How to Manage PTO for Remote Workers [Updated for 2022]



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Paid Time Off and Absence Management

Remote work is quickly becoming the norm. In fact, according to a recent Swipeclock survey, 55% of small businesses are now remote. For many companies large and small, work from home may become a permanent option.

Why the change in attitude about remote work? For one thing, there are continuing COVID safety concerns. For example, some employees may be at a greater risk because of their age or health situation.

Another issue is childcare and elder care. Many employees need to be physically present in their home to care for children or other family members.

Additionally, you may have employees who now go directly to job sites where they do not always have direct oversight. These employees may have previously come to an equipment yard or ride share location to check in before traveling together to a site. Now, that procedure may be different.

How do you handle leave for remote workers?

First of all, employers who offer paid vacation or sick leave need to track it for payroll, compliance and employee morale. Make your leave policy work for all of your employees—regardless of where they park their keyboard or otherwise perform their jobs.

First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about.

How is PTO (Paid Time Off) Different Than Traditional Leave?

Traditional leave categorizes the type of absence. For example, sick days, personal days, and vacation. Each category may have a different time allocation and accrual. They may have different rules for requesting time and the minimum/maximum time allowed per request. It’s important to note that it is more complicated for employers to administer traditional leave. It also may encourage workers to come to work sick or take unscheduled leave—situations that cause further workforce disruption.

PTO, in contrast, refers to paid leave that isn’t categorized. In the past few decades, many companies have adopted the PTO model. Employees still have an allocation and an accrual method, but they do not have to report why they are taking time off. This gives employees greater control over their time, while potentially reducing surprises.

A Step-by-Step Guide for Managing Leave For Remote Workers

  1. Create and document your policy
  2. Communicate your policy
  3. Use PTO tracking software
  4. Apply the policy consistently

1. Create Your Policy

First, create your PTO policy. This Swipeclock article gives detailed guidance: How To Create a PTO Policy For Your Business.

You will have to address the following:

  • How much PTO should I provide?
  • Do my competitors provide more PTO?
  • Does earned PTO roll over from year to year?
  • Will PTO increase with tenure?
  • Does our company give a set amount at the first of the year? or
  • Do employees accrue PTO throughout the year?
  • How do employees request PTO?
  • What are employees required to do so their work is covered while they are gone?
  • How will I make sure PTO doesn’t affect FMLA compliance?
  • Can workers flex their work hours to avoid taking PTO (for example, a dental exam)?

Remote work potentially provides greater schedule flexibility for employees, which can pay dividends for your company. However, it requires greater trust and verification. Timekeeping systems with an automated PTO tracker can help ensure that both employer and employees get a fair shake.

2. Communicate Your Policy

Certainly, include your policy in your employee handbook. Announce the new policy and provide an easy way for your employees to review the handbook.

Require every employee to read the new handbook. In addition, your HR team and payroll provider must understand the policy so they can administer it.

During employee onboarding, require each new hire to sign an agreement. Their signature verifies that they acknowledge that they understand the policy and pledge to abide by it. Basically, they are promising not to abuse it. This is important for enforcement and legal compliance. For example, you fire an employee because they abuse your policy, you want documentation.

By all means, make sure your employees can access your employee handbook at any time. Employee self-service portals are the easiest way to handle this. Employees can check the policy from the HR dashboard. A mobile app makes this process even more convenient.

3. Use a Good PTO Tracking System

Automated timekeeping with PTO tracking is a must. Especially if PTO increases with tenure or hours worked. Certainly, calculating it with spreadsheets is difficult.

Many small businesses turn to Excel spreadsheets for PTO. Managers enter attendance data into spreadsheets. Then they run formulas based on the policy. Indeed, this approach can be labor intensive and fraught with errors.

4. Apply The Policy Consistently

Make sure managers understand that they have to approve requests equally. If you discover that a manager is playing favorites, take appropriate action. Other employees will notice, and it won’t be pretty.

What Happens if PTO is Mishandled?

Any type of payroll mistake costs money. Errors in PTO tracking, specifically, can cost the company in extra paid time off. In addition, time used by HR and the employee to correct problems adds up.

Even more importantly, employees can lose trust. Your team expects accurate PTO tracking. Morale plummets if there are problems. Furthermore, if employees aren’t happy, it affects their work. It could affect the way they treat your clients.

PTO tracker software automates the process. Automation ensures that you are calculating leave accurately. Cloud-based management tools are easy to use. They are cheaper than ever. There are systems designed for businesses of every size and shape.

How Does PTO Tracking Software Work?

PTO trackers sync with time and attendance. You customize the settings according to your policy. As employees clock in and clock out, work time accumulates. The system calculates PTO based on recorded time.

PTO tracking systems ensure that all employees are treated the same. It centralizes PTO information for administrators. It provides a formal way for employees to request time off. And employees can check their accruals at any time.

Given that the vast majority of US workers have smartphones, you can reasonably required PTO requests to be made through a mobile app. The PTO request process will be dramatically easier if your employees can review their time off balance, submit a request and get a confirmation through the app. Managers will appreciate how much more streamlined the process is and how they can see how time off requests affect the work schedule.

PTO Tracking has Huge Benefits

Let’s recap the benefits of automated PTO tracking. Paid Time Off tracking:

  1. Ensures equitable PTO for all employees
  2. Provides a formal way for employees to request time off
  3. Helps managers keep track of employee vacations
  4. When synced with scheduling, it helps you avoid shift coverage gaps
  5. Allows employees to check their PTO balance without calling HR

PTO tracking syncs with a time and attendance system. A timekeeping system creates accountability. All employees—salaried or hourly—should track their hours. This is not because you don’t trust them. You can’t have a remote work policy in the first place if you don’t trust them.

PTO software will help you administer a valued benefit. Your remote workers and in-office workers can count on receiving the paid leave they have earned. In addition, your managers will have an easy way to track time off requests. Finally, your HR team won’t have to mess with spreadsheets. Everybody wins.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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