Best Practices for HR Leaders

As an HR professional, I understand the importance of effectively managing paid time off (PTO) and other leave programs. These benefits are essential for employee satisfaction and productivity. Here are some best practices I’ve found useful in managing these programs.


The Importance of Clear PTO Policies

Creating a clear and comprehensive PTO policy is crucial. Here’s what I recommend:


The Importance Of Clear PTO Policies: A group of small wooden blocks sits on a desktop with a small potted plant in the backdrop. The blocks spell out the word, "Clarity".

  • Eligibility: Define who is eligible for PTO and when they become eligible. This helps avoid confusion and ensures fairness.
  • Accrual: Specify how PTO accrues and what it may be used for. For example, employees might accrue PTO based on their length of service or a set number of hours per pay period.
  • Call-In Procedures: Outline how far in advance employees must request PTO. Standardized procedures streamline approvals and help avoid last-minute disruptions.
  • Carryover Rules: Determine whether – and under what conditions – unused PTO can be carried over. This encourages employees to use their entitled leave regularly and helps prevent excessive accruals.

Statutory Requirements

It’s essential to understand the legal requirements regarding PTO in different states. In California, for instance, accrued PTO is considered wages and cannot be forfeited upon termination. Ensuring your policies comply with state laws helps avoid legal pitfalls.


Best Practices for Managing Non-PTO Leave

Managing non-PTO leave, such as sick leave, family leave, and disability leave, requires adherence to both federal and state regulations. Here are some best practices:


  • Eligibility and Accrual: Understand the eligibility requirements for each statutory leave and ensure that your policies clearly reflect the requisite standards.
  • Policy Integration: If combining PTO with statutory sick leave, ensure the policy meets all legal requirements, including carryover and forfeiture provisions.
  • Consistent Application: Apply your leave policies consistently to help avoid claims of discrimination. Consistency maintains fairness and helps avoid legal issues.

Common PTO Pitfalls and Solutions


Common PTO Pitfalls And Solutions: A box sits on a stick, perilously close to falling. A string is tied to the stick, indicating this is a trap. Under the box are three phrases: "Notice Periods", "Unlimited PTO!", and "State Policies".

  • Unlimited PTO Policies: While attractive for recruitment, ensure your policy specifies it does not replace statutory leaves like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Unlimited PTO policies can lead to confusion and misuse if not clearly defined.
  • Notice Periods: Include language that restricts the use of PTO during notice periods to prevent employees from effectively shortening their notice by taking PTO. Clear communication on this aspect helps maintain workflow continuity.
  • State-Specific Policies: Tailor your PTO policies to comply with the specific regulations of each state in which you operate. This helps ensure you meet all legal requirements and avoid potential legal issues.

Handling Intermittent and Mental Health Leaves

Intermittent leaves and leaves related to mental health conditions are increasingly common. Here are some tips:


  • Intermittent Leave: Ensure your policies accommodate intermittent leave where legally required, and clearly communicate your expectations. This helps employees understand their rights and responsibilities.
  • Mental Health Leave: Handle these requests with sensitivity and ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Consider reasonable accommodations and avoid perceived disability claims. A supportive approach to mental health leave fosters a positive workplace culture.

Leveraging Technology for PTO Management


Implementing technology can significantly improve PTO management. Tools like PTO tracking software automate accrual calculations, manage leave requests, and provide real-time visibility into PTO balances. These tools enhance transparency, reduce administrative burdens, and help ensure compliance with labor laws.

Let’s Get to Work…

Effectively managing PTO and other leave programs requires clear policies, legal compliance, and consistent application. By following these best practices, HR leaders can create a supportive and compliant workplace that values both productivity and employee well-being.

Let’s get to work…


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About the Author: Lorisa LaRocca, Esq. – Owner, Spark HR & Chief Legal Counsel, TalentBridge


Lorisa LaRocca, Esq. Owner of Spark HR Consulting and Chief Legal Counsel at TalentBridge

Lorisa D. LaRocca, Esq., serves as Chief Legal Counsel at TalentBridge, where she oversees all legal matters and manages the expansion of TalentBridge’s HR consulting practice in partnership with Spark HR Consulting.

With over 20 years of experience, she previously worked at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP, where she was a partner and chaired the labor and employment practice. Lorisa is also the founder of Spark HR Consulting, providing comprehensive HR services including policy development, workforce training, and DEI strategies. Recognized in the 2022 “Best Lawyers in America” list, she holds a Juris Doctorate from SUNY Buffalo School of Law.