Earned Vacation

Retailers share how they handle employee time off

In the spa industry, with its variable busy seasons depending on location, it’s crucial to have employee attendance policies. Such written policies should include who is and is not eligible for paid time off, or as 21st Century Pools and Spas in Vestal, New York, calls it: Flexible time off.

For 21st Century, all salary and hourly employees accrue FTO, while commission and contract employees do not, operations manager Angela Barta says. At All About Spas and Leisure Living in Roswell, New Mexico, and Watsons of Dayton, Ohio, only full-time employees accrue time off. For all three stores, PTO/FTO time accrued grows with the number of years of service.

Adam Hazenfield, store manager of Watsons of Dayton, suggests a probationary period of 90 days before eligible employees begin to accrue PTO, “to show they are a good fit and have earned the right to take paid time off.”

For new businesses, policies may still be in development. Kelly Thomas, sales manager at The Spa Gallery in Springfield, Missouri, which celebrated its first birthday in May, says the company is working toward offering one week of paid vacation for employees who have one year of service. Since The Spa Gallery is continuing to grow, she says, this policy is continuing to evolve. Christy Hopkins, CEO and principal consultant at the HR firm 4 Point Consulting in Chicago, recommends revisiting policies annually or sooner if the company is experiencing rapid growth.

Debi Skains, vice president of All About Spas, says her company’s policy has evolved over time as well, including clarifications on roll-over PTO/FTO.

Skains says that while the policy originally allowed employees to roll over their PTO, she changed it three years ago to eliminate rollover, which simplified tracking PTO. “We all need time away from work to recharge,” Skains says, “so it is important for the employees to use their vacations yearly.” Employees were given time to use any accrued days before the new policy took effect, and there have been no complaints about the policy change, she says. 

Hopkins says having a written time-off policy is the best way to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. When policies change as business grows, Hopkins suggests allotting PTO days to be used at employees’ discretion — sick leave, appointments, vacations or stay-cations — but that once all days have been used, additional time off is unpaid.

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All About Spas, 21st Century and Watsons have similar policies in that PTO/FTO can be used for sick days. Watsons of Dayton’s sick-leave policy states that an employee cannot have any more than five incidents amassing no more than 10 days of missed work, whether excused or unexcused, Hazenfield says, adding that if there is “a repeated pattern of someone missing more than the allotted number of days, they are given a warning, and repeated abuse can result in suspension or termination.” 

As a new business, Thomas says they do not offer sick pay, unless the employee has accrued vacation time. A doctor’s note must be provided after three days of lost time.

21st Century and Watsons have no-vacation-allowed policies during busy season, from about mid-April for Watsons of Dayton and Memorial Day for 21st Century, both until July 4. With the influx of business in these months, “our employees understand that vacations are not taken during the summer season,” Thomas says of The Spa Gallery’s policy.

Additionally, Thomas says The Spa Gallery intends to close the week after Christmas to New Year’s. This week is unpaid for employees, unless they have accrued and choose to use vacation time. Technicians have the option to work during this week.

Hopkins agrees that getting employees to plan their vacations — and share those plans with management — is crucial, recommending that retailers track time thoroughly and require employees to plan time off far in advance.

Watsons of Dayton requires vacation requests to be submitted and approved by department managers, Hazenfield says, with a policy that no more than two people from the same department take time off simultaneously. Department managers keep track of and maintain this calendar, with seniority being the tie-breaker if multiple employees request the same days off.  

Vacations taken when the store is not closed, as well as any requests for planned time off, are to be handed in two weeks in advance in writing to management, Thomas says. “We have all been in the industry for the last 30 years,” Thomas says of The Spa Gallery’s staff, acknowledging the importance of reliable employee attendance. “You pretty much understand that you have to make hay when the sun shines — or [sell spas] anyway.”