it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

I was recently promoted to a director-level position at my small nonprofit. For years I had occasionally brought up our absolutely atrocious vacation policy — no PTO for part-timers at all, full-time employees have work here A YEAR before getting FIVE days off. At the two-year anniversary you get two weeks and it tops out at 10 years/four weeks. Even worse, if you start as part-time and were promoted to full-time, you still had to wait the full year to qualify for vacation days. I was always told some version of “this is how we’ve always done it” or “it wouldn’t be fair to those who had to wait for their years of service, etc.”

After the promotion, I knew this was the hill I was willing to die on. At a one-on-one with my executive director to discuss hiring my replacement, I pointed out (again!) the vacation policy was hurting us in hiring. As a nonprofit we can’t offer higher than market rate salaries to potential employees and we need to figure out how to make perks work to our advantage. He agreed!

The new policy will be: two weeks vacation after 90-day probation period, all the way up to six weeks for 12 years of service. PLUS we’re going to look at financial feasibility of offering five days for part-timers per year. Our board still has to approve everything but I’m highly confident they’ll sign off. Feels really great to use my capital to help our employees!

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. starsaphire*

    This made me so happy to read!

    Speaking as someone who started their current job as a contractor, and therefore missed out on years of PTO and perks (and then had to start at zero), it’s so heartwarming to see someone go to bat for the part-timers and new hires like this.

    Thank you OP!

  2. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

    There are hills worth dying on, and this issue is definitely one of them! Good for you, OP.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes!! OP’s got strong priorities. And this isn’t just for OP- this is good for the health of the organization! Great job, OP!

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      You go, OP!! That’s been my hill to die on in several companies and I’m still going strong. SO worth it.

  3. Snarky Monkey*

    Bravo – this should be a game changer for hiring. I would never accept a position that didn’t invest in their employees with a PTO plan. Good for you!

  4. Problem!*

    It’s a step in the right direction but do you have separate sick and vacation leave or is it all in one bucket?

    1. k*

      Inquiring minds need to know. There aren’t enough exclamation points to end A. that statement, and B. also my congrats to you.

    2. StressedButOkay*

      I would honestly be floored if they had separate sick and vacation, especially in nonprofit (my field). Going from 0 PTO the first year to two weeks is nothing short of a miracle in policy change.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’ve spent my entire career in nonprofits and at least in California, they all offer PTO that is separate from sick time. I’ve never heard of combining them.

      1. Harried HR*

        In my experience state like CA & NY that have State Sick Leave tend to have separate PTO and Sick leave most companies in other states (FL, GA, etc.) will have a PTO bucket which is Vacation & Sick combined

  5. Firecat*

    I’m glad you worked hard to improve the PTO policy but man that’s still a really stingy PTO policy. Almost nowhere I’ve applied in the last 5 years makes me wait more then 30 days for health insurance or PTO and many places have adopted no waiting periods for both.

    1. Frustrated Fundraiser*

      Have you worked for a nonprofit? I’ve had to wait 6 MONTHS to use PTO at 2 of my last 3 nonprofit jobs. I’m exempt in a fairly high position (and 20 years experience) and still had to wait that time to use my 2 weeks of PTO. I’ll get 3 weeks at 3 years, and sick leave is separate. As a nonprofit professional, I applaud the OP for sticking their neck out for the other employees.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        What a strange question! It’s objectively crappy. “But we’re a nonprofit” does not in fact justify crappy policies. Frankly, you sound just like the “this is how we’ve always done it” crowd that the LW was talking about.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I think Frustrated Fundraiser was responding Firecat labelling the *new* policy as stingy. I’m also in non-profits, but my general sense from the commentariat here over the years is that eventually getting 6 weeks of vacation would be a huge improvement to what you get in most workplaces. I’d kill for 6 weeks at 12 years!

        2. Still waiting for that day off*

          I didn’t read it as justification, but rather as exasperation at the surprise. I feel ya Frustrated Fundraiser. I’ve worked at three nonprofits now, one had deplorably stingy combined sick/PTO though no waiting period, the second had very generous separate sick/PTO but a 6 month waiting period to use PTO, and my current job has a fairly generous combined bank with a 6 month waiting period to use PTO. All pay well below market for my position; the second two jobs made up for it in benefits, particularly time off, which is the biggest key to preventing burnout in direct service nonprofit work.

        3. Ariaflame*

          ‘We don’t have to give money to shareholders so in fact we have less money to spend on our staff’ never made sense to me.

      2. Jamie Starr*

        Right? I’ve only had one job in 20+ years of nonprofit employment where there wasn’t some sort of waiting period (ranging from 1st of month after start date to 90 days) to enroll in insurance, and use PTO. And I’ve held department director level positions. I think that you could possibly negotiate during the hiring process to use the PTO earlier if you knew you had something scheduled, but insurance eligibility is normally tied to the employer’s contract with the insurance company so exceptions aren’t possible. But you could try to negotiate for the new org to make an extra payment to you that would cover your premiums elsewhere until you can enroll in their coverage.

        Is it normal in for profits to have no waiting period? I know for insurance, it’s a pain to enroll someone right away and then if they don’t last, you still have to offer COBRA, which could be administratively burdensome for small nonprofits.

        1. Parakeet*

          The nonprofits I’ve worked in also have/had no waiting period, FWIW. After all, nonprofits are as varied as for-profits.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          Adding to the chorus that nonprofits vary tremendously. I’ve worked in several in my career and none of them had a waiting period for time off. I didn’t know that was a thing?

        3. Katie*

          It’s painful but can happen to get people on at hire date. My current company acquired my prior company’s work and brought us with them and we started our insurance day 1. I just assume that they paid some premium before the fact for it to happen.

      3. Parakeet*

        I’ve worked for nonprofits and they’ve had great PTO (for new employees too, not just long-timers). Better than any for-profit place I’ve worked, for anyone whose tenure is less than about eight years (and in my field, few people last that long in one position).

        That said, I applaud OP. I think this is still a really stingy PTO policy, but given where they were starting from, what a boon for the workers at their organization! Nice job, OP!

        1. jane's nemesis*

          Yes, in my sector, it’s generally understood that better benefits are offered to make up for lower pay!

      4. Broken Arrow*

        Solution: don’t work for nonprofits. Lower pay, seemingly ridiculous vacation policies. Who would want to work at one other than the hopelessly naive?

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I hope it’s at least backdated to the hire date once the 90 days pass rather than starting at 0 PTO after 90 days.

    3. JoAnna*

      I started a new job on Aug 7, and I had to wait until October 1 for my health insurance to start, and I’m still waiting through the 90 days to use vacation, sick time, and work remotely 2x per week. :( I did start accruing vacation from day 1, at least.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I don’t know what state you’re in – but – any company I ever worked for (in Massachusetts, and Florida) allowed me to be covered as of Day 1, even if it wasn’t their “policy”.

      2. Harried HR*

        That’s pretty standard….1st of the month following 30 days our Non-Exempt Full Time employees aren’t eligible till 1st of the month following 90 days so it varies.

        Also states with stronger employee protections will be more generous than states more pro business NY or CA vs FL or AL

    4. Jill Swinburne*

      I mean, from my overseas-legally-guaranteed-annual-and-sick-and-parental-leave lens it looks a little like that to me too, but it’s LOADS better than it was, and you’ve got to start somewhere. They can work to further improve it over the years, but for now it’s definitely a win.

    5. sofar*

      Yeah, I was also thinking the same thing. Go LW for advocating and improving things for all.

      But I’m like … 10 days?? Per YEAR?? That better be vacation time ONLY (still stingy) and not sick AND vacation. Are ya’ll in the non-profit sector OK?

      1. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

        …how are you defining “OK” here? Because I was about to type “Nope! Not remotely.”

        (I am one of four staff at a tiny nonprofit which I love very much but the office politics are driving me up the wall.)

  6. Syfy Geek*

    Good for you!!

    I worked at a non profit that paid way below market value for positions, but made up for it in PTO. We joked that we had the paid time off to take vacations anywhere in the world, but the salary to only make it to Wal~Mart. Seriously though, having PTO that carried over up to 60 days, made the difference to so many people when a medical emergency happened.

    On the first day of your anniversary month, you would get an extra day of PTO for each year you had been there.

  7. CeeLee*

    Bravo! I worked at a company that suddenly, and for no known reason, removed PTO for employees that had been there for under 1 year. Not going forward either- anyone who had PTO the day before no longer had PTO. My closest coworker was affected by this and I went to bat for them that this is completely unfair (though she didn’t outwardly seem too upset by the change). This argument ended up being the last straw, and I quit on the spot that day. They had to hire multiple people to replace me, and I’m fairly certain they’re out of business now.

      1. Giant space pickle*

        People? Plans? The workers are mere cogs that exist solely to move the gears. Expecting things like sick days, PTO, or lunch breaks is unreasonable.

  8. Goldenrod*

    Bless you!!

    And now you have a great answer for your future interviews, should you ever leave this job – to any question regarding improvements you made at work or “tell us about a time you disagreed with leadership, and what happened.”

  9. ReallyBadPerson*

    The 1980s came and took back their awful vacation policy. Good for you for escorting it right out the door, OP!

  10. Sara without an H*

    “This is how we’ve always done it” translates to: “We quit thinking about this years ago.”

    Congratulations, LW, and keep up the good work.

  11. Wendy T*

    Does anyone have a good response to boomers who try and pull the “it wouldn’t be fair” argument for these situations and others (student loan forgiveness, etc)?

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      So when are we allowed to improve things?
      How will things ever get better if this is the standard?
      So it should be unfair now because it was unfair then?

      You could also try asking: has anything changed in that time? Hmm, so maybe it isn’t about fairness, it’s about a different solution to a different situation.

    2. Sudsy Malone*

      For a situation like OP’s, my instinct would be to respond with something like, “OK, let’s discuss what would make it fair; what do you think about making the policy retroactive so employees with more tenure get extra PTO added in to reflect their service?” Basically address the “unfairness” itself rather than let it be used as an excuse to throw the whole idea out. It won’t always work, but it at least gives you more data: are they ACTUALLY concerned about unfairness and just need a new perspective, or are they just trying to undermine the idea?

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’ve never seen a counterargument that has changed anyone’s mind (though I’m excited to see if someone else offers one). You usually get two types of people in these situation: people who were hard done by the previous situation and don’t want anyone else to have to go through it, and people who were hard done by and feel like everyone else should have to because they were. It’s hard to reason with the latter group.

      1. Antilles*

        The only way I’ve ever seen it to win is with a “divide and conquer” kind of strategy where someone who did go through it can make the argument for you.

        So when an uncle makes a “I didn’t get any paternity leave, not sure why men need time off” argument, you get your aunt involved as to whether she would have liked to have him available as a second set of hands during the first month. Her lived experience of “gosh yes, that would have been so helpful” carries a weight that my theoretical arguments never will.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          It was really awful when I popped stitches because I had to pick up the baby before I was healed!

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      “What kind of person are you that, having struggled through an actively shitty situation, you want everyone else to struggle in an equally shitty situation when you have the ability to change it?”

      I mean, by that logic, is it unfair to offer modern medical treatment became it wouldn’t be fair to all the people who suffered and died before them (same for workplace safety regulation)?

      Forward progress exists for a reason. It’s life, not fraternity hazing.

    5. MsM*

      In OP’s case, I think “why are we even in this sector if we should simply accept the status quo is the best we can do?” is an entirely valid question.

    6. Beth*

      I think “this is blocking our hiring” is a good counter to that–it’s hard to be all “it’s not fair!” when the proposal is linked to a clear business need like that. Yeah, it’s not fair, but it’s the way it has to be if we want to hire new staff, so….do you want new hires or not?

      1. Beth*

        To extend beyond business needs–yeah, okay, student loan forgiveness isn’t fair, sure, whatever. Do you ever want to sell your house, oh 65 year old who’s looking to retire and downsize? Then you probably don’t want your target market for your family-size house–namely, younger professionals with families–saddled with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. Would you rather have everything be abstractly ‘fair’ and no one get forgiveness, or would you rather have functional society in the concrete here and now?

    7. Critical Rolls*

      I agree with Sudsy that asking “what would you consider fair in implementing this?” is a good question.

      Also: “We have identified a policy that is detrimental to the business and staff. We can’t undo the experiences that have already happened, but the net good and our clear duty is to improve things going forward.”

    8. Distractable Golem*

      “We’re doing loan forgiveness because it’s good for the economy. It happens to help some people, unfortunately.”

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yep, people who would prefer to let others suffer the same hardships they endured are fundamentally selfish. You can’t convince them to care about others, you can only point out how the changes will benefit them personally. Focus on what they get out of it. At some point their own selfishness and greediness will outstrip their spiteful schadenfreude.

    9. Mad Harry Crewe*

      This definition of fairness requires that we can never make changes, because at some point in the past, someone did not have the benefit (or consequence!) of these changes. It’s weird how that argument always comes out to prevent beneficial changes, but never to prevent changes for the worse.

      Additionally, the idea that change can be avoided is nonsense. Stuff changes all the time, and deciding not to change in response is a decision, just as much as deciding to change. The world isn’t a static place. Things get better, things get worse, things get different. Resiliency requires change.

      Life isn’t fair. Given that, we can either make things better for everybody, NOW, or we can do nothing and things continue to be bad for everybody. Those are both choices, and I know which side I land on.

      Since time travel isn’t possible, this definition of fairness is a fundamentally unattainable goal. Setting an impossible goal is not having a conversation in good faith about the real world and real situation. It’s a way to derail or waste time rather than address the problem.

    10. don'tbeadork*

      Can we please stop using Boomer (or Millenial) as a pejorative? Not everyone of that generation is opposed to things improving for those who follow. Not everyone who is opposed is from that particular generation.

      It’s lazy, like calling privileged (usually) white women “Karens”.

  12. Sue Toth*

    I worked for a small, family-owned (very dysfunctional) business for 10+ years. The office manager would not let you take your (1 week) vacation BEFORE your anniversary hire date–no matter how many years you worked there. After she quit (yay!) and I inherited her job, I told another co-worker she could take her vacation week any time she wanted. She was stunned when I told her that policy was not standard. It was always framed as “the Boss made the rules.” Actually, he didn’t know half the stuff the office manager was pulling and he didn’t care after he was told.

    1. Goldenrod*

      One week of vacation a year is criminal.

      I mean, I know in the US, it’s not *actually* criminal – but it should be!!

  13. Frustrated Fundraiser*

    Please don’t blame everything on “boomers.” I’m 60, and completely support both adequate vacation time and student loan forgiveness.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I took that to mean she is only hearing this comment from boomers, not that all boomers think that way. I certainly only hear it from my retired MIL.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think the point was that people likely to have already paid off student loans or made it to a certain length of tenure to earn X vacation days are likely to be older and thus won’t benefit from the changes, and thus are more likely to view it as unfair. Not every reference to boomers is derogatory.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Agreed. I think this kind of thinking can happen with any generation.

        I remember when older millennials and Gen X bemoaned expanding healthcare coverage to adult children up to age 26. The sentiment was very much “We didn’t get this benefit so why should they?”

    3. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      Yes, thank you. Don’t rag on one demographic or assume that your sample size is representative. I am 62 and support student loan relief.

      One more person to add to our generation being in favor.

  14. i like hound dogs*

    That’s great! PTO is so important to me. My son is eight and my husband has five weeks off to my three — it’s great that he can cover some of the school breaks, but I wish I didn’t have to miss out on things they do together because I have to work. My job is great and flexible in other ways but one more week off would be SO NICE. I honestly think I’d prefer it to a raise.

    About a decade ago I worked at a small for-profit biz where the CEO just sort of … made up the vacation policy as he went. He asked me to hire someone and offer them five days of vacation. I was young and didn’t push back, but thankfully she did, and got ten days instead. That whole place was a dumpster fire.

  15. Glacier33*

    I live in Canada where we have mandated vacation of 2 weeks per year after the first year, and three weeks after 5 years of service. Most good employers don’t make you wait that long to take it. The US really needs to get with the other developed nations and make it a requirement. I know lots of competitive employers offer it but its those who work in less than ideal conditions that need to have it mandated so they are not further exploited.

    1. LJ*

      Yes! And before the frustrated “please don’t say your country is better” crowd comes out – the point is OP’s letter is a great example of trying to lift up conditions of everyone, even the lowest level part timers.

      Idealism (in helping the world / serving clients / etc) shouldn’t stop at the door as it were.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        I think it was provided as a comparison. Canada comes up a lot for maternity leave since they provide twelve months.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        It’s good to let victims of abuse know that what’s happening to them isn’t normal and it doesn’t have to be that way.

    1. CR*

      Seriously, I can’t believe they were able to hire anyone period with that atrocious leave policy for so long. What did people do when they needed time off?? Just take it unpaid?

      1. Anon in Canada*

        If they allow unpaid time off, many people may view “one week paid but then you’re allowed to take unpaid days” as better than “2 or even 3 weeks paid but once you’ve used it you have to show up to work no matter what”. I once worked for a company that provided zero paid vacation, but had no limit on how much unpaid leave one could take (outside of summer blackout dates) – people dealt with it just fine.

        We don’t know what this organization’s policy on unpaid leave is. Many employers don’t allow it though.

        Or, people are just desperate for a job, any job, because the job market sucks and people have bills to pay.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I can imagine what the turnover rate must be in those places.

        I worked in a place that had high turnover (around 60 percent a year) — and, we were in a pre-organization meeting – we were planning to unionize – with management and showed them – “hey, clown. This turnover rate is costing the company big time. Wouldn’t you like to cut it down?”

        They listened.

  16. Broken Arrow*

    This outcome is better than the old policy, but I would not say that the new policy is stellar. “OMG two weeks of vacation” is not above market and does not offset for below-market salaries. You’re just offering what a lot of other companies are offering.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Those issues have been discussed ad nauseam here, but unlimited PTO is not what it looks. It’s never truly unlimited, and usually results in people taking less vacation than they used to because there are no guidelines on how much is appropriate to take, and people don’t want to look like slackers. Unlimited PTO is really just a way for employers to avoid paying out unused vacation days when people leave.

        But yes, 2 weeks is still not “good”. 3 weeks would be more reasonable and (by US standards) offset lower pay. Employees should not have to wait several years to get 3 weeks every time they change jobs.

        1. sofar*

          Yeah, we went to unlimited PTO, and it basically means that you get hounded more on vacation because “you can just take a day off later to make up for it” and nobody sees time of as “real.”

          I’d say 4 weeks off/year should be the standard for most corporate jobs, and it’s use it or lose it.

          1. Delphine*

            A company my friend works at only went to unlimited to avoid having to pay out vacation days when employees left—because they were so rarely able to take PTO with their workloads and so would get a huge payout when they quit. Now they’ve got unlimited days, still have huge workloads that prevent taking time off, and don’t get a payout. Win win for the company.

      2. LJ*

        In an org like this? Probably will lead to management pressure for people to never take any PTO. Better to have firm boundaries

    1. don'tbeadork*

      Yeah, but baby steps. Things are better now, and with luck the board will see that it’s not really harming the bottom line if they can hire and keep staff. So this year we get this much but in a year or so OP can push for a bit more.

  17. Bookworm*

    Thank you for sticking to your guns on this, OP! This letter made me smile, and I thank you for that.

  18. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    You are a great person.

    For part-timers, you could prorate it as a percentage of full-time hours. That might be an easier sell to the board.

  19. SB*

    I hate the “it wouldn’t be fair to those who had to wait for their years of service, etc.” excuse people use. That “I had to suffer so you should too” attitude is terrible. I am happy your manager sees sense!!!

  20. Hengabecka*

    OP is doing good work, but I am once again appalled and sending horrified sympathy to everyone in the US who has to put up with this. No one in the UK would work for a company that offered such a poor leave package, and they wouldn’t need to because it would be illegal anyway.
    Every UK employee gets 28 days paid leave as a minimum (this can include public holidays of which we have 8 per year) and in practice large employers usually offer more, plus extra for long service. The entitlement starts from day one of your employment contract (again, illegal not to have one) and is completely separate from sickness absence which I have never heard of being time-limited. How can you know in advance how much time it might take you to recover from something that hasn’t happened yet??
    I can’t imagine how anyone copes with being forced to work a whole year without any time off – surely everyone is permanently exhausted? Time off improves productivity! Even part-time and temporary staff are entitled to paid leave, usually pro-rata. Americans, you all need to join unions and tell your employers this is not the 19th century anymore!

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