Carnegie Mellon University

Paid Time Off

POLICY TITLE: Carnegie Mellon University Paid Time Off (PTO) Policy
DATE OF ISSUANCE: Originally issued on April 23, 1990 as Organization Announcement #323, Carnegie Mellon University Paid Time Off Policy. It was revised and approved by the President's Council on February 11, 2000. This information is current as of August 13, 2014.
ACCOUNTABLE DEPARTMENT/UNIT: Office of the Vice President for Operations. General questions concerning this policy or its intent should be directed to the Benefits Office, ext. 8-2047. Specific questions about an individual's PTO should be directed to her or his supervisor.
ABSTRACT: Defines Paid Time Off, including uses of, entitlement and accrual.

Time Off and Leaves, Benefits Programs

Full-time Staff

The Paid Time Off Policy provides regular, full-time staff members with an entitlement of days away from work with pay. Paid Time Off (PTO) days may be used for vacation, personal time, illness or time off to care for dependents. PTO must be scheduled in advance and approved by your supervisor, except in cases of illness or emergency. If an employee takes PTO without prior approval for medical or emergency reasons, the university reserves the right to require medical or other documentation of the reasons given for the unapproved PTO. The PTO Policy does not cover scheduled university holidays, floating holidays, time off for jury duty or bereavement leave. Questions about PTO earned and used should be referred to your supervisor.

Paid Time Off is earned on an employment year basis and is earned on the first day of each month following your date of employment. Paid Time Off is based on the following schedule:

Completed Years of Employment:

Paid Time Off:

Up to and including year 3

17 days (1.42 days per month)

Beginning year 4

20 days (1.67 days per month)

Beginning year 8

25 days (2.08 days per month)

Beginning year 16

30 days (2.50 days per month)

Note: Staff members employed at the time the Paid Time Off Policy was implemented in 1990 should review the section of this policy called "Staff Hired Prior to July 1, 1990," below.

During your first year of employment, PTO is earned at a rate of one-twelfth of 17 days, or 1.42 days per month. Time off may only be used as it is earned, except in the case of illness. In no instance may a supervisor permit a staff member to take more than five days unearned PTO. PTO days are not earned during any leaves of absence. If an employee is on a leave of absence the first day of the month, PTO will not accrue for that month. An employee will resume earning and accruing PTO on the first day of the month following the employee’s return to work. If an employee returns to work on the first day of the month, the employee will resume earning PTO on that day.

After your first employment anniversary, you may schedule Paid Time Off at any time during your employment year. Whenever possible, PTO should be scheduled in full-day or half-day increments.  However, in non-medical and non-emergency cases in which the supervisor has granted prior approval, or in cases of medical necessity or emergency where obtaining prior approval is not possible, employees may schedule time in one-hour increments. Departments have discretion to prohibit the use of PTO in one-hour increments due to business necessity.  

PTO may not be used to receive pay in excess of wages earned for a normal work day and PTO is not counted for purposes of calculating overtime pay. The total amount of hours worked plus hours taken as PTO in a single day may not exceed the number of hours in an employee’s normal daily work schedule.

PTO days are not earned during part-time employment. However, part-time employees who are subsequently hired into a full-time, benefits-eligible position may count each year in which they have worked 1,000 hours or more while part time as a year of service on the PTO accrual schedule. 

Carryover of Paid Time Off

Earned, unused PTO may be carried over into the next year but the number of days carried over may not exceed your entitlement for the new anniversary year. Example:


PTO Entitlement Carryover



PTO Actual Carryover

1st Year





2nd Year





3rd Year





4th Year





5th Year





The number of PTO days carried over from one year to the next may not exceed your entitlement for the new anniversary year; days not used or carried over may be added to your sick day bank and used as days at 100% pay (Reserve Sick Days) in lieu of benefits through the Short Term Disability Plan. You must have an approved STD claim in order to use Reserve Sick Days. (A maximum of 130 Reserve Sick Days may be banked.)

Paid Time Off at Termination

Terminating employees will be paid either for their earned but unused PTO or their annual entitlement, whichever is less. Unused PTO carried over will be used in this calculation.


  • A terminating employee with two years and six months of service who has used no PTO days during the current employment year and who has two unused days of PTO carried over from the previous year will be entitled to payment of 10.5 days - 8.5 days earned in the current year plus two carried over. (1.42 X 6 + 2 = 10.5)
  • A terminating employee with four years and ten months of service who has used no PTO days during the current employment year and who has six unused days of PTO carried over from the previous year will be paid for 20 days of PTO - the current annual entitlement. (1.67 X 10 + 6 = 22.7 = 20 days annual entitlement.)

If you have used all of your PTO entitlement for the employment year and terminate your employment before you have earned all the PTO you have taken, payment for the unearned days will be deducted in the computation of your final paycheck.

The university does not make payment for unused PTO to employees who are terminated for the violation of university rules and/or regulations, to employees who resign without appropriate notice as described under Voluntary Separation in the Staff Handbook [pdf], to employees who resign or terminate employment during the initial provisional period, or to the beneficiaries of employees who die while employed at the university. In the latter case, the Month-After-Death Benefit is provided. (Unused Reserve Sick Days are not paid at termination.)  An employee cannot use PTO on the last day of employment.  Unless on an approved leave of absence, an employee must be actively working on the date employment ends.

When an employee’s status changes from full-time to part-time, the employee will be paid for his or her earned unused PTO days or annual entitlement, whichever is less. An emergency or unexpected work requirement might cause you to forego scheduled Paid Time Off already approved by your supervisor. When such an event means that you cannot carry over PTO to which you would have been entitled if you had taken your scheduled Paid Time Off, special arrangements may be made by your department head and should be confirmed in writing. The agreement may provide for Paid Time Off to be carried forward or some other arrangement appropriate to the circumstances.

Staff members hired before July 1, 1990

Staff members hired before July 1, 1990 continued to receive their current allocation of vacation days plus sick days as PTO days, as shown on the Transitional Schedule*. A staff member continued to earn that number of days each year until his/her completed years of employment put the staff member at a step on the Paid Time Off Schedule.**

For example, if you had completed five years of service and were in your sixth year of employment, you would earn 25 PTO days (15 vacation and 10 sick) under the Transitional Schedule. In the seventh year of employment, you would also earn 25 PTO days. Upon completing seven years of employment, in your eighth year, you would be at the "beginning year 8" step in the PTO schedule (25 days per year). You would continue to earn 25 PTO days each year until you completed 15 years of service, and then would begin to earn 30 PTO days per year.

Transitional Schedule*

Years of Service

Transitional PTO Days

Current Vacation and Sick Schedule

Less than 1

17 days

10 vacation + 5 sick

Beginning year 2

20 days

10 vacation + 10 sick

Beginning year 4

25 days

15 vacation + 10 sick

Beginning year 8

30 days

15 vacation + 15 sick

Beginning year 16

35 days

20 vacation + 15 sick

Paid Time Off Schedule**

Completed Years of Employment

Maximum Annual PTO/Days Earned Per Month

Less than 3

17 days (1.42 days per month)

3 through 6

20 days (1.67 days per month)

7 through 14

25 days (2.08 days per month)

15 or more

30 days (2.50 days per month)

Staff members who completed 15 or more years of service at the time the Paid Time Off Policy was implemented have 35 PTO days (calculated as follows: 20 vacation plus 15 sick) through the duration of their full-time employment.

Staff hired prior to 1969 were given the option of continuing in their current vacation and sick day programs or opting into the PTO program at 35 PTO days per year.

Earned, unused vacation days were converted to PTO days when the PTO policy was implemented in 1990. Any sick days accumulated under the old Paid Sick Day plan were saved as days at 100% of pay to be used in lieu of short-term disability benefits (Reserve Sick Days).

Exceptions to PTO Policy

Carnegie Mellon University reserves the right to make exceptions or alterations to this policy where required by applicable local law.

Employees working in locations where such exceptions or alterations are required will be provided written notification thereof.