How to accrue vacation time

Accrued vacation pay is the amount of vacation time that an employee has earned as per a company’s employee benefit policy, but which has not yet been used or paid. This is a liability for the employer. The following discussion of accounting for accrued vacation pay can also be applied to holiday pay. The calculation of accrued vacation pay for each employee is:

Calculate the amount of vacation time earned through the beginning of the accounting period. This should be a roll-forward balance from the preceding period. This information can be maintained in a database or electronic spreadsheet.

Add the number of hours earned in the current accounting period.

Subtract the number of vacation hours used in the current period.

Multiply the ending number of accrued vacation hours by the employee’s hourly wage rate to arrive at the correct accrual that should be on the company’s books.

If the amount already accrued for the employee from the preceding period is lower than the correct accrual, then record the difference as an addition to the accrued liability. If the amount already accrued from the preceding period is higher than the correct accrual, then record the difference as a reduction of the accrued liability.

Example of Accrued Vacation Pay

For example, there is already an existing accrued balance of 40 hours of unused vacation time for Fred Smith on the books of ABC International. In the most recent month that has just ended, Fred accrued an additional five hours of vacation time (since he is entitled to 60 hours of accrued vacation time per year, and 60 / 12 = five hours per month). He also used three hours of vacation time during the month. This means that, as of the end of the month, ABC should have accrued a total of 42 hours of vacation time for him (40 hours existing balance + 5 hours additional accrual – 3 hours used).

Fred is paid $30 per hour, so his total vacation accrual should be $1,260 (42 hours x $30/hour). The beginning balance for him is $1,200 (40 hours x $30/hour), so ABC accrues an additional $60 of vacation liability.

Use it or Lose it Policy

What if a company has a “use it or lose it” policy? This means that employees must use their vacation time by a certain date (such as the end of the year), and can only carry forward a small number of hours (if any) into the next year. One issue is that this policy may be illegal, since vacation is an earned benefit that cannot be taken away (which depends on the law in each state). If this policy is considered to be legal, then it is acceptable to reduce the accrual as of the date when employees are supposed to have used their accrued vacation, thereby reflecting the reduced liability to the company as represented by the number of vacation hours that employees have lost.

The Impact of Pay Raises on Accrued Vacation Pay

What if an employee receives a pay raise? Then you need to increase the amount of his entire vacation accrual by the incremental amount of the pay raise. This is because, if the employee were to leave the company and be paid all of his unused vacation pay, he would be paid at his most recent pay rate. If a company awards pay raises to all employees during the same time period in each year, this can result in a sudden jump in the vacation expense accrual.

The Impact of Sabbatical Leave on Accrued Vacation Pay

There may be situations where a sabbatical leave is granted so that an employee can perform public service or research that benefits the employer in some manner. In this situation, the compensation paid to the employee is not related to prior services rendered, and so should not be accrued in advance. In the more likely event that a sabbatical is based on prior services rendered, the employer should accrue the cost of the sabbatical during the required service period.

How to accrue vacation time

You can calculate an employee-specific prorated vacation from a set, universal annual vacation allowance. That method applies to first year of employment, final year employment and all years between.

Multiply annual vacation in weeks by the number of days worked per week by the number of hours worked per day. An equation example is:

5 weeks per year x 5 days per week x 9 hours per day = 225 hours per year.

Divide that value by 52. That will give you the number of hours of vacation per week, or the hours per week value. The equation for this example is:

225 / 52 = 4.3269, which rounds to 4.33 hours per week.

Calculate the number of weeks worked in the year up to the pay cutoff date.

If an employee started Sept. 6, 2010, and the pay cutoff date is Dec. 31, 2010, then the total equals 16 weeks and four days. Four days is 4/5, or 0.8, of the five-day work week. So the total number of weeks is 16 + 0.8 = 16.8.

Multiply that value by the “hours per week value” you figured previously. The equation for this example is:

16.8 x 4.33 = 72.7, when rounding this answer.

Revise that answer to the nearest quarter hour. For this example, 72.7 becomes 72.75 hours. That is equal to one working week, three days and 3/4 hours.

If prorated vacation is calculated annually from the start of employment rather than using a universal cutoff date, only Steps 1 and 5 are required.

Vacation above or below an employee’s allocation can be passed onto the next year by altering the annual vacation allowance value accordingly.

Final year payment is calculated in exactly the same way as first year payment, using all of these steps.

Avoid rounding to too few decimal places during calculation, which can result in an incorrect final answer. If in doubt, work with more decimal places than seem necessary.

Accrued vacation is a vital concept in accounting for businesses. To understand accrued vacation, you may have to first realize that employee vacation is necessary for every organization. Not only does it give your hardworking workers the opportunity to unwind, but the organization also benefits so much from it.

A stressed-out employee may not give out their best. Most organizations carve time each year for each worker to take a little break from work and refuel. However, not every employee takes this vacation at the time it comes up. Some employees may accrue vacation time for a period of time.

It is therefore important that these accrued vacation days are properly recorded. The need for recording accrued vacations gave birth to a vacation accrual journal. This article outlines a step-by-step method of calculating and recording accrued vacation.

What is accrued vacation?

Accrued vacation is the monetary equivalent of employee unused vacation time. The monetary value of an accrued vacation is mostly determined by the company’s vacation policy that is operational at each point. It falls within the jurisdiction of an employee to decide on how unused vacation will be treated in the books.

Accrued vacation is more or less a debt the organization owes its employees. The organization must therefore keep an updated accrued vacation journal where unused vacation time will be recorded. Keeping an accurate record of unused vacation time will go a long way in ensuring that the accounting books of the organization balance at each point.

How you treat unused vacation time depends on the policy the organization operates. The criteria for vacation accruals are spelled out by the Financial Accounting Standard Boards (FASB). Accrued vacation may not be required for your organization based on the FASB criteria.

In some organizations, an employee loses vacation time if they fail to use it within a specified period. Some employees may carry over unused vacation time to the next year. Whatever the case may be, FASB criteria, the law of the state where the business operates as well as company’s vacation time policy determine how accrued vacation is treated.

Accrued Vacation journal entry

To maintain balance in the accounting books of the business, an accrued vacation should be recorded in the journal. It is still the responsibility of the employer to decide on how best to go about this. The journal entry could be done annually, quarterly or monthly.

How to calculate accrued vacation

Beyond understanding how accrued vacation works, you need to also know how to calculate it for each of your employees. The steps for calculating accrued vacation are straightforward and outlined below:

Step 1

Start by determining the vacation time that each employee has earned from the beginning of an accounting period. To get accurate data for this purpose, it is important that you record this information in a separate database. This could be done with the aid of timekeeping software.

Step 2

Sum up the vacation hours that have been earned by the employee within the period in question.

Step 3

From the total get in step 2, subtract the vacation time that was put into use by the employee.

Step 4

Once you have gotten the actual accrued hours that the employee did not use, multiply it by the hourly work rate for that employee. This will give you the accrued vacation to be recorded in the books.

Journal entries for accrued vacation

You need to ensure that whoever is in charge of your books records accrued vacation at the end of each accounting period. This helps to ensure that the financial reports are relevant, reliable, and a true picture of the company’s financial standing.

The recording of accrued vacation like every other journal entry follows the principle of double-entry. This means that one account will be debited while the other is credited. The account to be debited or credited depends on if the vacation hours were used or accrued.

When you are dealing with unused vacation time, the journal entries are made in two accounts; the vacation payable account and the vacation expense account. In this situation, credit the payable account and debit the expense account.

The vacation payable account gets a credit entry because accrued vacation is a liability to the company. When the liabilities of a business increase, it is recorded as a credit entry. However, when there is a decrease in the liability of a business, it is recorded as a debit entry. However, when employees make use of their vacation hours, you need to make a reversal entry in your books to reflect this.

How do you record accrued vacation when employees make use of their vacation hours either by taking a paid leave or cashing out? To create a journal entry for this transaction, credit cash account, and debit vacation payable account. Cash as you well know is an asset to a business. An increase in cash is debited while a decrease in cash is credited.

When you pay employees for vacation hours, you are reducing the cash available to the business. This decrease in cash is recorded as a credit entry in the cash account. The vacation payable account however gets a contra entry in adherence to the accounting principle of double entry.

Calculating accrued vacation

Example 1

An employee working in company X accrued a total of 60 hours in vacation time. If the employee’s hourly rate is $30, how much is the value of the accrued vacation and how will it be recorded in the journal?


Accrued hours: 60

Total vacation accrual = Accrued hours X hourly rate.

If the same employee decides to use 10 hours of the vacation time and wants to cash out the rest, how much is the company going to pay? How will this change be entered into the journals? To calculate the amount, subtract the used vacation time from the total, and multiply by the hourly rate.

How to accrue vacation time

Your hardworking employees need a vacation every now and then. Many employers provide vacation time to employees, but employees might not use their earned vacation right away. When employees have accrued vacation time, you must create a vacation accrual journal entry. Read on to understand the basics of vacation accrual and how to calculate and record accrued vacation in your books.

What is vacation accrual accounting?

Vacation accrual is vacation time that an employee earns, depending on your paid time off policy. As an employer, you must determine how to treat an employee’s unused vacation time. You are responsible for calculating vacation accrual and creating a vacation accrual journal entry to update and balance your books.

Vacation accrual may not be required. Check your business’s liabilities for vacation accrual with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Depending on the FASB’s criteria, vacation accrual might not be necessary.

Many employers establish a “use it or lose it” vacation accrual policy. This requires employees to use vacation time by a certain date, such as the end of the year. Employers can also determine if any of the accrued vacation time can carry over to the following year. How you handle vacation accrual accounting depends on the FASB, your state’s laws, and your vacation accrual policy.

When to record a vacation accrual journal entry

You must record vacation accrual as a journal entry for your business. Determine if you plan to record the vacation accrual each pay period, monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Evaluate your vacation accrual methods at least once per year to ensure accuracy, and account for any changes in pay rates or unused vacation time. Stay organized by setting up a schedule with reminders to record vacation accrual in your books.

How to calculate vacation accrual

Now that you know more about vacation accrual accounting, you need to know how to calculate accrued time off. Follow the steps below to calculate accrued vacation pay for each employee:

  1. Calculate the earned vacation time from the beginning of a period. You can maintain this information in a database, such as a timekeeping or payroll software.
  2. Add the number of vacation hours earned.
  3. Subtract the number of vacation hours used by the employee.
  4. Multiply the number of accrued vacation hours by the employee’s hourly rate to get the total vacation accrual you should list in your books.

Example of calculating vacation accrual

Let’s say an employee has 50 hours of unused vacation time. The employee receives an additional five hours of vacation time and used 10 hours during the month.

The accrued total is 45 hours (50 hours + 5 additional hours – 10 hours used). The employee makes $20 per hour. The total vacation accrual would be $900 (45 hours x $20 per hour).

How to accrue vacation time

Recording journal entries

After you calculate the vacation time accrued for each employee, you will need to record them in your business’s books. Be sure to record vacation accrued at the end of your accounting period.

You will debit one account and credit the opposite account. The accounts you debit and credit depend on if the vacation is accrued or used by the employee.

Adding vacation accrual

When adding in vacation accrual, you will debit your Vacation Expense account and credit your Vacation Payable account.

Credit Vacation Payable because vacation accrual is considered a liability. Liabilities are increased by credits and decreased by debits. Record the opposite by debiting the Vacation Expense account.

Date Account Notes Debit Credit
XX/XX/XXXX Vacation Expense Vacation accrued X
Vacation Payable X

Account for any accrued vacation time by creating journal entries. When the employee uses vacation days, you must reverse the accrual in your books with an additional journal entry.

Employee uses vacation time

After an employee uses or cashes out vacation time, you will create a journal entry by debiting your Vacation Payable account and crediting the Cash Account.

Cash is an asset account, which increases by a debit and decreases by a credit. You will decrease your Cash account since an employee is using or cashing out their vacation time.

Date Account Notes Debit Credit
XX/XX/XXXX Vacation Payable Vacation used X
Cash X

Examples of vacation accrual journal entries

Record a journal entry when you add vacation accrued.

Using the example about calculating vacation accrual, find out how to record journal entries.

The employee accrued 45 hours and makes $20 per hour. The total vacation accrual would be $900 (45 hours x $20 per hour).

Record $900 as a journal entry by debiting Vacation Expense and crediting Vacation Payable.

Date Account Notes Debit Credit
XX/XX/XXXX Vacation Expense 900
Vacation Payable Vacation accrued 900

Say the same employee wants to use 5 hours of accrued vacation time. Record $100 as a journal entry by debiting Vacation Payable and crediting the Cash account (5 hours x $20 per hour).

Date Account Notes Debit Credit
XX/XX/XXXX Vacation Payable 100
Cash Vacation used 100

Need a simple way to record your business’s journal entries for accrued vacation time? Patriot’s online accounting software is easy to use and designed for small business owners. Try it for free today!

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

To calculate the number of accrued vacation the employee earned, divide their hours worked by 30 (1,500 / 30). The employee earned 50 hours of vacation time. Next, subtract the number of hours the employee used from what they earned (50 – 10). The employee has 40 hours of accrued vacation time.

What is accrual for time off?

Accrued time off is PTO that workers earn over time. It’s different from lump-sum PTO, for instance, wherein a worker receives all their PTO at once. With accrued time off, workers earn PTO hours each week, pay period, or month. Generally, companies cap the number of PTO hours a worker can accrue in a year.

Can a company deny you vacation?

Employers are allowed to deny requests for vacation at specific times due to operational reasons. If the employer and employee can’t agree on the employee’s vacation time, the employer can decide when it will be taken.

How to calculate vacation time accrual for employees?

Here are the steps to determine how much vacation time you want employees to accrue: 1. Decide How Much PTO to Provide Employees Annually The first step to calculate a PTO accrual is to determine how many days or hours per year you want to grant your employees.

What are the rules for accruing vacation time?

Most companies prefer easier leave time tracking and vacation accrual rules. However, special requirements are not uncommon. Vacation accrual mechanisms differ from company to company. Accrual rules can have multiple parameters, so let’s take a look at the most popular options. Accrual period.

Which is the best tool for vacation accrual?

When selecting a tool for automated vacation accrual, there are a few things you should definitely keep in mind: Rich data review options. actiPLANS offers a smooth way of time-off calculation and leave request management.

What to consider when setting a vacation policy?

One more factor to take into consideration when creating a vacation policy is to determine whether you feel that your business has key employees. If that is the case, you may want to construct separate policies to keep those employees satisfied for the good of the enterprise, Kane says.

Here are the steps to determine how much vacation time you want employees to accrue: 1. Decide How Much PTO to Provide Employees Annually The first step to calculate a PTO accrual is to determine how many days or hours per year you want to grant your employees.

Most companies prefer easier leave time tracking and vacation accrual rules. However, special requirements are not uncommon. Vacation accrual mechanisms differ from company to company. Accrual rules can have multiple parameters, so let’s take a look at the most popular options. Accrual period.

When do you reverse a vacation accrual journal entry?

When the employee uses vacation days, you must reverse the accrual in your books with an additional journal entry. After an employee uses or cashes out vacation time, you will create a journal entry by debiting your Vacation Payable account and crediting the Cash Account.

Is there a cap on vacation time accrued?

In addition, many employers offer several days of paid bereavement leave when a close family member dies. However, this is often not mandated by law. Don’t let your vacation time reach its “cap”. Most workplaces have a “cap” on the amount of vacation time that can be accrued.

How to accrue vacation time

Summer and early fall are popular times for vacation requests. From small businesses to large corporations, organizations of all sizes will have to field a number of time-off requests from employees. If you haven’t implemented a strategy to calculate vacation pay for hourly employees, it can feel like a daunting task. Read onward to learn how to accurately calculate vacation pay for hourly employees.

1. Determine how much paid time off your employees can earn

The federal government doesn’t require employers to offer paid time off (PTO) to hourly employees, but most companies opt to offer paid time off. On average, hourly employees with a year of experience typically qualify for 11 days of PTO a year.

Allowing employees to take paid time off is a great way to increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and decrease turnover rates. It also attracts better-qualified candidates and reduces revenue risks associated with turnover. But let’s get back to the question at hand: how many paid days off are your employees eligible for? To start calculating vacation pay, determine what you’re willing to offer and what you can afford.

2. Decide how hourly employees are eligible for vacation time

Now that you know how much vacation time you can provide, determine how employees become eligible for PTO. A common practice is to wait until an employee has completed 90 days, or the equivalent number of hours, of work before they become eligible. However, some companies are offering vacation time upfront.

If your company has a high turnover rate, or largely hires seasonal employees, you may want to implement an accrual policy for earned PTO. This way your business will be safeguarded from paying for large amounts of vacation time to employees who may turn in their two-week notice shortly after taking PTO.

3. Crunch the numbers

Once you’ve settled on the number of PTO days you’re willing to offer and how employees are eligible to receive them, you can start calculating how much PTO they’ve earned. Let’s examine a common example to reduce complications.

Tom is a full-time hourly employee who can earn up to two weeks’ PTO. Tom’s total PTO equals 80 paid hours a year, or about 4% of the maximum hours he could work over 52 weeks, not counting overtime. But why 4% a year? This percentage is Tom’s rate of PTO accrual. This is the key to properly calculating PTO for hourly employees. Let the numbers reflect your employee as if they’re working, despite being paid to be on vacation. If they’re getting paid for a full eight hours, they’re using earned time whether they’re actually in the office and on the clock or not.

4. Calculate the vacation pay formula

Let’s look at our example employee, Tom, to figure out a vacation pay formula. Divide Tom’s total hours of PTO allowed per year (in this case, 80) by the total number of hours he is expected to work in a year. Tom works 40 hours a week and gets paid biweekly, so he can work 2,080 hours each year.

80 hours divided by 2,080 hours is 3.85%, which rounds to our 4% rate of accrual. So for every hour Tom works, he also earns 0.0385 hours of PTO. Based on his rate of accrual, Tom will earn $1,200 in gross wages and $46.15 towards his vacation time per pay period.

It may seem complicated, but it’s easy to check your math. Multiply the employee’s estimated vacation pay (in this case, $46.15) for the pay period by how many paychecks they receive per year (in this case, 26). If your calculation is close to what their total paid vacation time is worth ($1,200 for 80 hours) you’re doing the math right.

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For every 40 hours worked, the employee can accrue 1 hour of paid leave. If the employee saved all paid free time during the year, he would have about 52 hours in a year to use. Assuming this employee works an average 8 hour shift, this would be reduced to 6.5 days of total PTO during the year.

In this article :

How much vacation time is normal?

How to accrue vacation time

The BLS reports: Workers with one year of experience have an average of 11 days of paid vacation. Employees with five years of experience have an average of 15 days of vacation. Read also : How to calculate vacation time. Workers with 10 and 20 years in office have on average 17 and 20 days respectively.

Is the 15-day PTO good? 8. How much free time should new hires receive? New hires typically receive between 5-10 days of vacation. In some companies, particularly those that administer PTO plans that include sick and personal days, 10-15 days are more common.

How many vacation days is normal? The average paid vacation days per year for employees who have worked in a company for 1-5 years is 10 days. Employees who have worked in a company for 5-10 years receive an average of 15 days of vacation. The average number of vacation days received by employees who worked in a company between 10-20 years is 17.

How many holidays should you take per year? Ideally, you should make at least two longer trips a year, plus a few other smaller trips. The total amount you should spend on vacation is 30-45 days a year. I know that getting a month off a year may seem difficult for some, but it is a very effective way to stay healthy, live happier and longer.

How many days is 70 hours of PTO?

Print version 5 hours
70 14
75 15
80 16

How many days are 52 PTO hours? 1 hour x 52 weeks (1 hour per 40 hour week based on 52 weeks in a year) This brings the total to 52 hours of PTO. To see also : How does vacation time accrue. To see how many days instead of hours the employee qualifies for PTO, simply take 52 (weeks) and divide by the amount of hours worked per day. Example: 52/8 = 6.5 days.

Is 2 week notice 10 or 14 days?

Typically, a two-week notice means 10 business days, and you can give it anytime during the week you want. However, keep in mind that employers can manage it however they want; your boss is free to tell you that he doesn’t need you to work all two weeks and that your last day will be this Friday or even today.

Is two weeks’ notice two full weeks? Key Takeaway. Two weeks’ notice is the advance notice you give your employer that you will resign from your job. … Your employer may allow you to work for the full two weeks or may ask you to stay longer (which you can refuse to do). On the other hand, they may ask you to leave immediately, so be prepared.

How long does a 2 week notice last? As a professional courtesy, you should always give your employer two weeks’ notice, which means ten business days, before the last chosen day. Technically, there’s nothing stopping you from immediately quitting and never coming back, but you don’t want to leave your employer with a bad taste in your mouth.

Is 3 weeks vacation 15 days or 21 days?

Employers often describe paid vacation as a specific number of days or weeks. If your employer gives you three weeks of paid vacation, remember that this is usually “working weeks” and not calendar weeks. Three weeks of paid leave translates into 15 days of paid leave, not 21.

Is 3 weeks of PTO long? The average American employee of a small business can expect to earn an extra 3-4 days of PTO for every 5 years of service with an employer, according to the BLS. … According to the feds, when you worked 10 years with the same employer, you already pocketed three weeks of paid vacation.

When should an employee have 3 weeks of vacation? Ground Rules Employees are entitled to these minimum paid leave: 2 paid weeks after each of the first 4 years of work. 3 weeks paid after 5 consecutive years of work.

Is annual leave the same as vacation time?

Holidays. The essential difference between the two is that the PTO covers any paid time away from work where the employee is not working; on the contrary, vacation time refers to the paid free time that is taken by the employee to take a break with or without the family. It is generally requested (and approved) in advance.

What does annual leave mean? Annual leave is paid leave from work provided by an employer, which an employee can take for any reason of his or her choice.

What is the difference between annual leave and vacation? The annual leave program provides eligible employees with a combined pool of “annual leave” credits instead of separate vacation and sick leave credits. Annual leave covers the same types of absences that would otherwise be covered by vacation or sick leave.

How do you calculate accrued vacation?

To calculate the number of vacation accrued by the employee, divide the hours worked by 30 (1,500 / 30). The employee earned 50 hours of vacation. Then, subtract the number of hours the employee used from what they earned (50 – 10). The employee has 40 hours of accrued vacation.

What is the formula for the accrual of holidays? To calculate the number of accrued vacation that the employee has earned, divide the hours worked by 30 (1,500 / 30). The employee earned 50 hours of vacation. Then, subtract the number of hours the employee used from what they earned (50 – 10). The employee has 40 hours of accrued vacation.

What is the holiday accrual? For the purposes of accruing holidays, full-time means working 40 hours a week, all 12 months of the year (40 times 52 weeks = 2,080 hours). Formula: Divide your annual hours by 2,080 to determine your% FTE. Then, multiply your FTE% by the accrual rate by your level of employment and years of service.

How many days holiday do you accrue per month?

Write down how many days you worked, including holidays. Divide this number by 12 and you will be left with one number. This number represents the number of vacation days you are entitled to per month. So, if you’ve been working 28 days a month, divide that by 12 and you’re left with 2.33.

How many vacation days do you accumulate per month? Calculation of vacation accrual – 1.25 days per month or 1.5 days per month. If the employee works a five-day week, the annual leave will accrue at the rate of 1.25 days per month, and if the employee works a six-day week, the annual leave will accrue at the rate of 1.5 days per month.

How are accrued holidays calculated? The basic way to calculate how many vacation days an employee is entitled to is to multiply the number of days a week he works by 5.6. This gives someone who works a five day week the 28 days we have already mentioned. Those who are part-time and only work three days a week would be entitled to 3 x 5.6 = 16.8 days.

Vacation and paid time off (PTO) are considered “vested” benefits under California law, so employees must be paid out all accrued but unused vacation and PTO along with their final wages.

Vacation/PTO payout at termination must be prorated on a daily basis and must be paid at the final rate of pay in effect as of the date of the separation.


The California Labor Commissioner gives this example of how to calculate the daily proration on termination of employment:

An employee who is entitled to three weeks of annual vacation (15 work days entitlement per year x 8 hours/day = 120 hours vacation entitlement per year) who quits on August 7 (the 219th day of the year) without having taken any vacation during the year, who has no vacation carryover from prior years, and whose final rate of pay is $13 per hour, would be entitled to $936 vacation pay upon separation, calculated as follows:

• 219 days (August 7, date of quit) ÷ 365 days/year = 60%

• 60% of 120 hours vacation entitlement = 72 hours vacation earned and accrued through August 7

• Vacation days used = 0

• Vacation earned but not taken at time of separation = 72 hours

• 72 hours x $13/hour = $936 vacation pay due at separation.

Pay Out All Time Accrued

It is important to note that all accrued vacation/PTO must be paid out at termination even if the employee was not yet eligible to actually use the vacation/PTO time.

For example, an employer might have a policy that an employee who begins accruing vacation at the beginning of employment is not permitted to use that vacation time until after six months or a year of continuous service. If that employee quits or is terminated after just a few months of employment, the prorated vacation/PTO balance still must be paid out since it is a vested benefit that belongs to the employee.

Note that sick leave which is kept separate and not combined into any type of PTO plan is not a vested benefit and therefore does not need to be paid out at termination.

"How much vacation time do employees get?" The answer is that it depends on the company or organization you're employed by. There isn't a set amount, because employers are not required to provide vacation leave either with pay or unpaid.

Some employers give vacation time to only full-time employees. Others grant vacation time to all employees. Still, others offer pro-rated vacation, depending on your work schedule and employment status.

Who Gets Vacation Pay

Federal law does not provide for vacation pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick time, or holidays. Therefore, employees are not legally entitled to paid vacation time or paid holidays off from work.

Vacation pay is based upon an agreement between an employer and an employee, either a collective bargaining agreement, company policy, or employment contract. The agreement or company policy will determine how much vacation pay you will get if you are entitled to receive it.

Company Vacation Policies

The amount of vacation time any employee receives is determined by company policy, collective bargaining agreements, or even, especially in small companies, an informal agreement between an employee and management.

There are some rules that apply, however. When employers do offer vacation, it has to be offered equitably. So, companies can't discriminate based on race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics when giving time off from work.

Average Amount of Paid Vacation Days

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 73 percent of workers in private industry are provided with paid vacation days. More than three-quarters of workers in sales and office jobs (80 percent), production, transportation, and material moving jobs (80 percent), natural resources, construction, and maintenance jobs (79 percent), and management, professional, and related jobs (76 percent) had access to paid vacation time. Just over half of workers in service occupations (55 percent) had access to paid vacation leave.

Vacation time earned by employees varies by the length of time that they have worked with their employer. The BLS reports:

  • Workers with one year of experience average 11 days of paid vacation.
  • Employees with five years of experience average 15 days of vacation.
  • Workers with 10 and 20 years of tenure average 17 and 20 days respectively.

The 2017 Paid Leave in the Workplace survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefits reports that Paid Time Off (PTO) plans, which would include days off that can be used for a variety of reasons, offer salaried employees 17 days after one year of service, 22 days after five years, 25 days after ten years, and 28 days after 20 years of employment. The survey reports that salary employees receive an average of 12 days of vacation after one year of service, 16 days after five years, 19 days after ten years, and 23 days after 20 years of employment.

The United States lagged behind many other countries in the developed world both in the average vacation time accrued and in the number of vacation days workers actually took according to a survey conducted by Expedia. European countries, Japan, India, Australia, and New Zealand generally averaged 20 – 30 days of paid vacation, while the overall average for the United States was 15 days.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Many employers now lump together vacation time with personal days and sick time to provide a total number of days of paid time off (PTO) from work. This bank of time typically does not include federal holidays which, depending on the employer’s holiday policy, would be additional days off from work. Employees who experience significant or repeated illnesses or family emergencies requiring time away from work may end up with less (or no) vacation time during those years. On the other hand, healthy workers with no personal issues may be able to take more vacation time.’s 2018 Paid Time Off Study white paper reports that the average PTO reported by surveyed U.S. employees is three weeks. 27 percent of employees have one week or less, or none at all. 3.4 percent of surveyed workers have unlimited paid time off. Government workers have the highest accrued time off, averaging 4.2 weeks. Managers earned 19% more PTO than regular employees.

Accrued Vacation Time

Company policy determines how employees earn vacation time. Some companies provide PTO that accrues on a monthly basis or is based on a certain number of hours worked. For example, employees may receive one day per month or 8 hours of leave that they can take off for any reason.

Other companies provide vacation based on years of service. In this case, the employee could be provided with a week for every year of service, up to a maximum number of weeks. If vacation is based on years of service, the employee is usually eligible to take it after they have worked for a year.

Again, the amount earned depends on company policy or the terms of a collective bargaining agreement for covered workers.

Pay for Unused Vacation Time

Depending on company policy, employees may be required to use their vacation during a specific time period, which is known as “use it or lose it,” or they may be able to carry unused vacation or PTO over to future years.

If the company does allow vacation to be accrued there may be limits to how much time can be carried over, and there may be a deadline for using the carried over vacation days.

Recent surveys indicate that employees are struggling to use their allotted vacation time. Given the demands of their jobs, almost half of workers reported that they didn't take the time to which they were entitled.

How to Check Your Vacation Status

When a company is offering you a job, they should let you know how much vacation you are entitled to and when you can start taking it. If you haven't been informed, check with the Human Resources department or with the person who offered you the job. That way, you will know upfront what time you will be able to take off from work.

If you're already working, check with Human Resources (the information may also be available on the company website) for clarification of your vacation status.

Tips for Negotiating Vacation

If the company doesn’t offer vacation time, you may be able to negotiate with your employer to take a certain number of days off. This would most likely be unpaid time off from work.

In addition, if you do receive paid vacation, you may be able to negotiate extra time off, on an unpaid basis, if your employer is flexible.

There are no guarantees, of course, but sometimes it can't hurt to put in a request if you are a well-respected employee.

Experienced workers who are being recruited might be able to negotiate additional vacation time to equal the amount of vacation offered by their current employer (instead of accepting the amount of vacation traditionally awarded to new hires at their target firm).

Laws Regulating Vacation

There are no federal laws regulating vacation, however, depending on the state in which you reside, vacation is considered compensation, and employees must be allowed to accrue vacation or be paid for unused vacation time.