What Is a Personal Day? Definition and Examples
Updated December 5, 2022
As an employee, it is important that you make use of the benefits provided to you by your company. Some of these benefits may include personal time off or personal days. This allows you to rest and take care of important matters in your personal life. In this article, we review what personal days are, how they relate to sick days, vacation days and PTO, how to ask for a personal day, tips for making the best use of your time and additional topics about personal days.
What are personal days at work?
Personal days are a form of employee benefit that employers offer in addition to sick days, PTO and vacation days. Typically, employees use personal days for doctor's visits, child illness, family emergencies or jury duty. However, they may also use their personal days if they run out of sick days or another form of time off.
Personal days vs. sick days
The difference between personal days and sick days is that sick days are for when you feel too sick to work. You can use sick days for common illnesses like a cold or virus as well as more serious illnesses like pneumonia or heart disease that require hospitalization or surgery. In contrast, personal days take on a more broad array of events.
You may use a personal day if you or your loved one is sick, but you may also use one to get much-needed rest after a hectic workweek or to attend to other occurrences in your personal life (e.g. moving, attending a funeral or wedding).
Personal days vs. vacation days
The difference between personal days and vacation days is that vacation days are specifically used for vacation-related events. Also, depending on your employer, the number of vacation days you receive may rely on the number of years you've worked at your company, or it may be on an accrual basis where your vacation time increases as you complete a certain number of workweeks. In contrast, employers typically allot a certain number of personal days for employees to use throughout the year. Depending on the employer, personal days also may or may not be paid.
Related: Q&A: What Is Vacation Pay?
Personal days vs. PTO days
The difference between personal days and PTO days is that PTO, also called paid time off, has a more broad meaning and is typically used for vacations or sick leave. In contrast, personal days imply sickness or other matters that require time off from work. Moreover, employees usually book PTO a few weeks in advance, whereas personal days may be a result of sudden illness or life event.
Related: What Is PTO?
How to ask for a personal day
Here are five steps to help you ask for a personal day:
1. Review your company schedule
Unless it's a family emergency or another unplanned event, be sure to look over your company and department schedule for the day(s) you plan to be absent. Note any important deadlines or presentations that may require your coworkers to step in for you. If you can, consider moving your personal day(s) beyond those important dates.
2. Ask coworkers for their help
Whether you plan to take a personal day or something happens that requires you to take one without prior warning, be sure to contact your coworkers to ask them for their help in performing your work duties while you're gone. You may also mention that should they need time off in the future, you can cover for them too. Knowing one or more of your coworkers is willing to step in for you can be helpful when asking your employer for those days off.
3. Compose an email to your manager
Asking for a personal day in-person is okay, but a formal email to your manager can ensure there is a document that proves your request. Make sure you review your company policies for communicating personal days as you may need to address it to HR or add it to your company calendar.
4. Follow-up with your manager in-person
Before you take your personal day(s), make sure to talk with your manager in-person to confirm whether they received your email and if it is okay with them. This is important in case they missed your email or in case they forgot about your leave.
5. Express your gratitude
Once you return to work, be sure to thank your coworkers for any tasks they completed on your behalf. If they had to make a presentation for you, or do something significant, consider giving them a small gift, writing a thank you card or offering to bring them coffee as a sign of your appreciation.
Tips for using personal days
Here are some tips to help you determine when and how to use your personal days:
Save them for when you really need rest
It may be easy to use personal days for fun events and additional vacation time, but you also need to keep them in mind for if you start feeling burned out at work. Whether you just had a busy week in the office, or if you feel like you cannot keep up with things in your personal life like chores, appointments and other obligations, a personal day can provide you with the rest you need to come back to work refreshed.
Moreover, if your personal obligations are beginning to impact your productivity at work, then personal days are a great way to accomplish personal needs for better focus on your job.
Try to plan them around important work dates
Sometimes you may have to take personal days due to unplanned sickness or life events, but if you can plan them in advance, be sure to check whether they interfere with important work observations. For example, if you want to take a personal day to catch up on laundry and practice self-care, consider scheduling it for the day after you're expected to give a tour of the office to new employees.
Give your coworkers notice ahead of time
Even if you need to take a personal day for something sudden and unplanned, sending your coworkers an email or talking to them in-person shows that you respect their time and workload.
Refrain from checking your work email during your personal day
Your personal day is for you to attend family events or rest in response to personal or work-related events. For this reason, be sure to set your work email and communication channels on 'Do Not Disturb" mode. This will help you focus on the reason for your personal day, instead of worrying about work-related tasks.
Frequently asked questions about personal days off
Here are some additional questions and answers to help you gain a better understanding of personal days:
Do employers have to offer personal days?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does require an employer to offer vacation days and sick leave, but they don't require that employers offer them paid vacation or sick days. You may be entitled to have a certain number of vacation or sick days, but your employer may not offer payment on those days.
Can employers deny personal days?
Employers may deny personal days if you cannot provide evidence or other information about what you will use it for. For example, if you say you need a personal day for surgery, your employer may require a doctor's note to confirm the claim. However, most employers should understand if you need a personal day due to a family emergency or medical procedure and should allow you to use a personal day to take care of your business.
Do I need to state my reasoning for taking a personal day?
You don't need to state your reasoning for taking a personal day if you don't feel comfortable doing so. You can answer any inquiries with "I had a family emergency" or "I was unwell." Remember that your employer may ask about your reasoning to make sure you're okay and to determine whether you're fit to continue working or need more time off from work.
How many personal days does the average working American get each year?
According to CNBC, as of 2017, the average working American receives 10 to 15 paid days off. It is important to note that the amount of personal days you receive from your employer may depend on the type of work you do, your employer's preference and state laws.
Can personal days roll-over into the next year?
Typically, personal days and other forms of time off don't roll-over into the next business year. This encourages employees to take time off as needed so they can stay motivated and engaged at work. However, certain employers may offer roll-overs for certain forms of time-off, so be sure to review your company's leave policies and talk with your HR department to see what is and isn't allowed.
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