Vacation Rollover Policy Survey and Checklist

Can you carry forward unused vacation days from one year to the next? The concept of rolling over vacation days should be familiar to readers. Workers with permanent full-time jobs are granted a set number of vacation days per year. You may accrue them as the year progresses or receive them all at once at the start of the calendar year. There should be a policy at your work describing when happens when you haven’t taken all your vacation days before the end of the year.

Your time off benefits will most likely be one of the following under the heading of rollover policy.

  1. You might be able to roll over a number of vacation days from one year to the next, up to a fixed maximum number.
  2. Your company may force you to use all your paid vacation days before year end or lose them without pay.

Which type of policy does your employer offer? Do your vacation days expire at the end of the year or can you take remaining days in the new year? It’s possible that you have a combination policy where rolling over a few days is allowed but if you’ve accrued too many, you’ll risk losing them. Another variation is that you’ll just stop earning additional days until you take time off on the books.

Clearly having the option to roll-over as many days as you like without losing PTO that you earned is the ideal benefit. However you’ll have to take a look at your own policy to find out the exact rules or risk losing or stop accruing time off that you plan on taking this year or next.

What is U.S. Rollover Legislation?

Unfortunately there is no national policy covering what is legally required by your employer (no surprise there). The laws vary at the state level with some states offering a bit of vacation pay protection and others silent on the subject. So it pays to know your vacation roll over policy at work and leverage it to your earned time-off advantage.

So what is common practice when it comes to vacation rollover policy? Does the data show any trends? I’m sure you want to know how your job compares with industry and HR policy standards. I’m sure you are curious to find out if your rollover policy is generous or not. Keep reading and don’t forget to participate in this important survey.

Plus what if you lose your job or quit before you take all your PTO? Consult your policy about this important question as the law also varies state-by-state in the USA. In some states earned time off must be treated as wages and gets paid out if you are terminated or give notice. In other states it’s up to your employer to set these rules in the company or organization time off policy or contract of employment.

For example in California, vacation pay is considered the same as wages and therefore can not be forfeited. So employers in California are not supposed to offer a use-it-or-lose-it policy and are legally required to pay out unused vacation time if you quit or are terminated (Source: The useful Employment Law Handbook site has links to vacation leave information on all 50 states so you can research the minimum legal requirement.

Vacation Roll-Over By the Numbers

According to the Society of Human Resource Professionals 62% of organizations allow employees to roll over vacation days with only 8% offering unlimited rollover (Source: SHRM Survey – Unused Vacation Days Can Be Detrimental). These numbers should be much higher, don’t you agree? Put it another way, 38% of employers (that’s more than one-third nationwide) require their staff to take every one of their vacation days or forfeit vacation pay when December 31st arrives.

Since vacation time is considered a financial liability, employers DO want you to take your paid time off. That is why there is little incentive for them to offer a generous rollover policy. For that reason we must all read and follow the rollover rules that apply to our own job situation. Remember that paid time off has a financial value, but only if you don’t lose vacation days by being proactive and following this advice.

The VacationCounts philosophy is to take all your time off every year and never lose or have to roll over days into the new year.

Is that your goal as well? Of course there are occasionally situations when you want to extend your Christmas and New Year’s holidays into the first week of January. That could require a day or two from the previous year to make the time off add up. Also when you miscalculate how many days you have left or run into an unusual situation in your life late in the year, getting permission to roll over may be the only practical solution.

Survey: Your Vacation Leave Rollover Policy

Survey Box graphic

The purpose of this HR benefits survey is to give Americans the information they need to offer and benefit from an optimal PTO carry-over policy at work. For HR professionals, that means knowing what’s common across industries and standard practices. For people employed full-time, that means knowing how to understand their own roll-over policy and as a reminder to make the most of their earned time off.

Please take a minute to answer each question below and then click the link to view the results when you are done. Please do not fill out the survey more than once.

Vacation Roll-Over Survey Results

The survey results are open to the public and can be viewed after you answer each of the 6 questions. The survey is hosted by Google Forms and does not collect any private or personal data. The link to view the survey data results graphs appears after you check the boxes and click the submit button. The summary results chart will be updated over time as people share their answers and trends emerge.

Click the infographic below to view, save, and print the vacation rollover policy report in PDF format.

Vacation Rollover Survey Infographic(survey charts)
Vacation Rollover Survey – Responses Report

Employee Rollover Review Checklist

Refer to this checklist at least once a year so that you can leverage your vacation carry-over policy effectively and never accidentally lose a paid day off from work. Regardless of how you use your vacation days, your goal should be to maximize your work-life-vacation balance this year and every year!

Follow this list to maximize your vacation rollover policy:

  • Do you review the roll over policy in the HR benefits handbook each year to make sure the rules have not changed? Set a calendar reminder mid-year to double check.
  • Have you implemented a monthly plan to ensure that you are going to be able to use every vacation day before the year is over?
  • As the December approaches (preferably no later than September or October) do you sit down and calculate your annual vacation day usage? This includes how many vacation days you’ve used, how many you’ve accrued, and how many more you’ll earn before the end of the year? The VacationCounts web app can help!
  • Do you promptly report discrepancies between your vacation tracking sheet (e.g. if you are using the Vacation Days Tracker spreadsheet) and your paycheck stub or benefits web portal to your manager or HR representative to fix any mistakes right away?
  • If you have a paid time off (PTO) bank of days off at your company, do you save enough sick and personal days for later in the year, keeping in mind the rollover policy?
  • Do you actively remind your co-workers to take their time off and not risk losing it to the roll-over policy? Be a good friend and colleague.
  • Do you take the opportunity (if given) to roll over a day or two so you do not have to head back to work right after celebrating the New Year holiday?
  • Do you offer input to your HR department about how the rollover policy can be improved and communicated to benefit all employees?
  • Do you allocate your time off numbers (vacation, holiday, personal, floating, bonus) using the VacationCounts web app to schedule all your time off before year end?

Vacation Rollover Resources for HR Professionals

Human resource professionals can refer to these links to useful online articles about vacation rollover policy which offers even more detailed advice on the subject. Since laws vary by state in the U.S., you will want to consult with a knowledgeable labor attorney or expert if you are responsible for creating and communicating the rollover policy at your company.

Jumping over the rolling ball

Rollover Work-Life Balance Advice from VacationCounts

10 Ways to Take Your Use It Or Lose It Vacation Days

Top 15 Time Off Employment Benefits to ask HR

5 Reasons NOT to Rollover Your Vacation Days

Vacation Leave Survey Disclaimer

This is not a scientific survey and therefore the results are only representative of the people who participated. For more information, refer to the links in the reference section and consult with an attorney or Human Resources professional for legal and HR policy advice. Thank you for taking the time to add your input and sharing our vacation day roll-over survey with your friends and colleagues.