Voluntary Time Off (VTO)

VTO - Voluntary Time Off vs Volunteer Time-Off

In HR, VTO can be defined as either Voluntary Time Off or Volunteer Time Off. Employers need to understand the differences between these types of job breaks to establish an employee leave policy. 

What is VTO?

VTO is an abbreviation for either Voluntary Time Off or Volunteer Time Off. The following describe the slight difference in definition of the two terms.? 

Voluntary Time Off

VTO as in Voluntary Time Off is a type of leave where employees are allowed to take unpaid time off at their discretion without affecting their employment status or benefits. This VTO also does not affect the employee’s paid time off (PTO) or sick leave, which means they can still file them as needed. 

Companies offer voluntary time off to balance the number of employees with the workload. For example, during off-peak seasons, a company may need fewer employees in the factory. In this case, they may allow employees to take voluntary time off for a couple of days.  

Volunteer Time Off 

VTO as in Volunteer Time Off, on the other hand, gives employees paid time off to volunteer for an approved organisation. This means the employees are still paid for the hours spent volunteering. 

More and more companies are now offering this VTO to:  

  • Give back to the community in more ways than monetary donations 
  • Establish themselves as a company that values social responsibility 
  • Attract employees who have the same advocacy as that of the organisation 
  • Incentivise employees for volunteering without affecting their paycheck 

Voluntary Time Off: Benefits and Drawbacks 

Giving your employees the option to take several unpaid days off at their discretion has several benefits and drawbacks. 


  • It’s practical as there will be fewer unproductive hours spent in the workplace
  • It may increase employee satisfaction, which can help improve retention and reduce turnover rates 


  • There may be a mismatch between workload and staffing. For example, if too many employees file for VTO, productivity may decrease even if it’s off-peak season. 
  • It may interfere with scheduling. 
  • It may give the perception that saving money is more important than an employee’s effort.  

Volunteer Time Off: Benefits and Drawbacks

Likewise, offering volunteer time off has the following benefits and drawbacks:


  • Allowing employees to volunteer during working hours can boost their morale and instil a sense of purpose, particularly if the organisation they are volunteering for has the same advocacy as theirs. 
  • It builds your reputation as a company that values social responsibility.
  • It helps attract talents that are socially responsible as well. 


  • One potential drawback is the cost. The organisation after all still pays even if the employee is not working. 
  • It may interfere with scheduling.
  • It may decrease productivity. 

Considerations On Establishing VTO Policies 

While some drawbacks are inevitable, some can be addressed by having an effective VTO policy in place. For both VTOs, it’s important to establish the following first:

  • The person responsible for approving VTO requests
  • How far in advance should VTO requests be filed?
  • The process of filing the requests 

Here are some of the considerations when creating your Voluntary/Volunteer Time Off policies specifically:

Voluntary Time Off Policy Considerations

  • Eligibility. Will you offer this VTO only to full-time employees? 
  • Parameters. How many days off at a time can an employee file for VTO? 
  • Tracking. How many employees have filed for VTO, including PTO in the same period? This is important so as not to affect productivity. 

Volunteer Time Off Policy Considerations

  • Eligibility. Will this VTO be open for part-timers? 
  • Choice of organisation. Can employees choose on their own and you simply need to approve it, or will you partner with specific organisations? 
  • Parameters. How often and for how long can employees take VTOs?
  • Monitoring. How do you plan to verify the employee’s activity while volunteering? This may be important if there are already cases when employees have abused VTO. 

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