New perk for employees allows them to buy & sell vacation time

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Want more time off work to hang out at the beach? Need a little cash and have vacation days to spare?

Some companies allow their workers to buy and sell vacation time, a perk that gives workers more flexibility in managing their time off.

It’s a growing trend to give workers more flexibility in managing their own time. According to a soon-to-be released survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, about 9 percent of employers currently allow employees to exchange unused vacation days for money. That’s compared to 5 percent, who allow employees to buy more vacation time using a payroll deduction.

“When times are a little tight, this benefit really doesn’t cost a lot of extra money to employers to provide,” said Julie Stich, research director for the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. “It’s offered by more forward thinking or flexible-type employers.”

The Society for Human Resource Management found an additional 7 percent of employers allowed employees to donate vacation time to a general pool that can be used by other workers.

The approach is even more popular with employers that have “paid time off” or PTO plans that combine vacation time, sick leave and personal days into one comprehensive plan. About 52 percent of employers reported offering such plans. Of those, 19 percent offered a cash-out option, and 15 percent offered a donation program. One percent give their workers unlimited time off.

The cost is usually one week’s salary, prorated over the course of the year. Employees often have to decide whether to participate during an annual fall enrollment process and it becomes part of their benefits for the upcoming year.