For every working man and woman there are several benefits to the job in addition to wages or salary. These can include paid vacation time, personal days and sick days, depending on the company and its policies.
There are some differences among the various time-off benefits and it is important that the employee understand company policy before he or she begins work. One of the significant differences is between paid days off and sick days, though the line has blurred somewhat between these two paid benefits.
Paid time off is intended to be used for personal business, family issues etc. as opposed to sick leave or sick days, which the employee is supposed to use when health issues actually keep the person from working. Sick leave is sometimes used when the employee needs to keep a doctor’s appointment or have some important medical tests performed at the doctor’s office or at the hospital.
But the most common use for sick days, at least according to company handbooks and employee manuals, is the day when the employee is ill with any of a variety of sicknesses that would interfere with work production.
In contrast, paid time off or pay-time off is intended to be used for personal business that is generally not related to sickness or medical visits. Because employees have made use of sick days for personal business and vice versa, many companies have changed their policies to reflect one type of day off- “paid time off.” These days can then be used for any personal business, health related or otherwise.
Of course paid time off can include the standard two weeks of vacation and national holidays, though many companies also offer one or two personal days and sick-leave time as an added benefit. This can be an attractive part of the employment package for new employees and long-term employees alike.
Since the line between sick time and paid time off has blurred or disappeared altogether, employees may be away from work more often, especially if they use accumulated sick days as days off with pay (which essentially makes them vacation days).
When companies take a close look at their pay-time off policy, they may find that some employees come to work while ill. The company then may be obligated, in writing, to pay the person for unused sick days when the person leaves or retires. This is a key reason some companies continue to distinguish between sick leave and paid days off.
In most companies, employees who work 40 hours per week on a regular basis (full-time employees) are eligible for paid time off, usually after a probation period of 90 days. Employees and company managers should make sure that both fully understand when pay-time off is allowed and what uses these days may be used for. Some part-time employees become eligible for paid time off with a sufficient number of months or years or work. This varies from company to company, as the issue of pay-time off changes and is adjusted to fit new lifestyles.