There may be nothing more awkward than trying to fake a sick day to the boss.

But if a growing trend becomes the norm, you may never have to worry about that again.

Polka Dot RF, ThinkStock

An increasing number of companies are no longer differentiating sick days, personal days and vacation days when employees need to skip out on work. Instead, all the days are piled into one bank known as paid time off, or PTO, and employees can choose to use the days however they'd like.

According to a report from World at Work, a nonprofit human resources association, 43 percent of companies offered PTO in 2016. That's up from 28 percent in 2002.

Many clients of The Lindenberger Group, a Mercer County-based human resources consulting firm, are shifting to PTO policies, according to president Judith Lindenberger. She's seeing the shift not only among larger companies, but small, entrepreneurial firms as well.

"In my experience, hearing both from employees and employers, it definitely is a trend that is a win-win. They both like it," Lindenberger said.

PTO is easier for employers to track, she said, and employees don't have to worry about how they count each day, or whether they're really ill when they're out of sick days and are only left with days for vacation.

"I think it's also making people feel more empowered — not managed so tightly," she said.

But there is concern in the industry that employees would be missing from work at a greater rate with a PTO system, compared to the traditional approach. If a company doesn't need a reason when an employee takes time off, a worker may feel more comfortable using all of their days allotted. With vacation and sick days separated, a worker may be fearful of calling in sick, or faking it.

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