Is Unlimited Paid Time off Actually Bad for Employees? This HR Worker Thinks So

A woman who works at a global human resources company urges those looking for work to not land at an organization that offers unlimited paid time off.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Nov. 6 2023, Published 2:53 p.m. ET

I don't like to brag, but I've been on three cruises. Two of them were with my mother in what can only be described as some sort of Grey Gardens practice run. My mom even has raccoons that come to her backyard! I am moments from performing for her on the Fourth of July. One of these cruises lasted a whopping two weeks. We bopped around the Mediterranean Sea, stopping at Egypt, Turkey, and Italy.

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During this trip, we met a ton of people from Europe who were shocked that Americans could take this much time off. Most European workers get at least 25 paid vacation days per year. At the time, my mother and I were both working at places where we accrued time off.

According to one TikToker, this is better than being employed at a company where unlimited paid time off is the norm. (This sounds like a trick...)

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Is unlimited paid time off actually bad for workers? Is this a trap?

Admittedly, I'm very bad when it comes to anything remotely resembling something adults should be aware of. If it weren't for TurboTax, I'm not sure I would ever file my taxes. A friend recently bought a house and when she showed me the paperwork, I slowly turned them over and said, "No thanks!"

My inability to grasp certain aspects of the grown-up world is why I'm going to go through @hackyourhr's TikTok pretty carefully. Her real name is Amy, and she works for a leading global human resources company. Even though that sounds about as real as International Business Machine (IBM), I choose to believe Amy isn't lying about where she works.

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What I am suspicious of, is anyone in human resources offering advice. It's important to remember that at the end of the day, the people who work in human resources are also being paid by the same company paying you. I'm not suggesting no one in that department can be trusted; I'm merely reminding you that their best interests are the company.

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Since Amy works for some sort of human resources organization, it stands to reason that her priorities lie with her clients. And those clients are focused on themselves. Where do the individual employees land in all of this? Probably on their bottoms.

Wherever Amy works, they have accrued time off. The reason why she likes this is because it incentivizes to take a vacation. No one needs to encourage me to take a vacation, but I recognize we live in a world where people are often shamed for wanting or needing time off. Because of that, they are reluctant to use vacation days.

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Right off the bat, the issue doesn't appear to be accrued time of versus unlimited paid time off. The problem is psychological. Why do we live in a world where someone feels bad about not working? That's bonkers.

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If you're in the process of looking for a new job, Amy suggests asking a potential employer how their human resources department or managers encourage people to take a vacation. Again, she thinks this is accomplished by accrued time off but people only get paid for that unused time when they leave a company. Also, most places with accrued time off cap the amount of time a person can earn. You know what isn't limited? Something that's unlimited.

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The next thing Amy says is both shocking and not shocking at all: "It saves the company a ton of money not to carry this on the books." By this she means unused paid time off. Who is going to tell Amy that most employees aren't worried about the company saving "a ton of money"? The only time that is useful is when that extra money goes to the employees. By a show of hands, who thinks the workers are seeing that extra dough?

Things get more complicated and specific from here, as Amy introduces something called flexible time off. As someone who can't touch her toes, I'm suspicious of anything that claims to be flexible. "The best companies I've seen that have unlimited, call it flexible time off," says Amy. Those places offer a financial incentive if you take at least five days off in a row. Again I ask, why are people being forced to take vacations? What systemic failures have led us to this place? What a bummer.

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