Paid time off (PTO)

The paid time off (PTO) program is one of two paid leave programs. The program you use and your accrual schedule depends on the date you were hired, rehired or moved into a regular (permanent) position and/or union status. To determine whether PTO applies to you, see paid leave programs.

What can paid time off be used for?

Paid time off (PTO) is one bank of paid leave time to use for:

The following medical reasons

  • You are sick
  • A family member (spouse, children, parents or person residing in your household) is sick and needs your care, including adult children, siblings, grandparents, and step-parents (as of August 1, 2013)
  • You have a doctor, dentist, or medical appointment
  • You are having a baby
  • You are going to donate an organ


  • Non-medical reasons
  • The vacation and PTO donation program

Also may be used for

  • Trade Time for Fitness reimbursements
  • Payment of long-term disability insurance
  • Payment of short-term disability insurance
  • Severance pay

Why does the county offer PTO?

  • Gives employees more paid time off for non-medical reasons (up to 10 extra days per year for most full-time employees)
  • Encourages advanced planning for time off
  • Reduces unscheduled absences
  • Keeps Hennepin County competitive with other employers
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PTO hours and accrual

There are two PTO accrual schedules (schedule 1 and schedule 2). Accrual depends on the date you were hired, rehired or moved into a regular (permanent) position and/or union status.

Once you are in the PTO program

  • You continue in PTO for the duration of your county employment
  • Your original PTO schedule (schedule 1 or schedule 2) remains in effect

Exception: If you move to a job class in a union which does not offer PTO, your paid leave program will revert to the vacation and sick leave program.

PTO accrual

  • Accrual is based on the PTO schedule (see paid leave programs).
  • 1 day = 8 hours
  • Accruals are earned on a per pay period basis.
  • Rates and balances are available on your APEX home page.
  • Hours accrue to a maximum of 480 hours (60 days).
  • Accruals for part-time, benefit-earning employees are pro-rated.
  • Employees are not required to maintain a minimum PTO balance but must have enough PTO hours and/or preserved sick leave hours to “pay” for short-term disability, long-term disability and the trade time for fitness program.
Years of service Schedule 1 accrual per year Schedule 2 accrual per year
0-6 months 20 days 22 days
6 months - 5 years 20 days 22 days
5-8 years 23 days 25 days
8-12 years 26 days 28 days
12-18 years 28 days 30 days
Over 18 years 31 days 33 days

PTO selection

To determine whether PTO applies to you, see paid leave programs.

If eligible, you can select the PTO program by completing the PTO selection form, which is available through APEX under "My Pay and Benefit," "Benefits," "Enrollment." "PTO Selection."

If you change to PTO

You retain your existing sick leave hours, which cannot be converted to PTO. No additional sick leave hours accrue.

Sick leave hours can be:

  • Used for illness/medical absences
  • Used to pay for short- or long-term disability and the trade time for fitness program
  • Saved for severance

Your vacation balance becomes your beginning PTO balance.

You must choose whether to use your sick leave or PTO balance for elected long-term disability or short-term disability premium payments.

You cannot go back to the vacation and sick leave program. The decision cannot be changed.

There is no formal notification that your PTO selection has taken effect. Monitor your APEX portal page to confirm the change has occurred.

When your employee record is updated in APEX:

  • The leave program type and balances will change on “My HR.”
  • You'll get an error message if you enter "Vacation" time on your timesheet.

Using PTO for medical reasons

If I am sick, can I use my sick leave balance during my time away from work?

Yes, you can use either PTO or your accrued sick leave hours for illness or medical absences with supervisory approval.

Can my supervisor ask me if my absence is for medical or non-medical reasons?


If I take a medical leave of absence, do I need to use my PTO?

  • You must exhaust any existing sick leave balance before unpaid leave can be used.
  • You do not need to exhaust your PTO balance unless specified in your union contract.

How will FMLA leaves be handled if I select PTO?

  • FMLA is administered the same under the county’s paid leave programs.
  • If your absence is FMLA-related, all time off, whether paid or unpaid, will be recorded as FMLA leave up to your FMLA maximum for the payroll year.
  • PTO runs concurrently with FMLA.

PTO and leaves of absence

If I take a personal leave of absence, do I need to use my PTO?

Yes, accrued PTO balances in addition to compensatory (comp) time and holiday hours must be exhausted prior to approval of leave without pay. An employee’s department can request that the HR director waive this requirement.

If I select PTO, will other leaves still be available?

Leaves not affected by PTO include:

  • Bereavement leave
  • Holidays
  • Military leave
  • Jury duty / court duty
  • Organ or bone marrow donation program
  • Disaster volunteer Leave
  • Conferences and training
  • Election day election judge
  • Hazardous duty
  • Time off for selection process
  • Special leave without pay (subject to your department’s current policy)
  • School conferences

PTO when you change jobs at Hennepin

What happens if I change jobs and my new group doesn't have PTO?

If you move to a position with a union that does not offer PTO, you revert to the vacation and sick leave program. If you later move to a position that offers PTO, you again revert to the PTO program.

PTO and retirement or resignation

If I select PTO, and then leave county employment with fewer than eight years of service will I receive my unused sick leave in severance?


If I leave county employment with an unused sick leave balance, then come back later with PTO, can I have access to the lost sick leave?


If I select PTO, and then leave county employment with at least eight years of service, do I receive my unused sick leave in severance?

Yes, subject to a lifetime maximum of 800 hours of severance.

What will I receive in severance pay if I select PTO?

See Severance pay calculations.

If I receive vacation and sick leave severance when I leave the county, then come back later with PTO, will my unused PTO be paid out?

Yes. Employees who return to the county and participate in the PTO program will receive their unused PTO balance up to 480 hours.  There is no lifetime maximum limit for PTO payout.

Can accumulated PTO be "run down" like vacation before retirement?

Yes, an employee can specify a last working day, go on PTO leave until all hours are exhausted, and then terminate employment. This option is:

  • Subject to supervisor approval
  • Limited to 480 PTO hours (vacation hours are limited to 280)

There is no lifetime maximum for PTO hours paid out.

Comparing vacation and sick leave and PTO

How is using PTO similar to using vacation and sick leave?

  • Your supervisor must approve time off from work (paid or unpaid).
  • You may be required to provide medical documentation to confirm the medical necessity of your absence.
  • FMLA must still be documented through the Leave and Accommodation Management Office.
  • Unused leave balances carry over from one year to the next (up to the accrual maximum).

Does PTO count when calculating overtime?

Yes. All paid time is counted except sick leave.

What is the maximum number of sick leave hours that are allowed to accrue?

There is no maximum accrual balance for sick leave hours under the vacation and sick leave program. Vacation and sick leave severance pay, however, is capped at 800 hours.

Once an employee has a balance of 720 sick leave hours, additional sick leave hours accrued under the vacation and sick leave program are split between the employee’s sick leave balance and vacation balance.

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