Aetna is cutting paid time off for longtime employees from 33 to 28 days to reduce expenses and match the industry standard for time off.

Starting Jan. 1, an Aetna worker who has 25 years or more with the company will essentially lose a week of paid time off. Currently, about 2,500 workers companywide, roughly 1,125 of them in Connecticut, are eligible for the 33 days.

The news was posted internally several weeks ago on a blog that Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini writes for employees, several employees told The Courant. Those workers said some employees are angry that employees who already have 25 years with the company, or more, won't be grandfathered in.

Cynthia Michener, a company spokeswoman, confirmed Monday that the company announced the new policy Aug. 30 "to better align Aetna's expenses with those of other health care companies."

"This change puts Aetna in line with our competitors, who cap (paid-time-off) accrual at 24-28 days," Michener wrote in an email. "By capping our (paid-time-off) accrual rate at the high end of that norm, we believe we can offer employees an attractive benefit while keeping our expenses and workplace policies in line with our industry."

Michener said the company does not have an estimate of the savings from this move.

Under the current system, paid time off accrues as follows: 18 days for employees who have fewer than three years with the company; 23 days for people who have three to nine years of service; 28 days for people with 10 or more years, and 33 days for those with 25 years or more.

"To assist with the transition, we are allowing employees who have 25-plus years of service to carry over [unused] PTO days as needed for the next two years," Michener wrote. "This applies to about 2,500 employees, (including about 1,125 Connecticut workers)."

Aetna has enhanced other benefits, Michener said, such as improvements to the medical plan next year by increasing the company's annual contribution to workers' health savings accounts from $300 to $400 for a single person or $600 to $800 for a family. The company also is bolstering tuition-assistance reimbursement for workers from $3,000 to $5,000 and is establishing a new adoption benefit with a $5,000 reimbursement, Michener said.

Some employees angered by the news, however, said those perks are primarily targeted to young workers — those likely to adopt a child or take additional college credits.

Aetna has fewer workers affected by the time-off policy than it did in the summer of 2011, when a voluntary early retirement program was offered to older workers and those with many years of service. The early retirement was available to employees who met the "rule of 65," meaning the employee's age, and years of service with the company, had to add up to 65 as of June 30, 2011.

In all, more than 1,700 Aetna employees, or 5 percent of the 33,000 total, took the early retirement offer, which Aetna made in July 2011. The health insurer added 26 weeks of pay to its standard severance for eligible employees, some of whom received 60 weeks of wages in addition to other severance benefits.

Aetna had about 6,700 employees in Connecticut and 34,800 nationwide as of June 30, the end of the second financial quarter.