You asked: “How do you recommend treating a request for a couple of hours off? Do you recommend restricting PTO days to a minimum half day? ”
It is generally considered a best practice to keep PTO increments no smaller than a half day. However, some companies allow increments as small as 15 minutes. Others allow varying allotments depending on the exemption status of the employee. And that brings us to the heart of the issue: exemption status.
Non-exempt employees need only be paid for the hours they work. The exception, of course, would be paid holidays and PTO time they have accrued. So, allowing them to draw an hour or two from their PTO accrual should be pretty straight forward.
Exempt employees, however, require a little more explanation. According to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) compensation requirements, as a general rule, if the exempt employee performs any work during the workweek, he or she must be paid the full salary amount. In addition, they note that deductions for partial day absences generally violate the salary basis rule (as stated in the previous sentence). Basically employers in the private sector that make deductions from a exempt employees’ pay for absences of less than a day may jeopardize their exempt status. Doing so leaves the employer exposed to possible overtime liability. This gives exempt employees more flexibility with their workweek. As long as they are getting their job done, an hour or two spent on personal business is generally not an issue and need not be tracked. Therefore, PTO accruals of less than a full day for exempt employees are not necessary.
Whatever your company decides to allow, be sure to spell it out clearly in your policy statement and your handbook. Then be consistent in applying the policy.
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