Paying to Go Unpaid

As an hourly wage slave (albeit, granted, a fairly well compensated one), I am forced into what I consider to be the most unsavory deal in modern working life – the Paid Leave Time bucket. For those of you who don\’t know what that is, I\’ll explain it later when I really complain about it. What\’s got my goat in a bundle[1. It\’s an awesome mixed metaphor, I know – you can thank me later.] today is an email I received recently on the subject of purchasing additional PLT days.

The email threw around phrases like \”outstanding benefit\”, and how said benefit would help us be able to enjoy a \”healthy work life balance\” – in short, an opportunity that \”really is of little cost with great benefit!\”

What\’s this great offer, you ask? It\’s simple. We hourly workers are offered the chance to purchase (emphasis mine) five additional days of PLT, which will be deducted from our paycheck, pre-tax I\’d assume, over the course of the year.

Yes. Essentially we\’ll be paying to take five extra days off. UN-Paid.

If I were making $20/hr (which I\’m not, but it makes the math easier), I\’d be paying $800 a year for five extra days off. That doesn\’t make a lot of sense to me, but maybe I\’m just not the kind of guy who enjoys the idea of paying my employer for the right to sit around my house and not work (especially if the reason that I\’m not working is because I\’m sick).

My complaint with the email is twofold. One, it doesn\’t spell this out at all. I feel that it\’s deliberately misleading people into thinking it\’s an economically great deal. Which it isn\’t. Two, it\’s literally saying that we can BUY extra days of PAID Leave Time. Which is incorrect. We can buy extra days of UNPAID Leave Time. (Quick question for all you lawyers out there – Is this actionable?) In essence, they think I\’m stupid enough to read this email, not think it through, and feel that the council that negotiated this for us is doing such a wonderful job and really looking out for the hourly staff.

Finally, for those of you who are lucky enough not to know what the PLT bucket is, let me enlighten you. I will accrue (so that\’s the first thing to note – I\’m not given these days per year) a set amount of days off as I work. The number would be fairly decent as vacation time goes – I think it works out to a little more than three weeks. The catch is that I get to use those days for ANY AND ALL absences. If I get bronchitis, I\’m expected to spend a week of my vacation time to stay out of the office and not infect everyone. I\’m sorry, but this is simply a stupid arrangement. And honestly, unless I actually have H1N1,[2. And honestly, maybe even then. . .] I\’m not using my vacation time to be sick.

Let alone pay MORE for it.







7 responses to “Paying to Go Unpaid”

  1. wadE Avatar

    I’ve been dealing with this since I left the consulting world. At my employer it’s called “PTO” (Paid Time Off). It’s a catch all bucket that includes sick time. At previous places you had Vacation Days, Holidays, and Personal Days. Sick time was on your honor. We were all professionals and we were generally so busy that you didn’t have the luxury of taking a lot of sick time unless you were actually sick. Regardless, it sucks.
    Anyway, are they really asking you to buy days off that are unpaid? At most places when you run out of vacation days you just take days unpaid. Are you sure your description is accurate?

  2. alex Avatar

    I’m quite sure it’s accurate – the program description is very detailed, and I don’t see any other way to read something like: “The cost of your paid time off will be based on your hourly pay rate in effect on January 1, 2010…”

  3. Bounce Avatar

    I remember the PTO days. It always lead to Shaun @ FanBuzz getting deathly sick and using all his time on sick days b/c everyone else would come in sick and eventually the strain would get stronger and stronger until it knocked out the resident germaphobe (aka Shaun). Good times!

  4. monkey Avatar

    I’ve got an arrangement like wadE used to have. Not much vacation but unlimited sick (unless it’s more than 40hrs consecutive — then it’s short-term disability). And I’ve never been hassled about the sick usage.

    Alex, are you guys (or any of the hourly workers) unionized?

  5. alex Avatar

    I did come across some verbiage while looking up an unrelated benefit, that pitched these days as a way to spread out the financial impact. And THAT, I agree with. Seems like they could have found a way to mention that while trying to sell me on this ‘outstanding benefit’. I still wouldn’t agree, but I might have been slightly less insulted.

  6. monkey Avatar

    I get *real* tired of corporate-ish verbiage that trumpets “BAD FOR EMPLOYEE” as “OUTSTANDING NEW PROGRAM”. Just be honest. Let people make up their own minds whether or not to participate. Don’t snowball or whitewash. Like you note, it’s insulting. But then again, they just tipped their hand as to what they think of your intelligence…

  7. wadE Avatar

    “spread out financial impact”… nice… here there is rumors that we may severely limit the number of PTO days you can roll over year to year b/c those unused days hit the budget at the end of each year… I hate accountants…

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