A productive workforce is the ultimate win for your business; offering paid time off helps you attract and retain qualified people.
Paid time off (PTO) is a core employee benefit that promotes work-life balance. It enables employees to take time off from work to handle personal affairs or to rejuvenate their minds and bodies. This increases employee productivity plus reduces work-related stress and burnout. It also decreases employee financial anxiety since the time away is paid.
A productive workforce is the ultimate win for your business. Along with that, offering paid time off helps you attract and retain qualified people. With such irresistible incentives to offer PTO, you’re likely doing so already. And if you’re not, you may want to start.
To help you gauge how much PTO you should provide, we share recent data on average PTO days in the United States. But first, let’s define PTO.
What is PTO?
PTO is paid time off that employers offer employees to use for whatever personal reason they see fit or for specific purposes. Most commonly, PTO covers:
- Vacation time
- Sick time
Depending on the PTO structure, paid time off may also include:
- Personal time
- Bereavement leave
- Maternity leave
- Paternity leave
- Family and medical leave
- Federal holidays
In this article, we primarily focus on average PTO as it relates to vacation and sick time. To determine average PTO, we collected the most recent data from sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Zippia, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Average PTO: BLS
In March 2021, after 1 year of service, private-sector workers received an average of:
- 11 paid vacation days per year
- 7 paid sick days per year
Below are PTO averages after 5, 10, and 20 years of service:
|PTO Type||After 5 Years of Service||After 10 Years of Service||After 20 Years of Service|
|Vacation||15 days||17 days||20 days|
|Sick||7 days||7 days||7 days|
As you can see, employees receive more paid vacation days than paid sick days per year.
Government workplaces tend to offer more PTO days than private-sector workplaces. The chart below illustrates this.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
In a separate report on only paid vacation leave, the BLS reports the following averages (for private industry workers):
- 34% received 10-14 vacation days after 1 year
- 32% received 15-19 vacation days after 5 years
- 33% received 15-19 vacation days after 10 years
- 29% received 20-24 vacation days after 20 years
Average PTO: Zippia
According to a 2022 report by Zippia, “The average amount of PTO in America is 10 days each year.”
Employees in larger companies and/or working for the same company for many years usually receive more PTO than those in smaller companies or with less tenure.
The average PTO (vacation and sick time) based on length of service is as follows:
- 10 days, after 1 year
- 15 days, after 5 years
- 17 days, after 10 years
- 20 days, after 20 years
Zippia states that employees in larger companies and/or working for the same company for many years usually receive more PTO than those in smaller companies or with less tenure.
- Employees with 20+ years of service for companies with 100+ workers receive an average of 23 PTO days per year.
- Employees with 1 year of service for companies with 1-99 workers receive an average of 9 PTO days per year.
Average PTO: SHRM
According to SHRM research, consolidated PTO plans provide an average of 13-26 PTO days per year, based on length of service. This PTO structure offers 1 total amount for PTO that employees can use for multiple purposes – such as vacation, sick, personal, bereavement, etc.
Traditional PTO plans, on the other hand, provide an average of:
8-22 vacation days per year
- 7-19 sick days per year
- 4 personal days per year
Traditional PTO allocates paid time off separately for specific uses, such as vacation, sick, and personal time.
Summing up average PTO
If you’re having trouble remembering the PTO averages we’ve stated thus far, no worries — below, we summarize salient points.
- 11 vacation days after 1 year of service
- 7 sick days after 1 year of service
- 10 PTO days per year
- 13-26 PTO days for consolidated plans
- 8-22 vacation days for traditional plans
- 7-19 sick days for traditional plans
- 4 personal days for traditional plans
How many employees have access to PTO?
The BLS said in March 2021:
- 77% of private industry workers had access to paid sick leave
- 77% of civilian workers had access to paid vacation leave. This includes workers in the private industry plus state and local governments.
- 79% of civilian workers had access to paid holidays.
- 27% of full-time (private industry) workers and 11% of part-time workers had access to paid family leave.
The BLS notes that access to paid vacation varies by worker and establishment characteristics. The chart below reveals the level of access based on industry.
How many employers offer PTO?
According to SHRM’s 2022 Employee Benefits Survey:
- 99% of employers offered paid vacation time.
- 96% of employers offered paid sick time.
- Only 6% of the employers provided paid open or unlimited PTO.
What is the most common PTO structure?
The race is between consolidated PTO and traditional PTO, and the latter appears to be winning — at least in the private sector.
Per the SHRM survey, consolidated PTO plans have gained enormous momentum and have surpassed traditional plans in terms of adoption. Specifically, 67% of private-sector employers offered a PTO bank system that covers both vacation and sick time.
The BLS research found that 55% “of private-sector workers had access to plans that provide a single amount of time off for workers to use for multiple purposes, such as vacation, illness, or personal leave, referred to as consolidated leave plans.”
How much PTO should you offer?
Many factors drive the number of PTO days a company should provide. They include the following:
- Any state or local laws requiring paid time off, such as paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave. (Federal law does not require private-sector employers to offer PTO.)
- Applicable emergency paid time off mandates
- PTO structure, meaning consolidated or traditional
- How much PTO your employees likely need
- Current PTO utilization rates
- How much PTO you can afford to provide
- How much PTO your competitors are offering
- National PTO averages (such as those stated in this article)
- Full-time versus part-time employees
- PTO eligibility criteria
- What to put in your PTO policy
- Whether you’re required by law to pay out PTO upon termination
- The impact of PTO on your talent attraction and retention rates. These metrics can help inform key decisions — such as whether to offer more PTO or whether to extend PTO to part-time employees as well.
- What happens if employees don’t use all of their PTO. You may need to consider state law when answering this question.
The race is between consolidated PTO and traditional PTO, and the latter appears to be winning,
Here’s help for making your decision
This is a lot to absorb. The following resources from Workest can give you a head start:
- The PTO Guide. Everything You Need to Know to Create a PTO Policy for Happy, Engaged Employees. This guide is ideal for learning the basics of PTO and deciding whether you should offer it.
- How Much Paid Time Off (PTO) Is Enough? Includes various types of PTO plus best practices for determining how much PTO is sufficient.
- What Is the Average Number of Sick Days in the U.S.? Although this resource primarily focuses on sick days, much of the information can also be applied to PTO.
The bottom line
When deciding how much PTO to offer, think about national PTO averages and the factors outlined above. Your PTO policy can be one of your best employee attraction and retention tools.