How to Calculate Vacation Accrual (+Free PTO Calculator)

Cody Cromwell
Written by
Last update:

PTO Calculator

Click Here to Calculate Your PTO Usage (Free)

This guide covers how to calculate vacation accrual in detail. It shows how to calculate vacation accrual in the first year, second year, and for each year over your mortgage term. If you would like to download an excel file with these protocols, go to the bottom of the page and click the link to download. This file is free and available to all of our readers.

Vacation accrual is the number of days that you accrue vacation time every year. Most companies offer vacation accrual and generally use the years after one year of employment to calculate vacation accrual.

This can result in a large ending balance of vacation pay as the number of vacation days can be large. If you want to know how many vacation days you can apply to your mortgage, you need to know how to calculate vacation accrual.

Calculating Vacation Accrual

Vacation accrual is typically calculated based on the years you have been employed with the company. To find your final vacation accrual balance, simply multiply the number of vacation days you have accrued for that year by your accrual rate.

For example, if you have accrued 50 vacation days and an accrual rate of 1% (which is the standard), then your vacation accrual is 50 * .01 = 50.0.

Decide How Much PTO to Provide Employees Annually

Typically, vacations accrue from the date of hire until one year after their last day of work. The number of vacation hours shown on an employee’s leave statement is actually based on the number of hours they accrue, rather than the number of days in the year.

For example, if an employee earned 1,000 PTO hours during the January to December 2016 period, the number they received was 1,000; January’s number was carried forward and the existing part of the year was charged to the account. If the employee were to be hired in January 2017, they would start at zero for that year, but would accrue vacation for 2017.

All vacation hours for a specific year are calculated from the employee’s last date of work (including any additional time worked before leaving the company) to their last day in the following year. Vacation accounts are usually linked to the employee’s account, but can be a separate one as well.

Calculating Vacation for New Employees

For new employees, all vacation hours accrue beginning just after their hire date. So, even if an employee is hired during the middle of the year, only the weeks during the dates in January are credited to their account. For example, if an employee is hired on June 21, he or she would see the first three weeks of July credited to the account.

Figure Out Your Standard Hours Worked per Week

In order to figure out your vacation accrual, you’ll need to know your standard workweek. Before you begin to calculate your vacation – accrual, you’ll need to make an educated guess at how many hours you typically work in a week. That’s because you can choose from three options when calculating vacation accrual – Full time (worked 40+ hours over the course of the workweek), Part time (worked fewer than 40 hours over the course of the workweek), or No time (have no work hours designated for the workweek).

Using an electronic calendar or a paper calendar, write down the hours you expect to work in a workweek over the course of the month. You can include travel time if you anticipate you will be leaving and returning to work multiple times during the month or if you anticipate being away for a significant amount of the time.

If you are calculating vacation accrual for a non-traditional work schedule, such as some self-employed types, you’ll need to figure out how many weeks in a row you will work during the course of the month. If you work a weekly shift, this won’t be any problem for you, but if you work a monthly shift, this will need to be figured out.

Determine Total Annual Work Hours Available

Once you have decided on the number of hours you wish to accrue in a particular month, you can then either use the vacation calculator above to calculate your weekly accruals. Or you can also choose to exclude overtime hours or only include blocks of time worked on certain days.

If you are working weekdays and want to include weekend accruals also, you would need to subtract two straight-time hours from each day before adding it to the vacation accruals. For example, if you work 12 hours on Monday but only have 10 hours of holiday available in the week, subtract 2 straight-time hours from Monday as well as Tuesday.

Please specify which type of vacation accrual you prefer when you sign up for Direct Deposit.

We are happy to provide your accruals in any amount you specify when you sign up for Direct Deposit. However, you will be charged for accruals in excess of what you specify.

You may also come in for a free session where we can discuss the various factors that are important to you while calculating your vacation accruals.

Email us at [email protected] or live chat with us.

Subtract Paid Holidays

Vacations are a great way to relax after a long work week and to recharge your energy. But vacation accrual doesn’t have to be an issue if you are able to take accrued vacation as leave without pay. Having an idea of how much leave you can take in a year is helpful since you can then decide whether your vacation time is being properly managed.

If for example, you take a 4-week vacation in the middle of the year, subtract paid holidays for the time you have taken vacation days in the previous two years. Once the vacation time accrues back to zero, you now have 4 weeks as leave without pay for the first two weeks of the year.

It is crucial as you calculate your vacation accrual that you are calculating all the holidays you have taken as leave without pay, and then minus those from your current vacation accrual. Also, if a holiday falls on a Sunday, be sure the holiday is checked as a holiday that falls on a Saturday is only counted as a holiday collection and not an accrued holiday to be subtracted.

To calculate your vacation accrual, this is how you do it:

Making a Printable Spreadsheet

Determine Your Business’ Start Date for Accruals

Determine the start date for your business’ accruals for the purpose of vacation verification. For example, if you begin work on January 1st, you would use the first day of the year to calculate and verify the vacation that should have been taken.

In the event that you have accrued vacation and then the business closes, you will need to wait another year to take the vacation. This is why it is very important that you have completed your vacation accruals within the last year. Failure to do so could result in a delay in the time you are allowed to take vacation.

This business was closed on May 1, 2008. The various accruals are shown below. As you can see we have 42 days of vacation accrued (of an 80 day work year) through January 1, 2008 and our actual vacation claimed from October 1, 2005.

Once you have determined your business’s start date for accruals, you are ready to enter the dates of your vacation to calculate the holiday pay due. Exercise caution when selecting the dates as the figures can vary significantly (for and against you).

The important thing to remember is that the vacation must fall within the previous year for the purpose of direct deposit.

Calendar Year

Vs. Fiscal Year

A calendar year is the year in which all of the events in your company’s planning year occur. Whether you break it into half-year periods or full-year periods for your year-end financial close.

A fiscal year is the last full calendar year plus three months … usually from January 1st through June 30th. For example, 2017 is a fiscal year for 2018.

The difference: Each calendar year may have two or four fiscal years. You must determine the fiscal year first, then choose the calendar year that best fits that forecasted total number of days of PTO and sick leave used as a percentage of the employees total hours worked.

By learning how to calculate vacation accumulation, you can better decide how much vacation you need to allow for your employees. Your entire team will be more productive, and your company will be run more efficiently!

Fiscal Year

There are two ways you can accrue vacation time. The first and more predictable is accrual and the second is when you actually go on vacation.

Accrual: Accrual means you have the option to deduct time from your leave balance when you use it. If you plan on using a lot of vacation time, you can use the fiscal year accrual rate to help plan your leave. The goal for many employers is to use 8-15% of employees’ time each year. The more dollars you accrue each year, the more the employer is likely to allow you access to that time. For example, say you accrue 10% of your time each year and you’re due vacation in 2 weeks (let’s use even numbers for easy math). Accrual rate = 10%, vacation time = 2 weeks, 2 weeks @ 10% = 20. You’re half way to your allotted vacation time (the employer may prefer 3 weeks instead). You can see by simple math that you need to accrue at least 45 minutes of time to reach your vacation time amount of 2 weeks.

In order to accrue time in the bonus or overtime period, you must have worked at least 15 hours in the pay period in which you accrued vacation.

Hire Date or Anniversary


In some Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, the hiring date is considered the "anniversary date." For example, if month one of an eight month employment period is the employment date, then month 6 is the anniversary date.

Although less common, the anniversary date may be used for other types of business and financial records, such as vacation accruals. The date a person enters the workforce is not the same as the date they start accruing vacation time.

So while the actual anniversary date may or may not be the anniversary of the hiring date, it still makes logical sense to track vacation accruals based on the hiring date. So in the example above, the anniversary date might be a month later than the type of anniversary that you would normally expect, however, using the hiring date for accruals makes sense from a business and tax standpoint.

Annual Accrual vs Lump Sum

When calculating vacation accrual, the term also refers to the dollar value that can be put away into a 401K so that you’ll have more money to carry forward, and have a more steady vacation cash flow in retirement. However, if you’re 50 or older, you have to take into consideration the possibility that if you are a smoker, as avoiding smoking can increase the chances of living longer. Either way, it’s good to have money available during your retirement years.

Vacation accrual is the term many people use to describe the process of taking vacation days in chunks to save up and carry forward. If you are available on a part time basis, you have an opportunity to build vacation accrual in your year end vacation days. This varies from employer to employer as well as the amount of vacation days available.

One method of vacation accrual takes a set number of days each year and accumulates them by taking them in chunks (say one day per pay period). In this case, you start with nothing, and then over the course of a year, build a vacation nest egg through the addition of vacation accrual.

Other Considerations When Calculating PTO & Vacation Accruals

Vacation accrual is a great benefit of working in the public sector. Most employers provide vacation accrual and comp time, calculated based upon an employee’s accumulated annual leave.

A vacation accrual calculator helps you get a feel for how much comp time you have accrued based on previously provided annual leave. More importantly, it tells you how much time you have on your current leave, and how much vacation you can earn.

Additionally, many vacation accrual and comp time calculators are free. Not only can you use this to track your leave and see how much vacation you can earn, but you can use it as a handy reference. If you’re like me and always forget how long you’ve been with your company, having a vacation accrual calculator makes it easy to find out.

In many public sector jobs, you are provided a predetermined number of vacation days each year so that you can take a vacation when you want to and relax without running into trouble at work.

The problem is, there is no set period for vacation accrual. When employees do not know when they can take their vacation, they may hesitate when deciding to take a break. Therefore, the more notice they have, the better off they are.

PTO for Part-time Employees Vs Full-time Employees

Before I get started, I want to provide you with a little history lesson. In order to fully understand Vacation Accrual (Vacation Time Off or VTO), it’s important to remember how it came to be, as well as the different components that make up VTO.

In the early days of capitalism, employees who worked for companies with longer hours on the job required more paid time off. This time off could be used at a later date, but for those working 40-hour a week jobs, there was only 6 days off a year!

Today, we are a little better off. United States and Canadian law allow for 7 days of paid vacation time off a year. This doesn’t include sick days or vacations that are only sick days.

As the US turned into the information age, technology quickly changed the game. In the early 80–s, employees were allowed to accrue vacation days that could be used in future years.

But, this was only for full-time employees, not part-time employees! Millions of part-time, contract and contingent workers in the US and Canada were not eligible for accrual! This created many challenges, including having to clock out each day to give the impression that he or she was employed full-time.

Allowing PTO Carry Over From the Prior Year

We’ll be honest here: we originally overlooked this new provision, as it took a while for the plumbing for it to be hook up.

But the idea is that you’ll be able to carry some of your vacation time from the prior year forward. Not all (or even most) managers will do this, but if you let people know that you’ll allow it, employees are likely to ask for it. (And if they’re asked, you don’t have to let them take it. You’d only have to be willing to allow it.)

As for the mechanics of it: for each day that you need PTO for the new year (January 1st, for example), you’ll need to assign a number of days to be carried forward, and you’ll need to subtract this amount from the amount of days they were scheduled to work. (If they’re scheduled for 5 days and you wanted to allow 2 weeks of carryover, that’d be a 3 days subtracted.)

Do You Allow Negative Balances?

What Do You Pay Employees?

I just got a job offer from my company to work 5 or more days over the next few weeks. The job would involve working some weekend shifts, so it would be a great workout. The downside is the job would suck up my vacation time, which would leave me 8 days short. I told my boss I’d need to go on vacation if I took this job. He agreed and said he’d design the schedule so I’d work weekends and avoid a full week. Can he do that or do I have to be flexible if I want the job?


You may also like…

What if an Employee Quits & Then Comes Back?

Most people are aware that an employee who truly leaves the company has a non-compete clause for some period of time, typically six months. But what often doesn’t seem to make it into the law books is how the company treats an employee who truly retires and then returns prior to the non-compete clause running out. We’ve talked over and over how short-term, part-time, non-profit, temporary employees can expect to work for a company for a long time because of company loyalty. However, what about a company loyal employee? What if that employee comes back after an extended period of retirement?

The answer to that question is complicated and will vary based on what the company policy is, what the employee’s wishes are, and which state the company is in. But first, let’s break down some of the basics so that we can all understand how to calculate vacation accrual.

To start, we’ll assume that for the purposes of this example, the employee is not working in a job which falls under the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). And instead, that the employee is an independent contractor (or works for a company which is categorized as such). So for purposes of this article, we’ll leave the FMLA out of the discussion.

Use the Correct Accrual Rate per Cycle

If you are a salaried supervisor and receive an Accrual Rate, when to take time off is something you need to know. Vacation accruals are one of the most common forms of paid time off for employees and the accrual help schedule vacation days and hours.

And while too much vacation may not get you a raise, too little may cost you an opportunity to get back in the game. So if you've worked here a while, chances are pretty good you've had to deal with vacation accruals.

As mentioned in a previous post, vacation accruals occur when the SDU receives paid time off from vacation bank reserves or when you use sick/personal days to take vacation. It is important that you understand how this works.

The calculation formula is a little different than what you might expect. The SDU accounts for vacation accruals in your pay (and on your paycheck as well) when your Accrual Rate is greater than zero. If you are a new hire with a payroll-based accrual rate, your effective rate will start out at zero for at least one pay cycle. Therefore, you will not see a vacation accrual during this time. However, it is important to note that your accrual rate will only increase to the full accrual rate of 5% once you have completed a pay cycle with a zero effective rate.



You can calculate vacation accrual by using the simple formula below:

New Vacation Days / Base Salary (Take Total Weekly Pay and multiply it by 52)

Keep your eyes open for some paycheck stubs that have the vacation days-per-week information on them. See those numbers from the weekly payroll? Those are how many vacation days you work on that job. So, you know, that formula above is all you need to calculate vacation accrual. Use it on both the public and private side. There is no need to know the name of the vacation package. Maybe one day there will be, but until then, we’ll get by with that simple formula.

A couple of caveats to add to this number: for a typical hourly employee, this works out to be about one week of vacation accrual per 352 hours worked. And for a typical salaried employee, this works out to be about 37 vacation days earned per year. But that’s not perfect, and it’s not necessarily a great policy to go by. For the typical small business owner or a second income earner, this number might be too low.


Vs. Monthly Vacation Accruals

In general, most companies do not allow employees to accrue vacation time on a semi-monthly basis. Instead, they allow accrual of vacation time on a monthly basis, with the semi-monthly accruals used for financial reporting — to ensure employees accrue a proper amount of vacation time. However, a few companies use semi-monthly accruals for financial reporting only. They allow for vacation time accrual on a semi-monthly basis to employees who work semi-monthly schedules.

Accrual of vacation time is easier to track and enforce when accrual happens on a monthly basis. Therefore, most companies use a monthly accrual scheduling. Semi-monthly accruals are generally used for financial reporting purposes only. Once an employee takes a semi-monthly vacation, depending on the company, the semi-monthly accrual clock starts over with the first day of the next month and the employee will be allowed to take a vacation for a full week at the end of the next month.


Are you making less money than you’re getting paid? Or, are you not getting paid what you’re worth? If so, you may need some help calculating your vacation pay or earned sick leave.

When people talk about vacation (or PTO) – it’s really sick leave – they usually refer to the amount of time they take from work each year. When calculating vacation or PTO for yourself, take the amount of money you’re paid and divide it by the number of hours you work. That’s how much vacation time you should get.

If you don’t get that amount of time or if you’re paid less than what you’re worth, your employer is not following the correct procedure. Instead of making you work, the employer should be helping you take time off to enjoy yourself – and make vacation time bankable.

It’s important to point out that while vacation is legally considered earned leave, it’s not the same as PTO or sick leave. Remember that your employer is required to make up any time you’ve missed within a reasonable period.

State Laws That Affect PTO Calculations, Accruals & Rollovers

Vacation accrual and employer paid vacation leave are common benefits offered by employers to their employees. Companies are required by law to give employees non-exempt (i.e., non-hourly, salaried) employees at least a small amount of vacation time; but, the amount of time they are required to give depends upon whether or not the employees are in a union.

Unless an employee is exempt from overtime pay rules, vacation accrual is a non-cashable benefit (meaning that the employee cannot get reimbursed from his or her paycheck for accrued vacation time).

Employees are also allowed to rollover unused vacation days (except sick, annual, or floating holidays) into the next year, effectively "carrying" over the days on a prorated basis.

How a PTO Vacation Accrual Calculator Works

Assuming you regularly use your vacation time, how to calculate vacation accrual is a question many people ask. If you’re not aware of how it works, you may think of your PTO as a built-in bank account that’s capable of saving up for future vacations. But if you don’t have a PTO Vacation Accrual Calculator, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. How To Calculate Vacation Accrual is a calculator that will help you understand how much your accrued vacation wages are worth. Once you know how to calculate vacation accrual and value your PTO vacation, you can start planning for future vacations no matter what your financial situation is. Here’s how a PTO Vacation Accrual Calculator works.

Alternatives to Using a Vacation Accrual Calculator

Vacation accrual is one of the most popular budget saving tactics that people use to improve their savings. The most common way to calculate vacation accrual is to simply take one day off from work. For example, if a person works 5 days a week and takes a vacation day every 7 days, then they will have 6 vacation days use when they have their vacation. While the logic behind using vacation accrual makes sense, it requires a lot of rote calculations. This is especially true if you are in the performance based or commission type of work. Expenses like parking and personal expenses will inflate all of your vacation days and make it harder to calculate how many vacation days you have. As a result, many people will just use the vacation accrual calculator provided by their employer.

However, if you don’t use an employee vacation accrual calculator, there are a couple of alternatives that you can use to calculate your vacation accrual. The first way to calculate your vacation accrual is to do some simple math. If you want to know how many vacation days you have left, you can simply multiply the number of workdays by 7 and add that number to any days off or holidays you have coming up. Here is an example:

March 5th is the first day of the month so you will always have one work day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About PTO & Vacation Accruals

What is PTO?

Public Timer Off is an employee-benefit plan that allows your employees to accrue paid vacation time or to take paid time off at a future date. PTO is typically accumulated and paid out on a monthly or quarterly basis. The amount of accrual depends on the number of employees and how many hours you expect them to work.

How Do I Set Up PTO?

PTO accruals can be set up within a variety of different payroll solutions. However, no matter how your company processes their payroll, in many instances free PTO can be set up by your HR team. Even if your company handbooks do not mention PTO, the benefit is also available for your employees’ understated paychecks.

If you already have a payroll system in place, you can configure free PTO for employees on your company’s handbooks, and/or payroll system.

What Does Free PTO Mean?

In order to ensure that your companies run efficiently and you can use the extra time for your own pursuits and/or vacation time, you may need the flexibility to grant employees additional paid time off.

By setting up free PTO for employees, you’ll be able to provide your employees with additional time off according to their needs.

Are PTO accruals regulated by the government?

PTO accruals are regulated by law for most of the US and Canada. PTO accruals in most other countries are regulated by each individual employer. In some countries, PTO accruals are even outlawed.

The lack of PTO accrual regulation is most obvious in the U.S. states that have a split PTO accrual regime. Some states set a mandatory accrual rate for all employers, while others have a lower accrual rate for most employers but a higher accrual rate for law firms, hospitals, the government or other employers who are required to provide more generous PTO.

The accrual rates for most U.S. states are published by the U.S. Department of Labor. In most states, the accrual rates increase as the year-end date gets closer.

Can I prevent new hires from taking PTO or vacation too soon?

You certainly can! This simple calculation of vacation accrual can help you:

Prevent new hires from taking too much Vacation or PTO

Don’t get caught with long month’s end calculations (more space for longer vacation.)

Keep track of future vacations/PTO days you want to take. (See below for vacation accrual calculations.)

This calculator will let you:

Deposit vacation for up to 1 year to be taken at your option

Deposit vacation for up to 1 year to be subtracted from future pay based on a formula of Vacation which you set yourself.

After all of the steps above, just multiply whichever Vacation you deposited times the number of years to go and voila… your Vacation days deposited are subtracted from your future pay.

As you create an account, we’ll ask you for the start date for the vacation you would like to take.

Start Date Number of Years to Go

We’ll calculate the amount of Vacation you have and it will be available for you to use at your convenience.

You can then choose to deposit the Vacation to be taken at your discretion or subtracted from your future pay based on a formula at any time in the future.

Should I offer PTO to part-time workers?

When it comes to the best PTO calculator, this is a question that companies of all sizes ask. Many companies feel like offering PTO to workers will help improve employee retention and ensure that the company can have excellent workers for the future.

It’s not surprising that this could help improve employee retention. Workers are more likely to stick around for many years if they feel valued. When employees feel like their work is important, they are less likely to leave. Giving part-time workers a chance to earn vacation time lets them feel valued for the work that they have done. This helps make them feel connected to the company and make them want to stay. In addition, since they are more likely to stick around for longer, it also increases efficiency by keeping the company’s workforce small.

But on the other hand, giving part-time workers PTO might also cause them to leave. There are a few reasons why giving PTO to part-time workers might cause employees to leave.

Giving too much vacation time to part-time workers can lead to burnout. Workers are used to working a certain amount of hours every day, and giving them too much time off can cause them to feel unproductive. They might also not feel like they are doing a good enough job.

What other considerations impact PTO calculations?

There are three important variables that should be considered when tracking vacation accrual. These variables are the number of paid days off earned, category of service and the number of unused compensatory days. The more paid days off an employee has earned, the greater the PTO balance available. The amount of unused compensatory days determines the time off an employee will be entitled to for each vacation day; unused days also carry forward and can be carried over.

Bottom Line

Vacation Accrual

Sometimes it’s not a question of how much vacation you need, it’s a matter of when you’re going to take a vacation.

Men have an edge in this area. According to data from the 2016 American Time Use Survey, women take an average of 11 vacation days a year, while men take 13.’ But if you’re opting for the more traditional career path that involves a lot of travel, you’re probably taking a vacation every week or even every day.

Finding the right creative strategy to accumulate vacation time is one of the most valuable skills you can learn. And believe me, there are tons of creative strategies.

One of the simplest strategies is to use Vacation Accrual, a technique for banking vacation days each year. This is a great way to keep your vacation days from dropping off your schedule and depleting one day at a time as you’re forced to choose between taking a vacation or retiring your vacation days.