekly hours) bank their time in a comp time bank (up to 24 hours worth) or receive extra straight pay, it works pretty well for the most part (it does cause some part time employees to be short on hours for the week, but we do let them make it up elsewhere that week if they want to do so).

            Exempt folks have to take another day off in the same (bi-weekly) pay period.

          1. Merrie*

            At my hospital we get holiday pay for the holiday whether or not we work that day. Since our department runs a skeleton crew, a lot of people are off who would normally work. Then if you do work, you get your normal pay plus holiday shift differential. If the holiday falls on a weekend or otherwise on a day in your schedule that you would have off anyway, you just end up getting extra pay in that check.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            My hospital lumps our official holidays into our PTO bucket for that reason – in my department, all requests for the official holiday are granted regardless of coverage, but if people prefer to work and save the PTO, that’s an option. (Straight pay though, not extra holiday pay.) It USED to be permitted that they could take the holiday off unpaid if they wanted, but HR discontinued that option a couple years ago.

      2. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I worked for a place that did this. One guy who was Jewish said he wanted to work Christmas – he shouldn’t have to use his PTO for a religious holiday when he was of a different religion.

        He was allowed to work Christmas.

    2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      It’s a bit crazy what companies are allowed to do with PTO, since it’s completely optional for them to even offer it and in most US states it’s just treated as some numbers somewhere that don’t have any contractual or monetary value. (One notable exception is California)

  9. ArtK*

    Use-it-or-lose-it would be better than this, and I hate that mode! At least it’s predictable.

  10. ZSD*

    This is awful. I have a question, though: how did a two-week shutdown result in the LW losing 12 days of PTO? Shouldn’t they have lost 10 days for the two business weeks, or even just 8 if the company normally gives Christmas and New Year’s Day off?

    1. Antilles*

      It could just be OP being a little vague on “the last two weeks” actually being something like Thursday, Dec. 15th through Friday, Dec. 30th. It’s also possible that the company normally works six days a week or something.
      As for the holidays, even if the company normally gave Christmas and New Year’s off, they can absolutely decide “yeah, actually we’re counting those as PTO days” – and a company who’ll change their holiday policy on four weeks notice is probably also the kind of company who’d do that.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yes, it’s this.

        Let’s not nitpick minor details that have nothing to do with OP’s actual question which was “Is this a normal thing?” which it most definitely is NOT.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        Did they add two additional PTO days to everyone’s balance and then immediately deduct them because of Thanksgiving?

  11. Wilbur*

    Is there a reason why they do this instead of having a use it or lose it policy? Is it some kind of law/regulatory thing? I’m familiar with factories having mandatory shutdowns but those are usually planned way ahead of time and coincide with some intense maintenance/upgrades.

    I kind of wish I could roll a few days over from year to year, but I’d must rather go with “use it or lose it” rather than have them use it for me.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, they want to get all that PTO off the books before the end of the fiscal year.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          This was probably done to give the appearance of “fairness”.

          Ironically, now all the employees are being treated unfairly.

          1. Merrie*

            If they hadn’t charged people the PTO if they had none in their bank, though, that would have been unfair the other direction. I didn’t take a vacation this year and Jane did, so she just gets these days off for free while I have to spend my PTO…?

            The whole thing is stupid anyway and shouldn’t be done. If the employer failed to manage their books, finding a creative way to deal with it that pisses off a lot of staff members is a bad idea in the long run. Cue surprised panda face when a lot of people quit.

    2. Susan*

      Use it or lose it policies are no longer allowed in many states. You can reach a max accrual so that you don’t earn any more, but they can’t take away time you’ve already earned.

      I have seen this in parts of Canada. The government mandates that employees take vacation time, and the employer can choose when that happens. It’s not great to wait until November to tell people, though.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, I live in a fairly pro-worker state (Illinois) and we still have use-it-or-lose-it PTO. For whatever that’s worth.

        1. Zephy*

          Idk if it’s a state thing or not, but I’m in FL and until 2020 my company had a use-it-or-lose-it PTO policy. You got between 10 and 20 days per year depending on how long you’ve been with the company, and they expired on your hire date each year. No payout, no rollover, they’re just gone if you didn’t take that much PTO in the prior 12 months. Effective 2020 they started rolling over unused PTO into an FMLA bank, so if you take FMLA leave you can get paid for longer (you have to exhaust your PTO before you can take unpaid FMLA), but there’s no other way to access those days once you pass your hire date, afaik. They’ll pay out your balance or 40 hours, whichever is less, upon your departure.

          We also need to get permission from God and all of His angels to take more than 40 hours at a time – I requested to use 8 PTO days for my honeymoon, over the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the first week of January – that’s the deadest time of year for us, we could honestly get by with maybe one person working half-days for those two weeks, my absence did not hurt anything but my boss still had to escalate the PTO request through literally four higher layers of management to get it approved and I will probably never be allowed to take that much time ever again. I’m going out of town in June and I think the only reason that request was approved was because it expires 7/2 otherwise.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            It’s a state thing. In California accrued PTO is considered earned compensation. It’s one of the reasons for “unlimited PTO” plans. Because PTO doesn’t technically accrue in that scheme you don’t have to pay anything out when people leave.

      2. londonedit*

        We have use-it-or-lose-it in the UK. Where I work now, you get 25 days’ annual leave per year, plus the 8 English public holidays (sick time is totally separate and not counted as part of your leave allowance; we don’t have the thing where you get a certain number of days and it’s seen as part of your compensation package). We’re allowed to carry over up to 5 days into the next year, but they have to be used within the first three months of the year. If you don’t use your holiday within the year (or anything carried over within those three months) then you lose it. But because sick time is separate (after a year’s service we get up to 12 weeks’ sick leave for long-term illnesses, and after two years it’s 15 weeks) there’s no need for people to build up huge amounts of leave in case they get ill. Any unused holiday is paid out when you leave the company, but unused sick time isn’t as it’s literally for if you get ill, it isn’t part of your annual leave.

  12. Lacey*

    Just so much wrong with this.

    I worked for a company that always closed the week between Christmas & New Year. For me it was perfect and while we were a small company it suited everyone there.

    Once we got large enough to where some people weren’t happy to take several days of PTO then, they gave us the option of working during that time. The customer side of things was still closed, but we could come in and get projects done.

    My current company does sometimes close randomly, but they never dock our PTO or our pay. It’s just a surprise perk.

  13. Sciencer*

    This also doesn’t make sense as a book-balancing act. Now you (and presumably others) are left without PTO this year, so if they feel the need to do this again… they’ll pull from your 2024 PTO because you don’t have any from 2023 they can claim? So as an employee you’re expected to just accept that you may never get PTO again, but you won’t know year to year whether that’s the case?

    Ugh. I’d be annoyed enough to leave, too.

    1. Bee*

      This was my first reaction, too – will you ever actually have control over your PTO again?

    2. e271828*

      From an investor’s view, if the company needs to pull shenanigans like this to make the books look good… the books don’t look good.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It does remove the liability for untaken PTO that they’d have to pay out if they laid off people etc. Just saying…

    4. Vincaminor*

      I was thinking the same thing- this is going to self-perpetuate, either because folks have no pto, or because they’re very cautious using it in case the company pulls this again… which company uses as proof that they can pull it again!

  14. Anonomatopoeia*

    Ew. This is a terrible way to handle this. Assuming the PTO doesn’t roll over continuously (e.g., I have a maximum possible balance, but it’s just a get a new chunk of hours each month, and I can use them in that month or any future one as long as I never pile up more than the max), they could have:

    1. Said if you haven’t used your leave by X we will use it for you during Y-Z period, but if you have, you can still work.
    2. Closed or not-closed the company during that depending how many people needed to use leave still.
    3. Or partially closed — like, reception hours only from 10-2, staffed by whoever is actually in, and an expectation that correspondence may be delayed by up to some amount and outgoing products of whatever kind will be packaged by not mailed or…whatever combination makes sense.
    4. If there were people who had, say, 4 days of PTO remaining but not 10, asked those folks to collectively schedule their days to minimize closure.
    5. Not been jerks like this?

    Like, all in all, I think any time a place fully closes for a chunk of time, that’s terrible for business anyway, unless there is a really clear social expectation. I personally don’t love businesses that close for Easter, but I understand what social expectation is driving that. If I lived in …Sweden? IDK, there are places in Scandinavia where I’m given to understand that a lot of businesses just kind of don’t do August or something? But there would be a social expectation about that. But a random hey by the way world we are not businessing for 2 weeks, sorry if you needed anything at this time of year that was previously not announced and is not otherwise special? No. So ultimately while there would have been a little negotiation and managing to do, what the hell, it probably would have been ultimately better. Ugh.

  15. Dasein9*

    This is absurd. PTO is part of your compensation. What’s next, will they tell you which grocery stores you may use and which days you may use them?

  16. Dovasary Balitang*

    A previous company I worked for had a week-and-a-bit Christmas shut down where we were paid but the office was closed. This was not taken from our vacation hours. My current company closes the office for the holidays with the expectation we “work” from home (read: check our emails a few times a day in case anything urgent does need our attention); again, this is completely outwith our vacation hours. This is one of the rare instances where I’d praise the construction industry, but I’m still annoyed at having to be in the office every day during the worst of Covid due to how “essential” we were.

  17. Pink Candyfloss*

    It’s the charging against future PTO that gets me! That is just beyond the pale!!!!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, that is definitely the worst part of it! What if you had planned that for something like surgery? Now what are you supposed to do?

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          If I take short term disability my paycheck is reduced to 80% pay whereas if I take PTO my paycheck is not reduced at all. Maybe that’s because of my state, but I’d thought short term disability being a lower amount of your pay was common (could be wrong!).

          1. Zee*

            Mine’s 60% for short-term disability and 50% for long-term disability. So I’d definitely use all of my PTO first to get paid my full rate.

            Most of my previous jobs have not have any kind of disability insurance. It’s not a state-by-state thing; it’s an employer-by-employer thing, like other kinds of insurance.

        2. Momma Bear*

          Also, sometimes that doesn’t kick in until you’ve used PTO. I needed to use 2 weeks of PTO before the short term disability kicked in for the birth of a child. If this had happened to me, I would have had to use Leave Without Pay to cover those initial two weeks. Not great.

        3. LikesToSwear*

          State by state, and sometimes depends on the employer. My employer provides short term disability in the form of salary continuation for salaried employees and a fixed weekly amount for hourly employees; all self-funded.

          Prior employers offered the option to purchase similar insurance.

    2. H3llifIknow*

      IKR? We are permitted to REQUEST to take up to 80 hours Advance PTO and go “in the hole” if we want to, but it’s a pain to build it back up so to be FORCED to….. I’d lose my ladylike sh*t over that.

  18. Firecat*

    They probably wanted to reduce their liability on the books for some specific purpose (loan app, inspection, etc). I worked at a hospital who did this crap all the time (except instead of getting a week off people were rotated and you were forced to take X days per week for Y months). One of the main reasons I quit.

  19. Constance Lloyd*

    When I started my first office job, they of course mentioned the number of paid holidays offered each year. Delightfully, the office also closed 2 hours early the day before each paid holiday! They did not mention these paid holidays were part of the same bucket of PTO all of my sick and vacation time went into, and which accrued at a pitifully slow rate. If you didn’t have enough PTO, your holiday was unpaid. I started in mid December. Talk about some immediately festering resentment.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        It was such a bummer! The office was entirely shut down, I didn’t have the option to just work anyway or to flex my time to still hit 40 hours. I had just left a place so awful it later made national news and was subjected to senate hearings and massive fines, so my normalcy barometer needed some recalibrating.

  20. H3llifIknow*

    Former “very large 3 multi-national letter firm” I worked for did something roughly similar, but they let us know from the get that they closed down from Xmas to NY, and they structured it in such a way that we only had to take 3 days of PTO and ended up with a full 11 days off so nobody minded. But, if this was just announced in November and I hadn’t planned to use PTO for that, I’d be PO’d and pushing back.

  21. jasmine*

    To be honest, I’m very confused as to how this benefits the company. Like are they trying to prevent people from rolling over their holidays? Or do they want to have days where the entire company is off so individual PTO doesn’t slow down people’s workflows?

    1. Lavender Provence*

      It’s some kind of liability on the books when people do not use their PTO. I’m not in finance, so I don’t know the details.

    2. Dulcinea47*

      Closing the whole company can be beneficial if they’re a type of place that wouldn’t be busy during that time. When I worked at a university, there were no students present, a ton of staff already took that time off, the job wasn’t something deadline based…. for a long time we were the only U in the state that didn’t close for two weeks over winter break. it is cheaper to shut down and close all the buildings than it is to pay for utilities so people can sit and get very little work done. I’m guessing they’re thinking about this, and not about peoples’ PTO.

    3. Claire*

      It’s because they may be liable for paying out unused PTO when an employee leaves. So unused PTO is a liability on their books.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Accounting standards require companies to list earned and untaken PTO as a financial liability, and companies must be able to show that they have the funds to pay it out. Otherwise you end up with a negative on your balance sheet.

        I have a sinking suspicious that the OP’s company may not be in good financial health. They needed to get the liability off the books but didn’t have the funds to pay it out to employees. So that’s why they came up with this idea to close the office and force employees to take PTO.

        1. Happily Retired*

          Yes, this. Not only would I be updating my resume just out of anger, but the last-minute announcement would have me seriously concerned about the company’s near-term stability.

          Jelly of the Month club, anyone?

    4. Not an Accountant*

      Even if the employer doesn’t pay out unused leave when an employee departs, employee leave is still a liability for accounting purposes, because the company would need to pay for any leave used in the future. I think the easiest way to think about it is, if you have 8 hours PTO accrued and unspent, your employer owes you a day’s worth of pay and you can in theory redeem a voucher for that pay at any time.

      I think under US accounting rules, they have to consider how likely you are to use the PTO and whether it’s vested when they calculate the liability. I could see a company with lots of accrued PTO having a large liability on paper. As others noted, if they need to clean up their balance sheet quickly, this is probably one easy (but bad) way to do it.

  22. Marty J*

    Wow. I would actually consider this a quit-on-the-spot offense if I was in the position to do so. I’d be raving mad.

  23. Abogado Avocado*

    LW: you’re right to suspect that this is a bad strategy. I don’t understand why LW’s employer isn’t limiting how much PTO people can bank and why it isn’t telling the people who have large PTO balances that they have to take x amount of time by y date. That, at least, would not punish those who have used up all their PTO and it allows those who need the balance for planned medical or family leave to declare that and seek an exception. Instead, everyone is being punished. What’s next? Signs saying that beatings will continue until morale improves?

    1. Random Bystander*

      Completely agree–I know employer before current had a PTO cap (equal to six weeks of continuous time off). If one was at the cap, then no more could be accrued, but if one was at the cap and took a week off, then PTO could accrue again up to the cap. I think that people who were at the cap were strongly encouraged to take time off (I never hit the cap myself, although I did get into the 4 weeks banked territory) to get under the cap.

  24. Dulcinea47*

    Old job did this the year after I left, made people use their own PTO when they were closed. I was super glad I was not there…. except I guess they got some feedback about it, since that year they’ve closed and just paid people to be off and now I’m jealous.

  25. Looney Lovegood*

    Something like this would utterly devastate me. I had my second baby in May 2022. I got two weeks of paid leave and the rest was just what fmla covered and I could use my sick and vacation time toward it. I reserved a bit of PTO so that I’d have it when I returned to work.

    I did not accrue PTO during my leave, so I returned to work with only the hours I’ve reserved. And with two small kids in daycare, we have not gone more than two weeks without an illness since October. I am not exaggerating. I’ve burned through all of my sick time as fast as I can accrue it, and most of my vacation. I have twelve years at this company, so my accrual is not nothing – but when daycare says they have to be out, I can’t argue with that!

    Taking two weeks would be DEVASTATING for me, and would force me to take unpaid time when kids, or I, am sick. This is unconscionable!

  26. Pam Adams*

    My state university closes down in the last week of December and also closes the day after Thanksgiving. They move holidays around to cover, so that people generally only have to use 1 day of PTO to cover. Managers are required to assist people who might not have the time banked to get sufficient compensatory time.

    1. Gracely*

      My campus closes down at the same times, but we all take PTO hits for the week in December. I felt so bad for the person we hired in December who got stuck with a short paycheck that first month.

      A few years ago, they changed stuff to let people work through that week (calling it “reduced staffing days”), but with new leadership that likes to nickel and dime everything, they didn’t do it this past December and likely won’t going forward (until we get newer leadership).

  27. CSRoadWarrior*

    I would be hopping mad! I have never heard of such a practice, so this sounds beyond absurd to me. And as Alison said, this is not normal and unacceptable.

    Your PTO is yours, and part of your compensation package. You should use it as you please, not to be forced to have it deducted because you haven’t used it all. There are use-it-or-lose-it policies, payouts in the beginning of the following year for any unused PTO, or stop accruing altogether once you maxed out. But having it unwillingly deducted because the company says so is not the norm.

    The bottom line is that having your PTO forced on you to be deducted against your will is not normal. Or even close to okay.

  28. NCKat*

    Does your state offer unemployment for time off work if it’s the employer’s fault? Might be something to check with your state’s employment office.

    1. Lavender Provence*

      Unemployment would not come into play bc they are getting paid for their time off.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      Mine has a two week waiting period before unemployment kicks in. Yes, even if you did NOT get any severance.

  29. PDB*

    I used to be in the record business and the week between Christmas and New Year was a “holiday’ and we got the time off with pay without using our PTO. Pretty decent.

    1. PDB*

      Oh, and I once worked for a Japanese company here in the States and there was Golden Week when everything stopped dead.

    2. teacher gifts*

      My current company does two weeks paid time off for Christmas and I’m so sad that other companies don’t do this. I’m currently job hunting and it’s making it hard to leave my very dysfunctional job because the time off is very good.

  30. teacher gifts*

    I would be absolutely livid if that happened, I’m so sorry LW! I have two little kids and half of my and my spouses family live in different countries so our PTO is really precious.

    I’m actually job hunting at the moment and some of the jobs I’m applying to are at a nearby flagship university and my friends that work there told me they are required to take PTO around the holidays and since it’s only 15 days PTO a year, the Christmas time eats up at least a third of the days which I thought was quite icky but 12 days is horrendous.

  31. Could Have Been the OP*

    My company is doing this RIGHT NOW. WE got the notice in March that they are shutting down the weekend between xmas and new years and are requiring people to take PTO, go negative “or work if you want to”. So why can’t I just WORK if want to and don’t already have plans to be out? We can only roll over 40 hours anyway.

    Also I would have negotiated for more time off if I had known they would work like this. I also have it through rumor mill this this is management’s effort to curtail some of our hourly employees from taking vacay at the end of the year and causing projects to fall behind. I’m not sure how this resolves that situation.

    I’ve also tried to get coworkers to get together with me on this about how it punishes people who may have planned time off already to use all of their vacay and work through that week, unplanned time off because of illness or other FMLA-type leave, and is just a CRAP thing to do. NO ONE will sign on with me to have a convo with management. Not even people who are director level and have influence.

    1. Lavender Provence*

      take PTO, go negative “or work if you want to”.

      Which are largely the same options you have even if the company doesn’t shut down. Are there people who don’t have the option to work if they want to bc of the shut down, like manufacturing staff who can’t work bc the plant is shut down?

  32. Twill*

    Omg I would be PISSED if my company did this! They are choosing to close down and then you have to give up your PTO?! WTH

  33. Galahad*

    The company rolled three “normal but not great” things into one “super sucks” move.
    1. Stating that your vacation next year will be in X week. Based on business reasons like school is shut down or planned maintenance or religious holiday (for a religious organization). This is normally told up on hiring, or if new policy, a year in advance.
    2. Shutting office down with little notice, making hourly or non salary staff use vacation time if they want to be paid out. e.g., Snow day. Sucks but normal. Usually only a couple of days.
    3. Use it or lose it , must use all PTO by end of year or end of January, does not get rolled over or paid out. When I was a manager, I would force my staff to choose their 2 weeks in the last 2 months before cut off and “just stay home”, if they had time accrued that they would lose, but some just chose to lose it.
    okay, and 4 — government shut downs due to voting in budget issues? Those are becoming too normal and short notice, too.

    To my mind, the huge deal is not having 1 year of advance notice of this policy and / or not keeping it to only a couple of days.

    OP — I would ask for unpaid vacation in 2023, if you can manage it, or ask how to bank up time (if allowed legally) to cover future vacation time off in 2023.

  34. Anon for this*

    Ugh, that’s awful. I had something similar, though not quite as bad, happen to me recently. I was hired by a big tech company, and on the benefits sheet they gave me with the offer, they touted the “winter break” between Christmas and New Years, and listed this as a separate benefit from the vacation days. I assumed this meant the time off for the winter break wouldn’t come out of my vacation bucket. I get there on my first week and it turns out that you are required to use four vacation days during the “winter break”. So I have almost one week less of vacation than I had been lead to believe when hired.

    But at least my employer doesn’t spring this on existing employees. That’s another level of awful.

    I’m not opposed to companies shutting down for breaks, it can make sense. But if they do so, they shouldn’t deduct those days from vacation time, it should be an extra benefit.

  35. Jill Swinburne*

    That’s crap. Annual leave is a liability for companies, it’s true, especially if laws in a country like mine mean it gets paid out when you leave. So what usually happens is they look at it at the individual level – as soon as someone accrues x number of hours they flag it and tell them to take a holiday and reduce it to x.

  36. Momma Bear*

    It’s kind of like a pay cut or a furlough, which aren’t great, either. What they should have done is reached out to the individuals who were hoarding time and worked on a solution with THEM, not made it a blanket cut across the board. OP lost 12 days! That’s significant. I’d have dusted off my resume as soon as that came down. We had some grumblings about excessive PTO but no one took mine. OP’s company should have offered to cash out or encouraged people to use or lose it. It is not uncommon for there to be a cap on how much you can carry over and above that is gone at the end of the year of it’s still sitting in your account. Then people have the choice what to do about it, but again, that all needs to be addressed well ahead of the end of the year.

    One of my old companies got sold and our PTO was cut by 2 weeks to match the buyer (we didn’t lose what we had banked, but didn’t accrue at the old rate). It was a consideration when I decided a year or so after the merger that I wanted out. I might have stayed if the benefits had been maintained.

    OP’s company is poorly managed and OP should explore their options instead of working at the beach.

  37. HigherEdAdminista*

    I am wondering if they had plans to make sure there was very little time off taken in 2023, and thought this would be a great way to do it. Like they were planning to take on extra projects or promise faster turnaround, and so they just found a way to rob people of their PTO thinking this would mean most people wouldn’t have much time to take off this year.

  38. Help Desk Peon*

    My organization has “optional closure days” that they tend to schedule around holidays, and that works so much better. All meetings are cancelled, no one schedules a deadline on them, and everyone is strongly encouraged to take the day as a vacation day. BUT, if you don’t want to you don’t have to. AND they limit it to 3 or 4 per year.

    People in their first year or two tend not to take the days to save their vacation time, but even they enjoy the day because no meetings and very little email.

  39. Kyrielle*

    This is horrible. I thought it was bad when a previous company changed to require taking the two weeks of Christmas and New Year’s off for several years, the first with “only” 8 months warning or so. They did pay holidays, so it used 7 vacation days. If you didn’t have them, they didn’t take from the next year – they made you take them unpaid.

    Which screwed over people who had started that year, especially late in the year, because new hires got 2 weeks (10 days) of PTO accrued over the course of a year. We were lucky in that there were some things that still HAD to be staffed 24/7 and for people who didn’t have the PTO, we tried to make sure they got to work those areas if they wanted to, because working those areas meant not having to take time unpaid.

    Either approach is just wrong. My husband’s current employer does have them take a couple times of year off – but they’re *paid* and don’t use PTO.

  40. Spreadsheet Hero*

    Yeah, nope. Update your resume, and when you get a new job, point to this exact policy (and the fact that they can’t/won’t guarantee that it never, ever happens again) as why.

    “You reduced my total compensation without warning and left me struggling to accrue time off for this year. Obviously that’s an untenable situation.”

    I’m extremely petty and also have a decent fallback plan, but I frankly would have quit effective IMMEDIATELY at that news.

  41. An Australian in London*

    Despite working most of my life in finance and banking I was surprised after starting in the UK to find that all UK banks require MTA (Mandatory Time Away). This is an anti-fraud measure to give them a chance to check what you’ve been doing.

    Alas for contractors: that’s time we’re just not paid at all.

    I’ve also been in situations in the UK where I signed a 12-month contract and was told I could only work 220 days a year. There are 250-252 working days a year in the UK. My 12-month contract only had 11 months of pay. It’s even worse than that because they forced that to be 55 days per quarter precisely to avoid someone not being there for all of December but still on the books and preventing a new hire. Again, as a contractor, we are simply not paid.

  42. Rachel*

    I work for an organization that sometimes decides to close between Christmas and New Year’s and sometimes decides to stay open, but when they do close, they (1) charge everyone’s PTO and (2) typically announce it at the last minute, like early/mid December. To make matters worse, we’re a union!

  43. Kiwi*

    My initial thought was that this is reasonable – my company also directs people to use their paid leave if employees have too many days accrued. If you have lots of employees with unused big chunks of leave balances it becomes problematic, because of logistical issues in allowing multiple people taking a long holiday at the same time, and paying out can cause a financial strain on the budget.

    But I live in New Zealand where all workers are entitled to 20 days of paid annual leave (pro rata for part timers); plus 10 days of paid sick leave, domestic violence leave, and bereavement leave (part-timers get the same amount as full-timers). I know people who have accrued several months of annual leave if they’ve worked in the same company long term.

    If I worked in the US with leave entitlements the size of a baby chihuahua’s booger I would be pissed too.

    1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I am only allowed to roll over 10 days into the new fiscal year. I know it ahead of time, it is still enough that I can take time off in the new year and it also prevents the big piles on the books.

      And there is a secret hardship clause that allows you to extend it to 3 months into the new year if you had a good reason why you couldn’t use it the year before, you just have to apply and say when the dates will be.

  44. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Man I have had companies do stuff like this and make you use accrued time or take TWOP, but never a place that put me in the hole for PTO.

    It still sucked because I had been saving up for a spring break trip when they announced a 3 week holiday shut down and wasn’t able to accrue enough or take TWOP in March.

  45. Dancing Otter*

    I once worked at a university that closed all the buildings between Christmas and New Year’s, to save on utilities. (Other than one security guard, if that. I mean, it would be bad if the pipes froze or the sprinklers went off while no one was there, right?)
    Background: non-exempt employees got two weeks PTO, while exempt got five. Supposedly, this was part of the collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME.
    TPTB decided to let the exempt folks have the time off without using PTO. The hourly workers, who had less PTO to begin with, had to use it or take the time without pay.
    I heard that the union made a fuss (details unknown) and got it changed after I left.

  46. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “I just want to walk out the door”

    Do so, as soon as you can find another job.
    This employer has shown how casually they remove benefits from good employees. Don’t wait to see what they (legally) steal from you next.

  47. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    I’m sorry. This is a horrible practice to be forced to take 2 weeks PTO over Christmas because the company closes. It’s a horrible time to travel if, like, you actually wanted to take a trip somewhere else!

    I think the employees need to take a stand with your company on this practice and there are several options that could work for most people.
    > Don’t close the company at Christmas
    > Close but only subtract like 3 days PTO
    > Have people use / lose their PTO before the end of the year or lose it over Christmas.
    > Figure out how to stay open if a lot of people are off that week
    > Allow some “rollover” of PTO for those who did not yet use up their allotment into the next year or 1st quarter of next year.

    My company also has this “use it or lose it” mentality about PTO, but we run on a fiscal year that ends in March. But they don’t allow for any carryover, and March is a busy month! It’s very annoying. We also get a lot of people out over Christmas too, trying to use of PTO.
    I get the wanting people to use PTO thing, but there should be some small allowance for a carryover to the next year. My former company allowed only 1 week to carryover, but you know, that helps.

  48. YeahNo*

    Oh wow, I’d be unhappy. As someone who recently *timed a job change* around making sure I’ll have sufficient PTO for a couple of important-to-me holidays later this year, (i) I’d be out as fast as humanly possible and (ii) there’s a reasonable chance they wouldn’t get 2 weeks notice since I’d want the extra ~0.75 days of PTO accumulation at whatever my new job was to make up for what I was forced to give up at old job.

  49. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

    My friend started a new job last year with a healthcare, publicly traded company that pulled this crap. It’s owned by a European company but the US workers got screwed. Apparently “some years” they decide to close for 2 weeks over Christmas and other years they don’t. With no reason given. She had to to go negative with earned PTO as she had no choice and she cannot pre-take any earned PTO in 2023, so she has to wait until summer to start earning in the + again to erase the deficit over the holidays. Even brand new hires from Oct/Nov/Dec had to go negative for the close down. Not a good first impression…

  50. RVMan*

    What’s the financial situation at your company? Sounds like a cheap and easy way of laying everyone off for two weeks without all of the paperwork and hassle of…laying everyone off for two weeks.

    1. HonorBox*

      OP says PTO… so there’s no actual savings for the company, aside from any incidental utilities and stuff. They’re paying people not to be there, not furloughing them.

  51. Zarniwoop*

    “Frankly, it’s not great when companies make people use PTO when they’re closed even if everyone knows that’s the deal going in!”

    Not great but sometimes necessary. There are businesses like manufacturing where once a critical number of people are out there’s nothing useful the rest can do. Once more than that number have put in for vacation between Xmas & new years, and assuming you don’t want to pay the remainder of your employees to stand around doing nothing for a week, your choices are: (1) Everyone takes vacation from Xmas to new years. This annoys people who’d rather take vacation when things are less crowded. (2) Nobody gets vacation from Xmas to new years. This really annoys anyone who wants to visit family during Xmas week.

    My employer believes plan (1) produces less total employee ill will than plan (2). I think they’re probably right.

  52. Bruce*

    My employer shuts down between Christmas and New Years (in the US and Europe), but >most< of us have "unlimited PTO". There are a few people who got converted to hourly back when the rules were tightened up, they have to take 3 days PTO but they get enough hours each year that it has not been a problem. It is important to know in advance, having this announced last minute makes a company seem sketchy and like they are skating on the edge financially…

  53. Gilgongo*

    My company did this. I already had a a week’s vacation planned, and they let me switch it to that week. But they forced us to take our PTO days, a lot. AND I often had to work, a bit, during my forced PTO since I was “just hanging around at home, anyway.”

    They laid off my whole department a month after I quit.

  54. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Guess how many people next year (if this is the truth – I wondered if it is more to do with removing this years PTO liability…) will reach the end of the year and still have a lot of PTO remaining? Will it be more, or less than, there were this time? (after hearing what happened to OP).

  55. JoR*

    In the UK it is allowable for your employer to tell you when you take annual leave.
    The law is that you have to be given 2 days notice for every day. So for a 2 week holiday you would need to be given 4 weeks notice.
    In practice, you would know about it well in advance. Many companies have a 2 week shut down over the Christmas period.
    But yes, employers can and do dictate when annuli leave can be taken in the UK.

  56. misspiggy*

    I know of an employer in the UK which tried to do this to cover Covid related shutdowns. Thankfully the union squashed it in the end. Many people came out of it having lost a few days’ leave, and that damaged labour relations and productivity.

    Short term balance sheet juggling is usually bad for long term company health, unless they’re the only employer around.

  57. HonorBox*

    I have nothing constructive to add. I just came here to say this is bullsh_t. I think it is incredibly harmful to employee morale when a company closes and charges PTO, first of all. And then adding to the fact that they’re springing it on you last minute AND saying it is because people haven’t used their PTO AND charging you for it out of the next year’s balance if you have actually used your PTO (and not giving you a choice to actually work those days) sucks big time. I hope you and your colleagues push back, OP. Please update if you do.

  58. Scredly*

    This seems like a really bizarre way to get your assets and liabilities in line. PTO is a liability from an accounting standpoint, so I bet they didn’t like their year-end numbers and wanted to tweak them. Needless to say, that’s a really crappy way to do it.

    1. Bruce*

      Yes, it is common to cap how much PTO you can roll over year to year, and I know people who’ve had to “use it or lose it”, but this approach sucks!

  59. Clueingforlooks724*

    Is the plan for them to do this each year or possibly if they feel that they need to? I’d try to go with that as a reason to push back as well.

    So last year, they took 2 weeks from you which now gives you 2 weeks this year vs 4. Now that you only have 2 that you need to hold onto until at least November to see if they are going to do the same thing leaves you absolutely nothing to use through the year. Ask for their help in how to get clarification for this year. Maybe that would be a softer approach if you were looking for softer.

  60. TootsNYC*

    This is a particularly shitty thing to do to the people who are careful to use their PTO before the end of the year.

    I’m one of the people who just forgets to schedule vacation days (my kids weren’t off school at the same time, etc.), and so I–and all the people in my department–are scrambling to put them on the calendar before we lose them. It’s a massive burden on my department, and I’m trying very hard to do better.

    When I was a boss, I used to periodically encourage my team to plot their vacation days early, so that scheduling problem wouldn’t hit me at the end of the year. My current boss is openly encouraging us all to get out time-off in so she’s not dealing with everyone being out at the end of the year.

    If one of my colleagues had been a good little do-bee and taken their PTO so they’d be available to cover others at the end of the year, I’d be livid on their behalf.

    1. TootsNYC*

      especially because the company is coping with just the problem I and some of my colleagues have–a problem that the LW has done their best to alleviate!!

  61. Urbanchic*

    Did the company do a layoff after the first of the year? This would ensure those being laid off did not have PTO to be paid out. The amount of PTO being carried can really add up, but there are far better ways to ensure a spend down by FY end then springing it on people. Sorry, OP.

  62. Rosacoletti*

    It’s fine if it’s what you agreed to in your employment contract- we state that up to 3 days MAY have to be taken between Xmas and NY and that is signed off on before employment starts

  63. Toasterstrudel*

    My former job did something similar in 2020. The large metropolitan city I worked in had protests throughout a large part of the summer and a lot of protest activity was at a park that was a few blocks from the hospital I worked at and frequently closed down the main road employees and patients needed to get to the freeway. So we frequently had to close the clinic early without much warning that summer and we had no choice but to use our PTO to cover the early closures. It really put me in a bind because we also had to use our PTO to cover holidays in which the clinic was closed so I really had nothing to spare. We didn’t even have separate sick and vacation either so anyone that got Covid that first year was exponentially screwed. There’s a reason why I don’t work there anymore.

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