Some companies are allowing employees to buy and sell vacation days, in a growing trend to give workers more flexibility in managing their own time.
"When times are a little tight, this benefit really doesn't cost a lot of extra money to employers to provide," Julie Stich, research director for the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, told the Associated Press. "It's offered by more forward thinking or flexible-type employers."
The premise is that employees could buy more days off to stay home with a newborn, a few more days at the beach, or even sell unused vacation days for extra cash.
About nine percent of employers currently let employees exchange unused vacation days for money and five percent allow employees to buy more vacation time via a payroll deduction. These results are part of a soon-to-be released survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. The study also found seven percent of employers allow unused vacation days to be donated to a general pool that other workers can utilize.
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USG Corp. in Chicago allows all 9,000 employees to buy and sell up to one week of vacation time annually.
USG employee Nora Kouba said in the past she would buy extra time off to spend with her kids or take a summer vacation with her family. Now she says, she doesn’t need the time off and enjoys selling most of her vacation days.
"I loved having the extra week when I needed it, and now I like having the extra money," Kouba told the AP.
USG spokesman Robert Williams said the company formerly let employees buy up to two weeks, but it was too popular and caused scheduling problems at production facilities. He said now more than half of USG’s employees buy an extra week off, while only 5 percent sell a week.
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"People really value their time and appreciate the benefit," Williams said.
Kimberly Clark Corp., based in Irving, Tex., has utilized a flexible vacation program for about 15 years. Spokesman Bob Brand said about half of Kimberly Clark’s employees can buy five extra vacation days a year during fall enrollment.
"It's very popular," Brand said. "It provides a great deal of flexibility for someone that may have a big trip planned or an event that's going to take an extended amount of time."
Kimberly Clark employees cannot sell vacation days, but they can carry extra days over into the next year.
The number of companies with PTO plans, comprehensive plans that combine vacation time, sick leave and personal days, has grown from 42 percent in 2009, to 52 percent this year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The group says it encourages employees to schedule most of their time off, rather than springing it on employers.
"In terms of human resources it's easier to manage it," said manager of Society for Human Resource Management Evren Esen. "They put everything together in one bank and don't have to separately track sick, vacation or personal days."