New Report Supplies Insights on Paid Leave Practices

Paid time off remains an extremely popular employee benefit, and we have new details on how much vacation and sick leave workers are getting in Paid Leave Practices 2017

The report, based on survey responses from 852 human resources professionals, also goes beyond the amount of paid time off provided to U.S. employees and delves into policy specifics, such as waiting periods for leave eligibility, carryovers of unused leave, and leave payouts at termination. 

The survey asked participants what type of leave system covers all or most of the employees at their organizations, focusing mainly on two types of systems: 

•Traditional plans, which divide paid leave into various categories and allot employees specific amounts of leave under each category, and 

•Paid time off (PTO) plans, which eliminate individual leave categories by rolling the hours together into a combined bank of leave that employees can use for various purposes. 

The results show that six in 10 employers have traditional paid leave systems, while nearly four in 10 have PTO plans. The survey also listed "unlimited leave plans" as an option, but only 1 percent of the surveyed establishments cover all or most employees with such a plan. 

Leave Amounts

Among organizations with traditional leave systems, the median amount of annual/vacation leave offered during the first year of employment is 15 days, and the median amount of paid sick time workers can expect during their first year on the job is nine days. 

For long-term employees, annual/vacation leave maxes out at a median of 26 days after 15 years of service. Employers with traditional systems often grant additional sick leave as well. 

Under PTO systems, meanwhile, workers are offered a median of 15 days of leave during the first year of employment, and the plans max out at a median of 28 paid days after 10 years of employment. Employees covered by PTO banks generally don’t receive a separate allotment of sick leave. 

Regardless of whether the surveyed employers provide leave under a traditional system or a PTO program, most of them have policies offering new mothers paid and/or unpaid leave in connection with childbirth. Policies on paid maternity leave typically provide the regular rate of compensation for a median of six weeks following vaginal delivery or eight weeks following cesarean delivery. 

Paid paternity leave is less prevalent. Two in five organizations provide this benefit, offering new fathers a median of four weeks of paid time off. In terms of duration, paid adoption leave comes in ahead of paternity leave, with a median of six weeks available to employees at organizations that offer this benefit. 

The report covers several other types of leave as well. One of the most common is bereavement leave, which is sometimes called funeral leave. Nearly nine in 10 surveyed organizations have a bereavement leave policy allowing employees to take paid time off while dealing with the emotional and logistical burdens of a death in the family. Typically, bereavement policies offer employees three paid days off following the death of an immediate family member, or one paid day off if a member of the extended family passes away. 

Also quite common is civic and administrative leave. Under this heading, paid time off is most widely available when employees miss work to serve on a jury or attend to other court duties, such as providing testimony. Aside from court duty leave, the surveyed employers most commonly offer paid civic/administrative leave to cover time off for voting and weather disruptions. 

Mandated Leave

While many of the leave categories covered in the report are offered by employers on a completely voluntary basis, others are either mandated or at least affected by certain statutory requirements. For example, an increasing number of state and local laws guarantee employees access to minimum amounts of paid leave for personal medical needs, family illnesses, and other covered absences.

To keep up with these new laws, HR professionals say they most often use a combination of sources, including notification services that deliver information to their email inboxes. While such services make it easier to find out about new mandates, HR departments are still left with the sometimes daunting task of ensuring organizational compliance and updating internal policies to reflect the latest requirements. 

For more on that subject, see this earlier blog post: Wave of Leave Laws Jeopardizes Compliance, Requires Policy Review.

Paid Leave Practices 2017 can be ordered here  for $275. It is also one of several reports included with a subscription to Bloomberg BNA’s HR Decision Support Network. Start your free trial today.