GoodLife U Episode 6: Paid Time Off and Pay Day

Welcome to Episode 6 of our GoodLife U series! As a reminder, this video blog is also available wherever you get your podcasts. You can find the Quest for the Good Life series (where we discuss next generation services, including technology-enabled service models), as well as the current GoodLife U series (where we have been exploring the labor crisis and discussing schedule and pay strategies that can help).

We want to begin with a huge shout out to the disability provider nation. Of course we thought the first year of COVID was challenging–and it certainly was for many reasons. That said, from a purely workforce crisis perspective we are facing our greatest challenges at this moment. Our team routinely fields calls from providers who are asking for help as they battle vacancy rates exceeding 40%.

As we discussed in previous episodes, Residential programs are the most challenging to staff, often responsible for staffing the remnants of the day and delivering care with the highest number of part time staff. We’ve covered a lot so far: pay, schedules, flexibility, high turnover in management, and more, have all fueled this unprecedented instability.

GoodLife U is here to discuss HOW we make meaningful improvements in workforce stability and in our experience, inches of improvement across multiple areas become yards, and eventually miles. Today we want to talk about what Mike often calls self-inflicted wounds, or Paid Time Off. We will also cover some pay day strategies; another possible inch of improvement.

First, a little background. Remember, Paid Time Off (PTO) for your direct support professionals (DSPs) is very different from the PTO for salaried managers. When your managers take time off, generally you don’t need to replace them. However, everytime a DSP takes time off, that DSP must be replaced in order to deliver the required ratios within a home, fundamentally costing you twice as much to cover that shift than it should. It is critical to understand that, unlike management, PTOs for DSPs result in spending more money which can (and DOES) ultimately impact pay for DSPs.

So how much PTO do we give DSPs? 

In our work with providers across the country this number ranges anywhere from 24-40 days off per year. That means you are finding replacement labor for an entire month out of that year, and paying an additional month of labor costs/payroll that could otherwise be used to improve DSP wages. 

Let’s be clear that time to recuperate and rejuvenate, maintain strong work/life balance, and have the flexibility for all of the non-work responsibilities are critical for any worker. This is why we prioritize time off. However, administrators of home and community based programs don’t always recognize these goals can be achieved with work schedules, impacting the need for PTOs (which in turn can make space to improve pay considerably).

Again, it’s just math.

We believe that everyone organically needs at least 2 days off per week in order to rest and recuperate, and hopefully reduce burnout. So, without PTOs, in a typical 5-day work week you would work 260 day a year (5×52) and be off 104 days (2×52).

Using GoodLife’s Front/Back Half schedule model, we advocate for a 3-day workweek. If you aren’t familiar with this, stop and go back to watch the previous episodes–it’s important. In our 3-day work week, you work 156 days a year (3×52) and are off 208 days (4×52) before any PTOs.

So let’s take a 5-day work week with 104 days off (organically) and add a very generous 40 days of PTO: that equals 144 days off across the year. But this is already 64 fewer days off than our 3-day work week that boasts 208 organic days off. 

With the front/back half schedules, DSPs work 12 days a month and are organically off 16 days a month. That is a wonderful life balance before you even start offering PTOs, further improved by a flexibility to trade shifts for extended days off in a row. 

And here’s the kicker: the payroll savings associated with reducing or adjusting PTOs could result in $0.50-.70/hr savings per employee. It’s not the only way to raise wages, but it’s another inch.

Pay Day and Pay Frequency

How often do you run payroll? Usually, “every-other week” is the answer we hear. However, there are 26 pay periods in a year, but only 12 months, a factor often overlooked but that again has a direct impact on the amount of pay that a DSP perceives they have. Our bills occur monthly, but 2 months out of 12 you fundamentally receive an extra paycheck. Again, for managers, this may not be a burden, but how do you explain to a DSP that 8 months of the year you will be withholding 10% of their pay, which you’ll give in an extra paycheck twice a year? We are willing to bet you don’t and won’t–but please consider paying weekly. We do and the impact is meaningful for DSPs.

We get really excited about the opportunity to share what we’ve learned (yes, often the hard way) with providers who face the same incredible challenges. Our GoodLife U team can help you analyze the financial value these approaches could have for your organization, and we’d love to help. Please contact Megan Todd to set up a personalized Workforce 101 seminar with our team. Want to stay up to date with all that GoodLife is working on? Sign up for our Monthly E-News, like and follow us on social media, listen wherever you get your Podcasts, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel

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