Unlimited Paid Time Off: The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe

Unlimited vacation policies are all the rave in the HR world, and why not? The idea of taking time off at will is very attractive to both employees and employers. Employees can take necessary vacation days, and employers can have confidence that employee morale is high. It’s a win–win, right?

For some organizations, not so much. Naysayers of unlimited vacation policies note that this benefit can actually cause employees to feel guilty for taking time off and pressure them to work more. Others maintain that because unlimited vacation policies offer no clear expectations, they can actually backfire if employees don’t know how much time to take. This only adds stress and burnout.

This article will explore the good, the bad, and the maybe surrounding unlimited vacation policies, as well as best practices for implementing this type of policy into your organization.

The Good

 At HiringThing, we’ve proudly built a work culture of personal responsibility and mutual trust, and we want our open PTO policy to reflect that. Our open PTO policy is available to full-time (salaried) HiringThing employees, and it allows them the flexibility to take time off when they need it.

  • We do not track or limit employee vacation time or sick days. We allow our employees to take off the time necessary to enable them to operate at peak performance.
  • Our employees can shift their schedules to best suit their preferred work styles.

Of course, each employee must uphold many responsibilities with this type of policy. An employee must keep everyone informed in advance about the days he or she will be absent; ensure necessary projects, meetings, etc. are covered; remain available for important customer calls, staff meetings, or other time-sensitive responsibilities regardless of his or her personal work schedule; and resume the same level of productivity upon return.

Additional Pros of Unlimited PTO

  • Employee flexibility: Employees can enjoy workplace flexibility as long as they still inform others on specific days they will be out of the office
  • Morale boost: Employees are excited about unlimited vacation and feel empowered with the organization’s level of trust.
  • Recruitment perks: The offer of unlimited PTO can serve as an attractive benefit for new talent.

The Bad

 As an organization, it’s imperative that you clearly define the rules of your unlimited vacation policies. Lines can easily become blurred, and you and your employees may not be on the same page. Potential disadvantages of unlimited vacation policies include:

  • The need to terminate an employee for performance issues related to absences he or she was “technically” allowed to take.
  • The need to track time off to monitor abuse of the policy and remain in compliance with various regulations.

Additional Cons of Unlimited PTO

  • Unclear expectations: When employees don’t know how much vacation to take, they may not take any days off, which may lead to low morale, stress, and burnout.
  • Policy abuse: Unclear expectations may lead to misuse of the policy.
  • Vacation overlaps: Without a proper tracking system, too many employees may take time off simultaneously. This may increase stress on remaining employees, or it may negatively impact project timelines and/or customer-facing duties.
  • Manager modeling: Many employees are impressionable in the workplace and look to managers and other company leaders regarding how much vacation to take. If managers don’t take necessary vacation days, employees may do the same.

The Maybe

An unlimited vacation policy will not work for every organization. This type of policy operates most efficiently when trust and responsibility have already been established and embedded into company culture. Before implementing an unlimited vacation policy, please be sure to do your research. There are many things to consider when transitioning from a standard accrual policy to an unlimited policy, such as legal state requirements and effective development plans.

In conclusion, the success of an unlimited vacation policy depends on how an employer sets up the policy. As mentioned throughout the article, an unlimited PTO policy offers many advantages that can positively impact both an employer and employees. However, it may prove to be a challenge to HR or administrative personnel who don’t take the time to properly design a well-architected policy.

We Want to Hear from You!

What are your thoughts on unlimited vacation policies? Please feel free to leave your respectful thoughts below!


HiringThing is a fully remote company, and we’ve crafted our own work environment. Gain some insight into what makes us tick by reading our remote work manifesto.

Alisiana Peters

Author: Alisiana Peters

Alisiana is a senior marketing coordinator at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.