New benefit encourages employees to plan a vacation

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A new employer-sponsored program will encourage employees to save for their next vacation.

The 401(Play) program, a product created by social platform company Outski that launched in June, creates accounts for employees to send post-tax dollars directly from their payroll into a vacation savings account.

Employees can then access those funds through a BlazePays Visa prepaid card to pay for hotels, airfare, cruises, rental cars and other vacation costs, according to the company.

“We get a lot of [employers] that jump on this because it’s part of their wellness program,” says Greg Nickolson, president of 401(Play). “When employees don’t take time off they become burned out, which can lead to health problems and poor quality of work and negative productivity.”

By offering a program dedicated to saving for a vacation, employers are sending a message to their employees that it is OK to use their paid time off, Nickolson says.

“If the employer doesn’t encourage it and it doesn’t come from management or leadership, employees get the feeling it’s going to be frowned upon,” he says. “They become these work martyrs.”

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In fact, American workers have taken an average of 16.2 vacation days in 2015, and 55% of Americans left 658 million vacation days unused, according to recent research from the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off.

For Ron Richards, CEO of Tucson-based professional property management and rental services Tower Home Rentals and Tower Property, the program forces his employees to use up their vacation days.

His small business doesn’t roll over vacation days, so the program serves to reinforce it while helping employees save.

“This offers them the opportunity to do it painlessly,” Richards says. “They don’t have to worry about it. It’s there.”

The program also isn’t a big spend for employers, Nickolson says, and can help with improving retention rates.

Employers with up to 500 employees pay a flat annual rate of $250 to $3,000, depending on the workforce size, to implement the vacation savings accounts with 401(Play). Employers with more than 500 employees can request custom pricing, according to the company.

The card also comes with loss protection, says Mike Olafson, vice president of Capital Prepaid Services, which partnered with 401(Play) on the program.

“Employees work really hard to save that money,” he says. “We just provide the vehicle.”

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