PTO: What You Need to Know

You have your money saved and your destination picked out, but you have that pesky job you need to be at. How, oh how, can you keep your job and still travel? OK, OK, I’ll cut it out. Let’s talk about PTO, or paid time off. As an employee, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to using this benefit.

What is PTO?

First off, PTO typically refers to a bank of hours or days that you stack over time. You can use them for vacation, sick leave, personal time, or any other reason you need to take time away from work. Depending on your employer, you may earn paid time off based on your tenure or hours worked, and the accrual rate can vary. For instance, you may get a flat rate of 2 weeks of PTO based on working with the company for a year. On the other hand, you may have to earn those two weeks by working X amount of hours during the course of the year.

Laws regarding PTO

Now, let’s talk about your rights regarding PTO. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are not required to provide paid time off, but if they do, they must abide by certain rules. Specifically, they cannot dock your pay or retaliate against you for taking time off that you’ve accrued.

In addition, some states have their own laws regarding PTO. For example, in California, employers must allow employees to use their accrued paid time off for any reason, and they must pay out any unused paid time off when an employee leaves the company. New York is very specific based on company size and what is required of them in regard to PTO. Make sure that you take your state’s law into account when deciding where to work.

Best time to use PTO

So, when is the best time to use your PTO? Ultimately, that’s up to you and your personal situation. Some people prefer to spread out their time off throughout the year, taking a day here and there, while others like to take extended vacations all at once.

Whether you want to have the occasional 3-day weekend in Atlantic City or 2 weeks overseas, there’s always a right way to do something. Always keep in mind that it’s often best to give your employer plenty of notice if you plan to take time off. This can help ensure that there’s coverage for your workload and minimize any disruptions to the team. With those bases covered, you’re less likely to get pushback when you put in for time off.

How much is enough?

Finally, what’s a reasonable amount of PTO to expect in America? While there’s no set answer to this question, many employers offer between 2–4 weeks of paid time off per year for full-time employees. Of course, this can vary depending on factors like your job level, industry, and location. Again, take note of these things before you jump into your next job. Having money is great, but it’s no fun if you don’t have time to spend it.

In general, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your company’s PTO policy and make sure you’re using it wisely. Remember, taking time off is important for your physical and mental health, so don’t feel guilty about using your paid time off when you need it. You know how we feel, you deserve the best and rest is part of that.

Headshot picture of the writer of this article, Kenneth Medford III, with a muted black and white filter.
Kenneth Medford III

Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.

Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Learn more button links to for employees page.
We’re here to help you break free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and navigate your financial journey, one day at a time. At Work gives you the tools to take control of your financial future.


Get it on Google Play button links to At Work on the Google store on android.
Get it on Apple Store button links to At Work on the Apple Store.
More Stories
WPP Fellow and Talent Manager at Essence, Francisca Posada-Brown
Navigator Spotlight: Francisca Posada-Brown