Man and Dog

Paid time off is one of the most important ‘checklist items’ when looking for a job. One of the first questions people will ask their friends when they start a new job is, “How much PTO do you get each year?”

There are many reasons why people care so much about paid time off, but the biggest reason is for better work-life balance. Having a rich PTO benefit can decrease the stress people feel when they need to use it for things they aren’t really thrilled about. For example, you need to take your dog to the vet, but they are only open during typical business hours, 8-5, just like your work. What do you do? Well, you have to dig into your PTO bucket and take that time, even if it isn’t how you would prefer to spend it.

Enter, Unlimited PTO Policies! Doesn’t that sound like the most amazing benefit any company could give to its employees? What could be bad?

There are many reasons why an unlimited paid time off policy is attractive to both employers and employees:

  1. There is no liability on the company’s books for paid time off that hasn’t been taken.
  2. There are no worries that a bunch of employees will request time off at the end of a year so as not to lose their PTO.
  3. It is a great recruitment tool. Unlimited PTO will likely draw in eager applicants to any openings the company may have.
  4. Employees feel like their employer trusts them to manage their own workload and time. Which, in turn, improves retention for the company.
  5. It gives the employees a lot more flexibility in their work schedule when they don’t need to use 2.5 hours of PTO to get that root canal or take their dog to the vet. They can just go, do it, and come back to work. This leads to a decrease in stress for employees as they don’t have to worry about losing their PTO.

However, there is always the flip side of the coin. Some of the things that employers worry about with these sorts of policies are:

  1. Can you realistically discipline or terminate an employee for using PTO if you have a so-called “unlimited” policy?
  2. Employees may be confused by the uncertainty of the policy. If they don’t know how much is allowed, will they use too much, or possibly not enough?
  3. Is it realistic for all of our employees, or just a select group?
  4. Will employees embrace the policy and see it as a true benefit? Or will they see it as more of a takeaway because they won’t have anything to pay out at the end of the employment relationship?
  5. What about protected leaves? In Oregon, especially, you not only have the Family Medical Leave Act and the Oregon Family Leave Act but you also have the Oregon Sick Leave law to think about when implementing a policy like this.
  6. Will longer term employees be angered that those who are new to the company are allowed to take the same amount of PTO they do?

Regardless of the pros and cons of an “unlimited PTO policy,” when you implement a policy like this, there are many things the company should do to ensure employees understand why you are changing the policy, and how they are supposed to utilize it.

  1. First, take a look at your employee history of PTO/Vacation/Sick leave use, and what their patterns of use are. This can help you understand how employees are using their time off in the current structure and if an unlimited policy could be right for your business.
  2. Be ready to modify your expectations from “putting in time” to “overall contribution.” You will need to look at how employees contribute to the success of the business, versus “are they coming in every day from 8 to 5?” Focus on performance rather than time spent at the office and train managers to communicate regularly with their team so that all work is being completed in a timely and appropriate manner.
  3. Find a name for the policy that doesn’t indicate the benefit is actually unlimited. The reality is that it isn’t an unlimited policy, it is a policy that should be used appropriately and within reason, but with a lot of flexibility. Names like Flexible Time Off, Variable Time Off, Open Time Off, or Adaptable Time Off may help employees understand the true nature of the policy; to give them an adaptable schedule that puts them in charge of their time.
  4. Find a way to link your PTO policy with the culture and values of the company. This may help employees better understand how this policy is meant to work.
  5. Set expectations for the standard use of the policy. This will help employees understand what may be seen as under using the benefit, or abusing the benefit.
  6. Include some sort of approval and tracking process for the use of PTO. This makes certain that an entire department isn’t gone at one time and patterns of abuse will be easily recognized.
  7. Clearly define the difference between PTO and protected leaves (FMLA, OFLA, Sick Leave, etc.) so that employees know what will be paid and what won’t. Having those policies specifically separated out from the PTO policy could alleviate some liability for the company when it comes to someone who may not be eligible for protected leave, but may need extended leave for a disability.
  8. Think about employees who currently have accrued PTO/Vacation/Sick on the books and determine what happens with that time. Do you pay it out immediately? Do you take it away? Do you pay it out at termination? Do you put it into some sort of leave bank for protected leave?
  9. Consider if offering unlimited PTO only after a set period of employment is appropriate. For example, employees must work for the company for one year before they’re eligible for unlimited PTO.

Flexible time off policies, when implemented properly, may lead to higher engagement and a reduction in turnover.

However, as with any policy, this kind of time off policy will not work for all businesses. Some employers cannot realistically implement a program like this due to time constraints and the need for certain employees to be onsite at certain times, such as manufacturing companies. In other companies, the company culture may not be a good fit for a policy like this.

Take a look at your own company and the culture there, and see if something like this might work for you. If you are considering it, you could always try it out as a “test” scenario for a year and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, you can always move back to a more traditional paid time off policy.

If you have questions about whether or not a policy like this might work for your business, give us a call and we can help!



Taxes Sign

The new IRS W-4 form and an online withholding calculator to assist in filling out the form are now available on the IRS website.

You are not required to change your W-4 withholdings, but it is highly encouraged by the IRS to take a look and use the online tool as early as possible so you do not have any surprises at the end of the year.  If changes are needed, the calculator will give you the information needed to fill out a new W-4.

You can learn about IRS recommendations, access the calculator, or download a new W-4 form here, on the IRS website.

Remember, this change is due to the federal tax law recently implemented and only affects your federal tax situation. If you are one of the many employees who fill out one W-4 that covers both federal and state withholdings with the same withholding calculation, and you wish to keep your state withholdings as they currently are and only change the federal withholdings, two W-4s need to be filled out and a written note at the bottom of each declaring “federal only” or “state only”.

As always, we are here to help with any questions.




Electrical Geodesics, Inc. (EGI) is one of the most scientifically advanced businesses in Cascade membership. This 25-year old company has been recognized globally as a leading neurodiagnostic medical technology company and has recently been acquired by the Royal Philips company, based in The Netherlands.

Many may know the Philips brand, but did you know Philips and its 70,000 global employees are now exclusively focused on health technology? The acquisition of EGI is a part of Philips health strategy. Philips recognized the cutting edge EEG and computational neurology research and clinical products that EGI had developed and is investing further in the company, which will stay in Eugene, Oregon, to enhance development and accelerate adoption.

More Facts

  1. Founded in 1992 by its CEO, Don Tucker, EGI is a medical device company that designs, develops and commercialises a range of non-invasive neurodiagnostic products used to monitor and interpret brain activity. A key component of these products is EGI’s proprietary dense array electroencephalography (dEEG) platform technology.
  2. The company’s technology, both forward looking and practical to install, uses head nets with up to 256 sensors, providing much higher resolution brain activity data compared to conventional methods. In 2016, EGI applied its dEEG technology to developing the most advanced non-invasive neuromodulation device on the market —one with great promise for a better understanding and possible treatment of brain disorders, especially disorders not well controlled by drugs or other therapies.
  3. EGI’s products are widely used in human neuroscience research laboratories around the world, in a broad range of disciplines, including epilepsy, autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and sleep disorders. This research is also being applied to solving problems in areas as diverse as user interface testing, driver fatigue monitoring, and brain-computer interface development.
  4. There are now over 900 sites in over 720 academic institutions, hospitals, and clinics using EGI’s Geodesic EEG Systems, in over 30 countries. There are over 2457 research papers published in leading scientific and medical journals using EGI technology.
  5. From its Eugene headquarters, EGI employs approximately 85 people, within its departments of science, engineering, manufacturing, sales, and administration.

Cascade is proud to feature EGI, the leader in neuroscience technology with a mission to create the most advanced equipment for neuroscience research laboratories and neurology clinics.




This January, The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) announced it is making changes to the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification exams beginning August 1, 2018.

Along with HRCI’s announcement of the changes it published a new content outline for both the PHR and SPHR exams. According to HRCI, “The exam content outlines are the result of a rigorous 2017 practice analysis study, in compliance with certification industry standards, to identify current HR practice in the United States. HRCI exam content outlines provide a mirror of the changes in HR practice over time, including the impact of new legislation, the emergence of new business practices, technological innovation and social factors.”

According to HRCI: “The 2018 PHR Exam Content Outline reflects greater emphasis on the HR professional’s role in the employee experience as well as the business decision-making process and use of data to make well-informed decisions. It outlines five functional areas for HR practitioners in management or professional-level roles: Business Management, Talent Planning and Acquisition, Learning and Development, Total Rewards, and Employee and Labor Relations. The 2018 SPHR Exam Content Outline reflects an increased emphasis on a senior HR professional’s responsibility for developing workforce strategies that are aligned with desired business outcomes. Its five functional areas are Leadership and Strategy, Talent Planning and Acquisition, Learning and Development, Total Rewards, and Employee Relations and Engagement.”

For more information on the new exam content outlines, please visit the 2018 PHR and SPHR Exam Content Outlines FAQ webpage.

These changes only impact those seeking new certifications and do not affect recertification. As a reminder, as a member of Cascade you are eligible for up to 12 recertification credits. You receive three general credits and three business credits for each year you are a member of Cascade.

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