What's the average number of holiday + paid time off days for workers at small SF tech startups (early stage, seed, series A)?

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Holiday & paid time off for small SF tech startups

The few paid time off (PTO) policies of small, San Francisco-based technology startups that we found after an extensive search indicate that there may be an inclination towards unlimited PTO and a wider range of PTO benefits, including company-wide holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, personal leave, parental leave, and paid time off to protest. Studies involving the technology sector in general, however, point to the possibility that the number of PTO days offered by small, San Francisco-based technology startups varies widely. The number could range anywhere from 10 to unlimited.

paid time off

Below are the insights we have gathered on paid time off that led us to believe so. There is no pre-compiled list or database of small, San Francisco-based technology startups and their PTO policies, and only a few such startups have PTO policies that can be found in the public domain. Nevertheless, there are a limited number of articles and reports that provided helpful insights.

1. In January 2017, Zenefits, a San Francisco-based HR service provider whose client base consists of over 10,000 small to midsize businesses, disclosed that the employees of its San Francisco customers accrue 113 hours of paid vacation and personal leave on average. Of these 113 hours, 101 hours are vacation leave hours and 12 hours are personal leave hours. Given that paid sick leave hours, paid parental leave hours, and unlimited PTO hours are not yet considered, it is likely that the average number of PTO hours that employees of small, technology startups in San Francisco accrue in a year is greater than 113. If an 8-hour workday is assumed, this figure translates to over 14 days of paid time off.

There is a growing number of small to midsize businesses in San Francisco that are offering unlimited or "take-as-you-need" PTO, and the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has issued ordinances relating to paid sick leave and paid parental leave. The paid sick leave ordinance has different requirements for employers with at least 10 employees and those with fewer than 10 employees. Employers with at least 10 employees are required to let employees accrue a minimum of up to 72 hours. The paid parental leave ordinance, on the other hand, requires employers to give supplemental compensation to eligible employees.

2. Apart from paid sick leave and paid parental leave, there is also the paid time off to protest. As can be seen in a Silicon Valley Business Times article published in April 2017, a number of tech companies in the Bay Area are offering this benefit. Fauna, a San Francisco-based database startup with 13 employees, offers "unlimited paid leave to engage in rallies, voting, writing letters to elected officials and other civic activities" apart from unlimited vacation hours. Other tech startups in the Bay Area, such as Atipica, Buoyant, and Jelly Industries, provide this protest-related benefit as well. According to LinkedIn, Atipica and Buoyant each have 11-50 employees, while Jelly Industries has 2-10 employees.

3. In 2016, Hired.com listed a number of fast-growing startups that were hiring in San Francisco. Included in the list are Mattermark and Wanelo. Mattermark offers more than 6 weeks or over 30 days of time off — 1 month of vacation/personal leave, 10 holidays, and 1 day of birthday leave. Wanelo, on the other hand, offers "untracked vacation days." Both Mattermark and Wanelo are San Francisco-based tech startups with 11-50 employees, according to LinkedIn.

4. Through its 2015-2016 Employee Experience Benchmarking Report, Sequoia Consulting Group revealed that the most common number of days offered, by type of paid time-off, is as follows:

a. Company-wide holidays — 10 days (offered by 35% of companies)
b. Vacation days — 15 days (offered by 42% of companies providing separate vacation and sick days)
c. Paid sick days — Unlimited (offered by 27% of companies providing separate vacation and sick days)
d. Single PTO bucket (combined vacation and sick days) — 15 days (offered by 69% of companies providing a single PTO bucket)

The group observed an almost 50/50 split between companies with a single PTO bucket and those with separate vacation and sick days. The group also found that the number of companies offering unlimited PTO has been increasing since 2013. Though the geographic scope of the group's survey is not clear from the report, 78% of respondents were from the technology sector and 7.7% of respondents were in the seed, angel, or Series A funding stage.

5. In October 2016, Glassdoor revealed the 25 companies that were rated the highest when it comes to vacation and paid time off. Three to five weeks or 15 to 25 days of paid time off were the norm among the companies on the list. However, all the companies on the list are large, established companies, not startups.

6. Computerworld has its "Best Places to Work in IT Rankings for 2017," which can be filtered by key criteria (e.g. number of days of paid time off), region (e.g. Pacific), and company size (e.g. small). What Computerworld considered small, however, were companies with fewer than 1,000 U.S. employees. Among the 29 small companies included in Computerworld's rankings, the number of PTO days offered after a year of service ranged from 10 to unlimited, while the number offered after 10 years of service ranged from 20 to unlimited.

Given that the 29 small companies that are considered the best companies to work in IT have widely varying PTO days, it is possible for small, technology startups in San Francisco to have the same broad range as well. The wide range could be attributed to the fact that PTO policies are not the only consideration; companies can compete in other respects, including salary, health benefits, and training.


The number of days that employees of companies with flexible PTO policies take advantage of, on average, could not be found in the public domain, but, according to an article published by the San Francisco Business Times in July 2017, the Project Time Off organization reported that 64% of employees in San Francisco and Oakland do not use their accrued paid time off hours. These unused hours translate to a total of 12.8 million unused paid time off days.


The report "The Silicon Valley Employee Benefits Index 2017 Benchmarking Report" may contain helpful information, but it is only available for purchase at a price of at least $199. The report description says the report contains "the most comprehensive and current research data on employee benefit plans in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area."


As the PTO policies of some small, San Francisco-based technology startups show, there could be a movement towards unlimited PTO and a broader range of PTO benefits such as company-wide holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, personal leave, and paid time off to protest. The possibility that some small, San Francisco-based technology startups are offering as low as 10 PTO days could not be discounted, however, as there is information about the technology sector in general that indicates some of the best IT employers offer only 10-15 days of PTO.

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