# Holiday Math: How to Calculate Vacation Accrual

Most people only consider their vacation accrual policy when they’re about to vacation. However, much more goes into it than choosing the time you want to take off.

In fact, your company’s policy can affect everything from how soon an employee can take their vacation to how much money they get paid while on a day off.

Below, you’ll find the most common approaches to vacation accrual (+ a link to our automated vacation hours calculator). Hint: there’s no single “right” answer, so find what works best for your team.

## What Is Vacation Accrual?

Vacation accrual (or leave accrual) refers to the process by which employees gradually accumulate or earn paid time off for taking vacations or personal time away from work.

It is a method used by employers to track and allocate vacation benefits to their employees based on their length of service or other predetermined factors.

## Most Common Vacation Accrual Rules

Some offer their employees unlimited vacation days, while others prefer more traditional policies with limited vacation days that increase with tenure. But in most cases, time off accrual follows several standard parameters.

Here, we’re going to look at the most common of them:

### 1. Accrual rate

The vacation accrual rate is the pace at which employees earn vacation time as they work. Typically expressed in hours earned per pay period, this rate allows employees to gradually accumulate time off throughout their employment.

The specific rate can vary based on factors like the company’s policies, the employee’s position, length of service, or employment status (full-time versus part-time). This mechanism allows for a fair and systematic approach to granting vacation time, encouraging work-life balance and employee satisfaction.

#### For example:

A new employee might accrue vacation at a rate of 1.25 days per month, which translates to 15 days per year. In contrast, employees with over five years of service may receive an enhanced accrual rate, accumulating 1.67 days per month, or 20 days annually.

### 2. Accrual period

A vacation accrual period refers to the timeframe over which employees accumulate vacation time that they can later use for time off from work.

#### For example:

• Monthly: Employees accrue a set number of vacation hours or days at the end of each month. For instance, accruing 1.25 days per month to reach 15 days annually.
• Bi-weekly: In line with bi-weekly pay periods, employees earn a portion of their annual vacation time every two weeks. This might look like accruing 4 hours per pay period for full-time employees.
• Yearly: Some organizations grant the entire year’s vacation balance at the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year, or on the employee’s work anniversary.
• Hourly: Particularly in part-time or varying schedules, vacation time accrues based on the actual hours worked, such as 1 hour of vacation for every 40 hours worked (or 0.025 leave hours per hour worked).

### 3. Waiting period for vacation accrual

The waiting period for vacation accrual is the time between an employee’s hire date and when they become eligible to start accruing vacation days. This waiting period is typically 90 days but can vary from company to company.

#### For example:

If you start working for a company on January 1, you would be eligible to start accruing vacation days on April 1.

### 4. Leave balance caps

A leave balance cap refers to the maximum amount of leave time, such as vacation or sick leave, that an employee can accumulate or carry over during a specific period. Once an employee reaches this cap, they stop accruing additional leave until they use some of their stored time.

This rule encourages employees to use their leave time rather than hoarding it. Thus, it promotes a healthier work-life balance and maximizes the benefits of time off.

#### For example:

A company might set a cap of 30 days for accrued annual leave, meaning employees cannot accumulate more than 30 days of annual leave. Similarly, for sick leave, a common cap might be 15 days, beyond which unused sick leave doesn’t accumulate from year to year.

### 5. Carryover and expiration

Vacation carryover refers to the policy that allows employees to transfer unused vacation time from one year to the next. This provides flexibility and ensures that workers do not lose their hard-earned leave if they cannot take it within a calendar year.

Vacation expiration, on the other hand, is a rule stipulating that if the carried-over vacation time is not used within a certain period, typically by the end of the subsequent year, it is forfeited.

#### For example:

If an employee has a total of 20 vacation days and only uses 15 in a given year, they can carry over the remaining 5 days into the next year, subject to company limits. Or in case, vacation carryover is not allowed by the company’s policy, the remaining 5 days will simply expire.

### 6. Payout upon termination

A vacation payout upon termination refers to the financial compensation an employee receives for the unused vacation time they have accrued at the time of their departure from a company. This policy varies by country and company, but in general, it’s a common practice to compensate departing employees for the vacation time they earned but did not use.

The specifics of how this payout is calculated, including any caps or limits, depend on the terms of the employment contract and local labor laws.

#### For example:

In California, employers are required to pay out any accrued but unused vacation time as part of the employee’s final paycheck upon termination because it’s considered a part of the earned wages.

## 9 Main Types of Vacation Accrual Policies

### Equal vs. progressive leave time policy

Leave time can be accrued in equal amounts every year or progressively – depending on the years of employment. With an equal leave policy, everyone gets the same amount of time off, regardless of how long they’ve been with the company.

On the other hand, a progressive leave policy gives employees more time off as they stay with the company longer. This is often seen as a way to encourage employee loyalty and longevity.

### Separate vs. combined leave time policy

A separate leave policy is when an organization has two types of time off balances, one for vacation and one for sick days. In contrast, a combined leave policy is when an organization has one type of leave time that can be used for both vacation and sick days.

The accrual rate is the main difference between a separate and a combined leave policy. Employees accrue vacation and sick time at different rates with a separate policy. For example, an employee might earn two weeks of vacation per year but only four days of sick time. This can be confusing and difficult to keep track of.

Employees accrue vacation and sick time at the same rate with a combined policy. For example, an employee might earn one day of vacation and one day of sick time per month. This makes it easier to keep track of and use your leave time.

actiPLANS lets you create and track unlimited leave types, set individual accrual rates for them, and distinguish between the PTO and sick leave balances.

### Limited vs. unlimited time off policy

There are no such things as vacation tracking and leave requests when you have an unlimited time off policy! You can take off whenever you want, for as long as you want – no questions asked (as long as you meet the set deadlines, complete your tasks successfully, and show good work performance overall).

As for the limited time off policy, it is a little more restrictive and provides you with a certain number of vacation days per year. If you want to take more time off than it’s allowed, you’ll need to get approval from your boss first.

### Time off in lieu policy (TOIL)

The TOIL policy is a way of compensating employees for working overtime. Under this policy, employees are given an additional hour off for each extra hour they invest in work, up to a specific limit. This allows them to take time off later rather than being paid overtime wages.

There are several benefits of having a TOIL policy in place. First, it helps to encourage employee productivity by giving them an incentive to work extra hours. Second, it helps to prevent burnout by allowing employees to take regular breaks from work. Finally, it can help to reduce labor costs by avoiding the need to pay overtime wages.

Combine actiPLANS’ vacation accrual functionality with overtime tracking in actiTIME to easily convert the extra hours worked in TOIL.

### Use-it-or-lose-it vs. carry-over policy

The use-it-or-lost-it vacation policy states that if you don’t use all of your vacation days within a specific time frame, you will lose them. It is designed to encourage employees to take their vacation days and prevent them from accruing too many unused vacation days.

On the other hand, a carry-over policy allows employees to roll unused vacation days over to the following year. This way, your staff members don’t have to feel pressured to use all their days off in one year and can collect considerable leave time for a long-term vacation.

There are pros and cons to both types of policies. With a use-it-or-lose-it policy, employees may be more likely to take all of their vacation days and not let any go to waste. This can be good for their mental health and well-being. However, this policy can also be stressful if your team has a busy year and can’t manage to take all of the earned vacation days.

A carry-over policy gives staff members more flexibility, but it also means they may not take all their vacation days in a given year. This could lead to accruing too many vacation days and eventually losing them.

## How to Calculate Vacation Accrual: Examples

Accrued time off is paid leave that’s been earned but not yet taken. State laws and company regulations may dictate the need to choose between the seven ways mentioned above or create special rules to accrue vacation time.

Let’s see some of the most common examples of how to calculate vacation time for hourly and full-time workers:

### How to calculate vacation accrual for hourly employees

An hourly employee gets one hour of vacation time for every 30 hours worked. The employee has 990 hours worked and 12 hours of PTO spent. The task is to calculate the current PTO amounts.

• Divide the total number of hours worked by 30: 990 / 30. The employee has earned 33 hours of vacation time.
• As long as they’ve already spent 12 leave hours, we must subtract them from the total number of earned PTO hours: 33 – 12 = 21.
• The hourly worker has 21 vacation hours remaining.

### How to calculate vacation accrual for full-time employees

Let’s say a full-time employee gets three days of vacation every month. The employee has been working for nine months and two weeks and took five days off. What is their current PTO balance?

• Three days of monthly vacation for nine months means 3 * 9 = 27 PTO days.
• They also have half a month of worked time, meaning 3 / 2 = 1,5 more PTO days.
• The total number of accrued PTO days: 27 + 1,5 = 28,5 PTO days.
• As long as they’ve already spent 5 leave days, we must subtract this amount from the total PTO days earned: 28,5 – 5 = 23,5.
• This full-time employee has 23,5 vacation hours remaining.

These calculations may become even more complex if you have the use-it-or-lose-it policy established in your company, overtime values converted into PTO hours, and other state and situation-specific details to be considered.

## Simplify the Process with Vacation Time Calculator

It is important to keep track of used and unused vacations accurately to avoid misunderstanding and workplace conflicts. Some companies prefer the old-fashioned way, with spreadsheets and paper requests. This consumes valuable time that could be spent doing actual work.

Our automated vacation hours calculator is a much better solution – it streamlines the vacation accrual process in line with your rules and produces error-free results.

## How to Improve Vacation Accrual Even More

High-quality vacation tracking solutions can make PTO accrual even more efficient and effortless. Once you have the tool in place, you can focus on more important things, knowing that your employees’ vacation balances are taken care of.

When selecting a tool for automated vacation accrual, there are a few things you should definitely keep in mind:

• Flexibility
• Simple leave management procedure
• Compatibility with multiple devices
• Rich data review options
• Precise time off calculations

Of course, finding a leave tracker that meets all these requirements may be challenging. However, we know one excellent solution that does just that!

## Try actiPLANS!

actiPLANS offers a smooth way of time off calculation and leave request management.

Managers can configure the system in line with their preferred accrual rules and corporate policies. Then, regular users can request their leave time in a few clicks and get them approved as quickly and easily as possible.

actiPLANS can be tuned in line with your unique vacation accrual rules. It helps to keep all data on employees’ leave balances at a glance and up to date:

• You can define the accrual rate, which determines how much vacation time employees earn based on their length of service or other criteria. This rate can be set in hours, days, or any other unit of measurement.
• It’s also possible to configure the accrual period, such as weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or annually. This determines the frequency at which employees earn vacation time.
• You can also set vacation carryover and expiration rules based on the organization’s policies.
• Then, actiPLANS will calculate employees’ vacation balances based on the accrual rate and accrual period,  employees will be able to see their available vacation time via personal dashboards, and managers will be able to generate comprehensive staff absence reports.

Ready to check actiPLANS out in action yourself? Sign up for a free 30-day trial and see how effortless vacation accrual can be.

## Summary

The bottom line is that there are a lot of different vacation accrual policies and rules out there, so employers must do their research to be up-to-date on the latest trends and stay competitive.

Remember that vacation accrual is an important part of any company’s internal procedure, so finding a tool that will simplify and speed up this process is critical. actiPLANS can be configured to fit almost any requirements, allowing managers and regular employees to benefit from the automated accrual process, keeping things accurate, transparent, and hassle-free. 🙌

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