I thought that it was equivalent to compassionate leave (ie the days you are allowed off when someone in your family dies) but one of the conversations on the board made me think I'm wrong.

And now.. it's REALLY bugging me!


bffranklin's picture


A lot of employers in the US recognize that sometimes you just need a day off (be it for appointments, just to get out of the office, etc.) and don't want to make you have to lie about being ill. Hence, the personal day.

tlhausmann's picture

My rule of thumb is that a personal day requires no explanation for the boss.

I have never asked why they are taking the day.

jhack's picture

Yes, in the US, it is a day the employee can use for whatever purpose they choose. Unlike sick days, and like vacation, it must be planned in advance.

It is used for funerals, golfing, religious holidays, or tacking on an extra vacation day.


tcomeau's picture

It depends.

Some CBAs define "personal days" as different from sick days, in that you can take a small number (typically 2-4) days by calling in to notify the boss you won't be reporting for work, but you don't claim to be sick. In some companies (and in some CBAs) the second or third day you call in sick, you have to get a doctor's note in order to come back, to prove you were sick. The personal day lets you just take the day off without pre-scheduling the day (as you must for vacations days.)

I forget the exact rules, but my brother is an air traffic controller and the FAA prefers that controllers not show up if they're not sick, but also not in the right mindset to direct air traffic. They prefer you be awake, alert, and generally have a positive outlook on life. So you can take a personal day or two just by calling in early enough for a replacement to arrive. (But if you do that too often, they'll suggest a career change.)

There is also a newer practice of giving 15 or so days a year of "personal leave" that includes vacation and sick leave, and making no real distinction between the two. The expectation in most cases is that if you plan to be away for more than a day or two, you need to schedule the time in advance, but you can take a day or two as "personal days" without advance notice, and not bother to explain if it was sick time or a sunny day.

My employer gives us three personal holidays, which have to be taken as whole, 8-hour days. (Unlike vacation, which can be taking in 30-minute chunks.) Officially we're supposed to pre-schedule any time we're away; in practice you get in trouble only if you're out more than a couple of days.

We have a separate process for birth, adoption, serious illness or death of a family member (with screwy definitions for family member) that falls under "special leave" and is given at the discretion of the Institute Director.


HMac's picture

wendii - one reason behind the trend toward more "personal days" has been taking away the designation of some traditional holidays - like Good Friday, or some newer less universally accepted ones, like Martin Luther King Day. If I remember correctly, Good Friday is still a holiday in the UK, although not Martin Luther King Day (but having his statue over the door at Westminster Abbey is PRETTY COOL 8) ).

Anyway, what's happened with some companies is they announce the annual paid holiday schedule, and while they "undesignate" some, they announce the availability of personal days as recompense.


jhack's picture

And some companies have "Floating Hollidays" (we have 2) that employees can use for Yom Kippur, Ramadan, Good Friday, Festivus, Kwanzaa, etc, as befits their observances...


tcomeau's picture

[quote="jhack"]And some companies have "Floating Hollidays" ... as befits their observances...

Oh, yes. We have a few people who always take Opening Day off. (Church of Baseball.)


wendii's picture

Thanks for the explanations everyone.

I think 'I just didn't feel like working today' days would be quite dangerous! But using them for religious holidays that arn't national holidays makes sense.

I feel less bugged now. Thanks!


stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="wendii"]I think 'I just didn't feel like working today' days would be quite dangerous! But using them for religious holidays that arn't national holidays makes sense.[/quote]

I've heard of companies that allow up to a certain number of 'Duvet Days' a year, so called because you use them on the days you just can't face coming to work and want to pull the duvet up over your head and block out the world. Presumably these would be a special case form of personal days.

From comments made by friends in the US I'd gotten the impression that personal days in general were for the sort of things that you might not be able to predict in advance where you need to take a day off at short notice such as burst pipes, inclement weather, car broke down, expecting a delivery, your kid's school closed for the day and you haven't been able to arrange childcare &c.


bflynn's picture

In the US, I don't think there is agreement even here. Its not even the same within industries or regions. I have heard it called floating holidays and/or sick leave. I personally don't believe it to be either.

To me, a personal day is a selfish thing and has a negative bent to it. It is time where you just need to do something other than work - take care of a personal business matter, take your children around somewhere, whatever. Something that isn't sick time, isn't holiday or vacation and isn't "approved" personal time, such as jury duty. It could be a personal "mental health" day, which someone also called a duvet day.

There are different levels of this. If you're dealing with buying a house, everyone knows you'll be out of the office for an afternoon for closing. That is a personal day and not entirely bad, I hope we can afford to allow this once every 10 years.

But some people abuse it, such as taking their pet to the veterinarian once a month. Excessive (a judgement) use of time off has given it a bad name. In the MT world it warrants feedback after the first "unexcused" (another judgement) incident.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="bflynn"]But some people abuse it, such as taking their pet to the veterinarian once a month. Excessive (a judgement) use of time off has given it a bad name. In the MT world it warrants feedback after the first "unexcused" (another judgement) incident.[/quote]

If someone is making excessive use of personal days then some sort of feedback is almost certainly in order, possibly something like "When you take a personal day every month here's what happens, it really impacts on our team performance, makes us look bad and cuts down the money I have for bonuses and pay rises next year. What can you do differently?"

I'd be wary of giving feedback on the first "unexcused" (which I take to mean not arranged in advance) instance as feedback is about behaviour and, so far as I can tell, has an implicit expectation that the perceived behaviour is under that person's control. You're asking "What could [b]you[/b] do differently?" not "What could be done differently?" Giving feedback for a single instance runs the risk of a response like "Well, I guess I could not care about my kids education and when their principal calls me at 8am to ask me to come in and see them at 08:45 I could tell them I won't!" or "Well, I guess I could let my house fill with water when I wake up to a burst pipe that's flood the ground floor rather than wait in for the plumber to arrive and fix it!" As much as we might want it to be otherwise, sometimes stuff happens that's not in our control but impacts our lives and means we have to do things like take time off work at zero notice.


AManagerTool's picture

My team is fantastic. They don't abuse the time off so I guess I'm spoiled. That said, I'd come down on them like a feedback machine if they did. The beauty of being a MT manager is that you are able to tailor things to your situation.

ctomasi's picture

Throwing my hat in the ring, we're given just a couple personal days each year. They don't carry over to the next year, whereas standard vacation days can. For that reason, we typically use our personal days as vacation days in the latter half of the year to ensure we don't "lose" any vacation time.

Floating holidays are quite different. Those are used to fill in those "gap" days like July 3rd when July 4th lands on a Tuesday. If things line up and major holidays land on weekends, we get more floating holidays to burn.

tcomeau's picture

But some people abuse it, such as taking their pet to the veterinarian once a month. Excessive (a judgement) use of time off has given it a bad name. In the MT world it warrants feedback after the first "unexcused" (another judgement) incident.

Well, again, it depends.

If somebody tried to give my brother feedback for taking one of his three personal days, particularly on a day when he wasn't sick, but was angry or tired or just otherwise not up for it, they'd be wrong.

The CBA allows a number of no-notice personal days, and the controller is entitled to take them whenever they please. And, frankly, they don't pay him to show up. They pay him to not drop airplanes, and I'd rather he not show up on days he's not prepared to do that.

If somebody needs an extra day off a month, and they're willing to run through their vacation (and other days off to which they're entitled) that's really their business. I'd rather know about it in advance, of course, so they might get feedback on the amount of warning I get. In my view it's simply too dangerous to assume somebody is blowing you off. (See, for example, Managing Through a Personal Crisis.)

I am not suggesting that a discussion about how the group works, and what the real "rules" about leave are. I am suggesting thinking about this from the other person's perspective before jumping to any conclusions.


bflynn's picture

Unexcused is a judgement. If you have three alloted days, they are not unexcused. If someone took a fourth day when it was not authorized, that would become the unexcused one.

My point was that not being at work when you're supposed to be is a pretty major breech of protocol. Stop it early so it cannot develop to a pattern. I have been at one place where someone "took their cat to the vet" roughly every other week. And they were never told to stop. It is incredibly destructive.


GlennR's picture

In my organization, we don't differentiate between vacation and sick days. We have a PTO bank (Paid Time Off). Each year I have 35 days in the bank and I can use them as I see fit. Generally our staff must have approval in advance to use PTO for personal reasons only to be sure that the offices are properly (wo)manned. For sickness, you just notify your supervisor when it's apparent you're not reporting for work.

If you are seriously ill for more than five working days, then you get into long term sick leave, but that's a different story.

Bottom line at the bottom: You don't have to state a reason why you want to take a PTO day in advance. The only criteria is, will it negatively impact the team or your work objectives. So yes, you can attend the opening day of baseball or spend the day with your child without guilt.

It's a great system.

igniz's picture

personal day is for me is just having a day off not worrying any office jobs. He just wants to relax and unwind.

bug_girl's picture

We are lucky enough to have 20 personal days/year.
I usually use them when I'm just fried and need a day off; we also have sick time, which I use for doctors' appointments and....actual sickness :)

I encourage my staff to use personal days as "mental health" days when it's clear they need a break. Weddings and family events are fine too.

As long as the work gets done, and someone can cover the phone and the store, I'm happy.