The Post-Termination Exercise Period (PTEP): A Comprehensive Guide

Written By:
May 15, 2024
The Post-Termination Exercise Period (PTEP): A Comprehensive Guide

Have you ever wondered what becomes of your stock options once you part ways with your employer? The answer lies in a crucial concept known as the Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP). As an employee, understanding PTEP is essential for safeguarding your financial interests and making informed decisions about your stock options after leaving your job.

In this blog, we'll uncover PTEP's complexities, benefits, trends, extensions, and global standards, empowering you to make informed post-employment stock option choices.

What is Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP)?  

A Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) refers to the time frame during which an employee can exercise their stock options after leaving the company. This period typically begins on the date of termination and ends on a specified date, usually ranging from a few weeks to several months (usually 90 days). During this time, the employee can choose to exercise their options, converting them into company shares.

What is 90 Days Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP)?

The 90 Days Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) is the timeframe after leaving a job where employees can exercise their vested stock options, typically lasting 90 days. This period allows employees to purchase shares associated with their vested options. It's essential to consider financial implications and consult with a financial advisor to make informed decisions during this critical window.

Advantages of Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP)

The Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) offers several advantages to employees holding vested stock options, providing them with valuable opportunities and flexibility even after leaving a company. Here are the key advantages of PTEP:

1. Retaining Investment Potential: PTEP allows employees to retain their vested stock options, enabling them to benefit from any potential increase in the company's stock value even after their employment ends. This can be particularly advantageous if the company experiences growth or if the stock price rises post-termination.

2. Financial Planning Flexibility: The 90-day PTEP window provides employees with the flexibility to strategically plan their financial decisions. They can assess market conditions, consult with financial advisors, and align their stock option exercise with their overall financial goals. This flexibility empowers employees to make informed decisions that suit their individual circumstances.

3. Tax Benefits: Exercising stock options during the Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) offers employees the opportunity to optimize their tax situation. Depending on the timing of the exercise and the subsequent sale of shares, employees can potentially reduce their tax liabilities or take advantage of favorable tax treatment, enhancing the overall financial benefits of the stock options.

4. Employee Retention Incentive: Offering a PTEP can serve as an employee retention tool, as it provides the opportunity to retain and potentially benefit from vested stock options post-employment, enhancing loyalty and motivation.

Disadvantages of Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP)

1. Shareholder Dilution: A key concern is shareholder dilution. If terminated employees retain vested stock options for an extended period, the reserved shares remain unavailable for new hires or refresh grants, potentially increasing dilution for common stockholders.

2. Limited Timeframe: The standard PTEP duration, often around 90 days, may not provide sufficient time for employees to make well-informed decisions about exercising their stock options, especially if they face unexpected financial constraints or market fluctuations during this short window.

3. Increased Costs: The PTEP requires the employer to continue compensating the former employee for a specified period, even though they are no longer a full-time employee. This can result in additional costs for the company, especially if the PTEP duration is extended or if multiple employees are simultaneously in their PTEP.

Is Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) Becoming Popular?

The Post-termination Exercise Period (PTEP) has been gaining popularity among companies, particularly in the tech industry, to attract and retain talent. While the standard PTEP is typically 90 days, some companies have started offering extended periods, ranging from one to seven years after termination.

One of the main drivers behind this trend is the desire to improve employee recruiting and morale. By offering a longer PTEP, companies signal a more employee-friendly culture and demonstrate their commitment to rewarding contributions even after an employee's departure. This can be especially appealing to sophisticated candidates who understand the potential value of stock options.

However, extending the PTEP is not without its challenges. It can lead to increased dilution for shareholders, as options remain outstanding for a more extended period. There are also tax implications to consider, as ISOs may convert to NSOs if exercised after the standard three-month period.

Despite these drawbacks, the popularity of extended PTEPs continues to grow, with companies like Pinterest, Square, and Quora leading the way. As the tech industry evolves and competition for talent intensifies, it remains to be seen whether this trend will become the new standard for employee stock option agreements.


In conclusion, the post-termination exercise period (PTEP) is a critical aspect of employee stock options, allowing former employees to exercise their options after leaving the company.  

While extending PTEP can have several advantages, including flexibility and control for employees, talent retention, and employee satisfaction, it's essential to weigh these against the potential drawbacks, such as shareholder dilution, increased likelihood of employee terminations, tax implications, income tax withholding obligations, and fewer "carrots" for employers.  

Companies should carefully consider these factors when deciding whether to extend PTEP, ensuring that their equity compensation strategy aligns with their overall corporate structure and goals.

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