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Report: Unused PTO Doubled Since the Start of the Pandemic

Some workers cite guilt and discomfort as reasons for not taking accrued PTO. 

By Zee Johnson 

A recently released Sorbet study revealed that since the beginning of the pandemic, 55% of employee PTO has gone unused, a 27% increase from 2019.  

The report, which highlights trends across industries, salary, genders, generations, and more, found that 24% of survey respondents say they don’t feel comfortable asking their manager for time off and 31% believe it’s harder to request time off when working remotely.  

The results also show a vast difference in the demographics most affected. According to the report, male employees contractually receive 10% more PTO days than women, and men also take 33% more days off than women. However, women are 27% more comfortable than men to take sick days yet, are 19% less comfortable taking PTO. And overall, employees with children under the age of 12 take 12% less PTO than employees with older kids or without any kids.  

Unused PTO poses a great financial threat to organizations, the report says. Employees who quit or are laid off are entitled to be paid for their unused days—this costs companies up to $318 billion in total annual accrued PTO liabilities in the U.S., a 17% increase since 2017.  

With a recession on the horizon, inflation-induced salary hikes, and employees in the market for other opportunities, the risk of unused PTO could place a heavy fiscal burden on businesses. 

Veetahl Eilat-Raichel, CEO and co-founder of Sorbet, sees PTO as a great benefit that companies don’t market as often as they should and something that could give them an advantage in today’s economy. “Paid time off is one of the most underutilized assets employers have at their disposal in the battle to attract and retain talent,” she said in a press release. “In a post-COVID world, employees clearly feel less legitimized and incentivized to take time off which causes a breathtaking loss of value to both employers and employees. Value which should be harnessed towards both the companies’ and the employees’ financial well-being.” 

The report also found:  

  • Lower income workers take 52% less PTO than higher income workers. 
  • The 55+ age group takes 51% more PTO than the 21-34 age group, who also have the fewest number of PTO days allocated. 
  • 44% of U.S. employees prefer a hybrid work model, but 31% think it’s harder to take time off when working from home.  

To read the full report, visit 

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