Hiring: How much time off should you give new employees?

By Editor February 24, 2015

Andy Roe, SurePayrollBy Andy Roe, SurePayroll general manager

Hiring your first employee or set of employees is an exciting time. It means your business is growing and you’re no longer just your own boss. You’re responsible for the productivity, development, and to a certain extent, the well being of the people you bring on board.

While you’re hiring people to solve problems for your business, the process of hiring often means more questions than answers. How do you properly report new hires? How do you handle calculating, filing and paying payroll taxes? Are you offering medical and insurance benefits? 401k?

Those are all topics worthy of attention. But one surprising set of questions we see startup business owners asking all the time is: “How much paid (emphasis on ‘paid’) time off do I give? How many sick days? How much vacation time? Can they work from home? How often?”

With that in mind, SurePayroll surveyed thousands of our small business customers nationwide to get a gauge on what’s really happening in the marketplace.

Let’s break down our findings:


One of the new trends we’re seeing—and it’s happening in many workplaces, big and small—is that businesses are not offering sick days at all. Instead, employees simply have paid time off that they can use whenever needed. In our survey, 33 percent use such a policy.

Another third of small business owners said they give less than five paid sick days in a year; 16 percent said they give five days; and 14 percent said they give six-to-ten days. The national average is eight, although businesses are not required to give any paid sick days off.

Another option: Unlimited sick days. In some offices, facilities, and storefronts, the philosophy is, if you’re sick, you’re sick, and you should stay home. Our survey found eight percent using this option, so obviously it’s not popular, but not unheard of either.


The majority of small businesses are offering ten or less paid vacation days—47 percent offer less than ten and 29 percent offer exactly ten.

Less common is to get 15 days (17 percent) or more (eight percent).

Ten days may not seem like much, but as you know, running a business can be a 24/7 occupation. There’s so much to be done with relatively little in the way of resources and manpower that it’s hard to have people missing for an extended length of time.

One small business owner told us something you might relate to: “Being a very small company, we rely on everyone to work as a team. When someone is out for any reason, the extra work falls back on the remaining staff, but primarily the owners.”


This is another increasingly popular trend that has garnered plenty of debate in recent years. Is it a way for employers to be more flexible or a chance for employees to take advantage of the freedom?

In the startup and small business world, where you only have a few employees, it’s still not a very common practice, as 68 percent said in our survey that they don’t allow any work from home days on a monthly basis.

There were some, however, who have embraced it: 17 percent said they give five or more work from home days a month; and 12 percent said they give two-to-four days.


At a big company, the time off policies are often very transparent and pretty much set in stone. However, in a startup environment, where you’re just bringing on your first employees, it’s very different. You likely have a close relationship with each employee, and you might be inclined to give them time off that’s not necessarily part of a strict number of days.

This is often a plus for employees and it may be part of why you started your business to begin with. At the same time, it can be a challenge because each person is valuable on a daily basis, and there typically aren’t many backups.

As you begin to hire for the first time, you will have to strike the right balance as you establish your own unique culture.