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90-Day Probationary Period

Issue: Some employers don’t allow new employees to take time off in the first 90 days of employment, even though they are accruing PTO. This policy can be problematic for lower-wage employees, especially when they are the primary caregiver in their family.

Possible Solution: Allow workers to use earned time off or sick days during the 90-day probationary period without penalty. If possible, remove the 90-day probationary period altogether.

Access to Parental & Disability Leave Programs

Issue: Often lower-wage workers do not have access to wage protection programs like short-term disability or have enough PTO to continue receiving pay during their parental leave. Even when employees do have access to short-term disability, they receive only 60 percent of their wages, which may be insufficient to support their family. If employees choose to use their PTO, they deplete their banks and have no time saved for when they return to work.

Possible Solution: Provide paid parental leave for six to twelve weeks for both parents, so employees are not harmed financially and retain their PTO banks for when they return to work. They will need that time to care for sick children or elders, go to doctor’s visits, etc. Alternatively, consider providing employer-paid short-term disability or providing employees with access to voluntary employee-paid short-term disability, through payroll deductions. Parental leave should also be extended for adoptions. Additionally, employers should provide and encourage the usage of the full length of leave for both fathers and mothers. Research shows that when men and women take parental leave at the same rate, new mothers are less likely to experience career setbacks after returning to work. Extended leave for both parents also has positive health implications for the baby and parents.

Employer Experience

  • “We determined that while our previous parental leave policies met the standards of what is typically offered by employers, it was still not enough. Some of our employees were literally saving PTO to extend maternity leave, if they knew they were planning on having a child in a year or two. So, we completely reconstructed our policy. Now, child-bearing employees receive up to twelve weeks of paid maternity leave through a combination of short-term disability and Zoo-provided maternity leave. And non-childbearing employees will receive up to 80 hours of paid leave, starting from the time of birth, adoption placement, etc. Further, we went back and retroactively returned the PTO to those women who used it for their maternity leave. The wellbeing of our employees is our priority, so this really was the right thing to do, and it better reflects the value we see and feel in our employees.”

    Jeff Walton, Human Resource Director

    Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Provide PTO or Paid Leave to Care for Others

Issue: Lower-wage employees, especially part-time workers, may not have access to paid time off making it difficult to manage sickness and caregiving responsibilities without having a negative impact on their finances.

Possible Solution: Extend paid time off to all employees and permit workers to use their sick days or PTO to care for loved ones, rather than restricting it to personal or sick time.

Employer Experience

  • “EY recognizes the challenges its people face in having the time needed to balance workplace responsibilities while trying to care for themselves or their family members. Each person will be at their best if they can care for themselves and their family without worrying about time away from work. The Personal/Family care policy provides designated paid time off for this purpose. Under the policy, US employees can record paid time off to care for family members. The policy uses an expansive definition of ‘family member’ that includes any close association considered family.”


    EY Company Policy

Donate Unused PTO for Unexpected, Extended Leaves


Issue: Many lower-wage occupations do not offer short- or long-term disability coverage, so if an employee is seriously ill, they will have to take leave without pay, likely through FMLA.

Possible Solution: If an employee experiences unexpected, extended leave, their colleagues can donate unused PTO to help during a difficult time so the employee can continue to get paid. This will help retain the employee while they recuperate.

Issue: In many cases, lower-wage employees must use a full day of PTO in order to take their children to a doctor’s appointment or to meet with their social worker to renew their benefits.

Possible Solution: Allow for PTO to be taken in increments of two or four hours, so employees can schedule appointments without missing a full day of work.

Provide Reasonable Accommodations for Gender-based Violence Survivors

Issue: An employee experiencing gender-based violence may need extra assistance from their employer, as they navigate legal challenges, ensure the safety of themselves and their family, and receive professional trauma-informed services.

Possible Solution: Survivors of gender-based violence may need to miss work for court dates or take extended leave to ensure their safety and well-being. Employers should collaborate with their employees to provide reasonable and flexible paid leave options. For more information, visit our gender-based violence information page.

Requiring a Doctor’s Note for Illness

Issue: Obtaining a doctor’s note for a cold or short-duration illness can be costly, particularly for those who lack health insurance or have high co-pays.

Possible Solution: Don’t require a doctor’s note for a short-term absence involving illness.