• Firms

    Grant Thornton: New Unlimited PTO Policy Not Designed to Get People to Take Less Vacation

    By | October 26, 2015

    As you've all heard by now, Grant Thornton will be launching an unlimited PTO policy starting November 1. The firm documented its employees' surprise to the move and it is surprising since less than 1% of companies offer unlimited vacation. Not only that, but the Purple Rose of Chicago will be the only major accounting firm to offer this perk. That will provide them with a nice talking point when they're courting accounting students and experienced professionals who may be considering GT's larger, more prestigious competitors.

    In situations like these, current employees have lots of questions. Grant Thornton has tried to address these in an internal FAQ that found its way into our inbox. It covers a lot of the basics — who's eligible, how it will be recorded and tracked, people with accrued PTO will get a payout, etc. — but the two most interesting topics covered are 1) the conflicts that will inevitably arise and 2) the firm's rebuttal to the contention that people will feel pressure to take less PTO.

    Here's the portion that addresses conflicts: 

    And here's the response to the idea that employees will take less vacation:

    The conflicts issue is more or less a non-issue. Just because an accounting firm provides its employees with unlimited PTO doesn't mean a week of your vacation can't be abruptly cancelled or rejected by a superior because of client demands. Anyone hoping for a GT PTO policy where the inmates run the asylum were bound to be disappointed. 

    On the other thand, the firm's response to the "pressure" question is kinda funny. I say that because it's posed in the wrong context. No one suspects the firm of a devious plot to provide a generous perk in order to get employees to work more. It's just that this new perk isn't all that more generous than whatever the PTO policy was before. Few people take vacation already, so giving them unlimited vacation is pointless if you're trying to convince them to take time away from work.

    Some people say that's due to the US's work-obsessed culture, Megan McArdle contends that it's due to "superjobs" that are so great that people who have them don't want to take time off. Most likely, reality is somewhere in between, but the best way to ensure that people take time off is to either make it mandatory or incentivize it. One source wrote us:

    I'm somewhat disappointed as the optimist in me was holding out that maybe they would implement what Caleb had mentioned, a minimum amount of days employees are required to take or a small nominal incentive.

    As GT's response said, the new policy "will require people to be proactive about scheduling their time off." That is precisely the problem: people aren't proactive! And until you give them an incentive or mandate to get out of the office to relax and recharge that's unlikely to change.

    • liEYr

      A truly brilliant move to mind fuck its employees.

      • Chipman69

        You’re absolutely right – GT penetrating their own employees DYNAMIC minds is exactly their plan!!!! Now GT can control their WHOLE SELVES and increase their INSTINCT FOR GROWTH in their CHOSEN MARKETS by making them take less PTO!!!! It’s not necessarily a mind fuck, but rather slowly and passionately making love to their employee’s minds!!!!!!

      • buthurt

        Come on let’s face it. At this point its current and former employees have been fucked in all ways possible. This is to mind fuck the college recruits.

        • C2C

          Yep, my friend fell for it…

    • Big4Veteran

      1) The intended audience of emails like this are not just the staff. The firm wants the email to find itself into the public domain (including Going Concern). This policy is not about caring for current staff…it is about marketing, and possibly also saving money (see point #2).

      2) When I was at my Big 4 firm, I had like 5 weeks of vacation. I had trouble taking all of it. Most people had trouble taking all of it. Basically, it resulted in a nice vacation pay out when you leave the firm (which almost everyone eventually does). It was almost like a departure bonus. I can see this new policy actually saving GT money over the long run.

      • MWCPA

        This policy change doesn’t change anyone’s daily life inside GT. It’s a huge marketing ploy, and probably a smart one based on the play it’s gotten.

        It will be a huge impact on the lives of folks leaving GT. I would be interested to see how this plays out with turnover. If you’re not getting a PTO payout does that change the algebra of your decision to leave?

        • Tax Nerd

          I doubt it will change the algebra all that much. If you’re unhappy and/or have a better offer, there’s no reason to stay. This just takes away the departure bonus that makes leaving even sweeter.

      • Rtruth12

        Yes I also had a nice departure bonus (2 full Sr Mgr pay checks worth) when I left 6 years ago. But soon after I left my Big4 firm capped carryover to 10 days. Must’ve been a nice accrual reversal to bump income for the partners that year

      • AaronBalake

        Left PwC, they had to pay me out for 136 hours of unused vacation, it was wonderful.

        • Mose Schrute

          Same here, Bro!!!

          • MWCPA

            I think you forgot to sign in as AaronBalake’sBro

            • Mose Schrute

              Nah, I’m just glad both AaronBalakes are back!

            • AaronBalake

              Stop encouraging him.

          • AaronBalake

            You were adopted.

            • MWCPA

              Hey! We love you both equally. It doesn’t matter who did and who didn’t physically crawl out of your mother. Now get along and hold hands or I’m turning this whole site around and we’re going back to r/Accounting.

            • AaronBalake

              idk who you are, but I don’t like you either.

            • MWCPA

              Aw come on buddy. I was just trying to have fun. I love you.

            • Mose Schrute

              I changed my mind, I like you!

            • Mose Schrute

              Where’s the third AaronBalake?

        • Another ExPwCer Now McGer

          when i left i think they paid out like ~150 hours since i hadn’t gotten much time off over the summer – thanks EBP plans for the parting bonus!

        • buthurt

          I’m slowly building up mine thanks to my short staffed teams. Hopefully I can cash that out soon 🙂

          • buthurt’s Bro

            You gots 2 get that mad cash money, Bro!

      • Aaron Brewster

        Agreed. That was my first thought. I don’t see how this policy helps employees. No more payouts and people will be scared to take as much vacation as they deserve.

      • FormerBig4

        I posted the same thing in another article on this topic. I had 6 weeks a year when I left, and I had a shit load of unused PTO when I left because I was never able to take time. All this policy will do is cost people that payout.

        Sure some first or second years may get to take a few extra days, but most people in public accounting don’t use the PTO they have so having unlimited PTO does nothing.

    • LessChatMoreHat

      Next year the purple rose will be saying PTO hours are up along with realization, meanwhile some poor sap will be eating hours by booking them to “PTO” to avoid getting yelled at for blowing a budget and not using time off.

      • Green Dot Peon

        Wow, that’s actually a very realistic and extremely depressing scenario. Something along the lines of, “My manager is going to be pissed if I blow this budget, so I’m going to work super late during July and pretend like I’m on PTO.”

        This entire thing reminds me of the Silence of the Lambs scene where the guy is like “It puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again!”

      • Another exKPMGer

        Nail, meet hammer. This simply gives managers and seniors a way to make staff eat more hours. Instead of charging nothing or hitting a non-chargeable code, you charge your 16 hours a day through Wednesday then bang PTO for Thursday and Friday. The job comes in under budget, and the firm gets to tout how much vacation time their employees are taking. This is fucking genius.

      • LikeABoss

        And probably eventually getting spoken to by someone for taking PTO during “busy season.” We really need everyone to pitch in right now, but things will be getting better soon!

      • MWCPA

        Wait. Folks still tolerate another adult raising their voice at them when not providing a warning of impending doom?

        Don’t eat hours. You’re only fucking the next guy, rewarding shitty budgets, and aiding in the commoditization of the industry.

        Some dumb mother fucker senior tells you to – tell your manager. Some dumbass manager tells you – to tell your partner. Some drivel-shit partner tells you to – tell your managing partner. Don’t feel like you can tell any of those people the truth – get a new job.

        Accounting is hot right now. There’s no reason to have a BS-ACCT or MAcc or CPA and stay anywhere unless you are one of the dumb mother fucker, dumbass, drivel-shits noted above, and if you are one of them and you tell your people to eat time – fuck you.

        • buthurt

          Yea no one explicitly tell you to eat hours these days, but if you do blow the budget you can say goodbye to good ratings (not that they mean much to begin with), and have managers/partners constantly harassing you about why you were over budget (even if you have told them 1000 times it just took that long), in the hopes of guilting you to reclass some of those hours to admin or just eat it.

          As for fucking the next guy, this is a profession where we only care about short terms gain, since most people leave in 3 years anyways. Even at the partner level, they lowball potential clients like crazy hoping to get a bigger piece of the market, disregarding the fact that this is a oligopoly market with few big players, who can easily get away with price fixing.

          • MWCPA

            Even in that scenario. Have a conversation with them that their approach is creating the implication that you should be eating time. Call them on it. They either A) don’t realize it and will change their behavior or B) are a shitty dick-fuck and will show themselves as such in a manner that will let you exercise any of the options I noted above.

            • Aaron Brewster

              I had one such discussion with the lead partner from my office, and this on the heels of him condemning eating hours at an all-office training. I was trying to balance parental responsibilities as an associate (I know, crazy) and was told not menacingly but in no uncertain terms that the expectation was for me to work every day until dismissed (ignoring all the work I did after getting kids to bed). Those hours clearly exceed what they’ve budgeted and we all know the limited instances where a budget overrun is acceptable. The point is public accounting is what it is, and it’s not going to change because of anything the staff and seniors do.

            • MWCPA

              Hang on. I think you’re talking about a flex work arrangement here along with maybe eating time. I don’t know if I agree with your partner, but I do see his point (e.g. setting different expectations for you vs. the rest of your team b/c of your familial status w/o any consideration for compensation can be a tough area).

              Regardless, throwing your hands up and saying “but dat’s da way it’s always been” is fatalist and lazy. Make it better. Speak truth to power. Refuse to accept that shit. There didn’t use to be female partners. You didn’t use to be able to be an out homosexual. These things didn’t change because the partners benevolently found it in their hearts to not be dicks. They changed and continue to change because good people work hard.

              “It is what it is” is probably my least favorite phrase in the English language behind “I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan.” If you’re going to be a lazy fatalist at least crib a line from Vonnegut and go with “poo-tee-weet” or “so it goes”.

            • Aaron Brewster

              Ha ha, fair points, but one can’t be a crusader for all worthy causes. You are correct, there was also the balancing issue at play here, but my point is if all the seniors and associates are working 50 hours a week and billing only 40 they are eating time–a point I made to my partner. The game is get the job done, and report what you’re supposed to unless it’s a blatant overage. Lose at that game and you lose your job.

            • N.E.R.D.

              Your personal work/life balance is not a cause worth fighting for?


              I don’t think you get the game quite; you’re thinking too small (yes, there can be multiple games inside and outside the firm). The game IMO is to stay employed; isn’t the job security why we’re accountants? However you manage to do that is up to you. Abiding by their rules, however ridiculous, is simply one way to play; it’s hardly the only way to play.

            • Aaron Brewster

              Yeah, thanks for the opinion, total stranger. The importance of being there for my family is why I left public accounting for a great accounting job in the corporate world.

            • N.E.R.D.

              Keep the $.02; it’s yours.

        • Jeff S

          Eating time is usually less work. Less time spent in GTE, less time spent explaining to everyone why the job went over budget, less time preparing a detailed budget to actual analysis for the partner or redesigning the existing budget. I’ve never felt pressure to eat time, it’s just that eating time is almost always less work, and when you are working 12 hours a day, every bit of free time counts.

      • buthurt

        Doesn’t this happen already at the other firms?

    • taxintern

      it’s designed to not owe you shit in vacation payout when you leave. WAKE UP

    • ilovedonuts

      I don’t get why people keep going into accounting. Time and time again, these firms make VERY clear that they don’t give a rat’s ass about their employees.

      • Big4Veteran

        Exactly. Besides for the relatively good comp, benefits, flexibility, job security, upward mobility, general respect of society, and physical safety, there’s pretty much no good reason for a kid to choose accounting for their career.

        • C2C

          Hahahaha! Great response!

    • YouCouldDoBetter