Paid leave is the second most employee-valued benefit, but it is seemingly becoming more and more of a headache for employees.

Do you know what will happen with your accrued vacation days if you’re laid off or quit to go elsewhere? Will you get paid? Or will you be left high-and-dry?

At the end of the day, it depends.

Employment laws vary state-to-state and depending on how your employer’s policy is set up, you might not see a dime.

For instance, take a look at BuzzFeed and its recent PTO situation.

In January, the internationally-recognized news outlet cut 15 percent of its workforce—roughly 250 positions. Upon releasing the news, the company did not plan to pay out the unused time off employees had earned, other than to workers in California, where it is required by law.

After a week of outcry and rage by both current and laid-off employees, and the general public, BuzzFeed announced it would revisit its PTO policies. In a company-wide email in the following days, BuzzFeed executives announced it would pay out earned and unused PTO—regardless of which state the employee lived in (even where it isn’t mandated).

At the end of the day, it all worked out. The employees were rightly paid for their hard work, dedication, and not taking vacation, and BuzzFeed will (continue to) take pride in treating its employees well.

Why does it take over 600 members of BuzzFeed’s employee base to create change? How do we, both as employees and employers, avoid these situations moving forward?

More than 400 million vacation days go unused every year, resulting in over $80 billion lost by employees and billions in lost taxes.

For many people, paying out PTO means the difference between whether or not bills and student loans will be paid on time and how their families are supported. Instead of losing the value of unused or lost paid time off, PTO Exchange is changing the way employers are offering employees benefits—even if employees never leave their desk.

PTO Exchange offers a patented platform that gives companies an inclusive and flexible service that allows employees the ability to self-direct their accrued paid leave for whatever reduces their stress—ranging from student loan repayment, education support, healthcare or retirement savings, to travel and charity.

“Paid time off is meant to reduce stress. It’s a benefit that's part of your overall compensation. You should be able to own it and self-direct it…period.” - Rob Whalen, CEO and co-founder of PTO Exchange

What about Unlimited Vacation?

"Unlimited vacation"! What a shiny buzzword. Companies are marketing unlimited vacation like a bad buffet.

When we strip the buzz and fluff from the phrase and call it what it really is, "unlimited vacation" is not a benefit for employees... it's a benefit for corporations.

Unlimited vacation is a work around. By offering this perk, companies will now get away from tracking and accruing a liability that in some states, once it is accrued, is considered earned wages. Once wages are considered earned, they must be paid out at termination.

By offering this "benefit", corporations are able to get rid of the obligation of tracking the productivity of their employees... because tracking paid time off has become difficult to manage.

Unlimited PTO looks enticing on a job description but companies know the data, and it ends up fucking employees.