3 charts breaking down unlimited PTO trends

Unlimited paid time off — or more realistically, open PTO — has garnered interest from employees and employers alike in recent years. But how many have really made the shift to open PTO? And will more jump on the bandwagon soon?

A recent report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans sheds some light on these issues. The organization surveyed 266 private-sector employers in October 2023 and found that an overwhelming majority of respondents did not offer open PTO. And employers that did offer it, most introduced the benefits years ago.

What paid leave systems do employers offer?

The majority of private employers responding to the survey said they maintain separate vacation and personal and/or sick leave banks. Many employers responding to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey said they’re considering improvements to their paid leave benefits this year, but most referenced parental and similar specialized leaves.

Paid leave systems

Despite widespread attention, few employers say they actually offer unlimited PTO.

Is interest in unlimited PTO waning?

The IFEBP also surveyed public-sector employers, but none offered unlimited PTO. Instead, that trend appears limited to the private sector, and interest may be fading.

Among respondents who said they didn’t limit time off, nearly 87% said they moved to the open PTO model within the last four years. A plurality introduced it three years ago.

Years offering unlimited PTO

Most organizations that have unlimited PTO started offering it within the last four years.

What interferes with open PTO use?

One question often arises for employers considering open PTO: How do you ensure workers take enough time off? Vacations can help with engagement and retention, research suggests, but when there’s no bank to lose, some workers ultimately take less time off. 

HR professionals can work to address some of those hurdles — like workload and “sick shaming” — through training and the creation of a supportive culture, experts say.

Unlimited PTO hurdles

Workload was the most commonly cited reason for workers failing to use open PTO benefits.