In less than five years working at Cisco Systems, Rob Whalen was like many other Americans, sitting on a pile of unused paid time off—in his case, over 240 hours’ worth (that’s a month and a half).

That all changed in 2016 when he and Todd Lucas launched PTO Exchange. The Seattle-based startup lets workers trade unused, paid time off for student loan repayment, education support, healthcare or retirement savings, to travel and charity.

Employees accumulating huge amounts of paid leave can create problems for both themselves and their employers. Untapped vacation can become a large financial obligation that businesses must carry on their balance sheets. If workers have banked hundreds of hours of leave time, they often have just two options to unlock its value immediately: Go on months-long vacations—something likely to displease their bosses if it’s even allowed—or quit.

“With so much time going unused, we realized that this is a benefit that needs to be redefined,” Whalen said.  

Click here for the full Bloomberg article by Anders Melin and Ben Steverman