More than half of organizations continue to offer a traditional paid time off program, which includes separate vacation, sick leave and personal leave programs.

What’s at stake?

According to a survey from June of 2016, just under half of organizations offer a paid time off bank, which creates a pool of paid days employees may use at their discretion. And while this type of paid time off typically offers fewer paid days than a traditional system, it does allow employees the freedom to structure their time off to meet their needs as they see fit, and the organization to help control absenteeism.

These types of paid leave programs make up nearly 7 percent of total compensation in private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, with on average of nearly five vacation days a year being left on the table, many U.S. organizations are currently carrying more than $270 billion of vacation liability on the balance sheets. That’s up 21 percent from 2015 when the vacation liability stood at $224 billion, according to Project Time Off’s “High Price of Silence” report.

What employees say

With such a high liability, why aren’t employees taking their vacations?

Fear of the amount of work they will come back to is the biggest concern. They believe no one else can do the work. It could be a need to show their dedication to the organization, or perhaps it’s a fear of being replaced.

While many employers understand that this benefit is important for them to remain competitive in the labor market, it’s equally important for them to encourage their employees to take their vacation and personal days to rest and rejuvenate and to find time to balance their work and personal lives.

Create a culture that encourages time away. Help leaders and their employees know that it’s okay to take the time off and give them tools to address their concerns. This can go a long way in bringing to life your other paid leave policies.