Does Your Company Offer Competitive Paid Leave?

Most U.S. employers aren’t required to offer their employees paid leave, but many do and this year they’re offering more. According to a recent Employee Benefits research report by the Society for Human Resource Management, more U.S. employers are offering paid leave benefits.

For example, compared to previous years, more employers are offering:

  • Paid sick leave plans
  • Paid parental leave
  • Paid vacation time
  • Paid personal days

As these numbers change, it’s important to review your own leave policies to ensure your offerings are competitive. Offering less paid leave than other companies in your industry or geographic area will make it harder for you to attract and maintain top talent.

Top Paid Benefits

According to the SHRM survey, the top paid leave benefit is paid holidays, which are offered by 98 percent of respondents. Other popular paid leave benefits include:

  • Paid bereavement leave, offered by 86 percent of respondents.
  • Paid jury duty above that required by law, offered by 67 percent of respondents.
  • PTO plan, offered by 53 percent of respondents.
  • Paid vacation plan, offered by 46 percent of respondents.

The survey found the rate of companies offering PTO plans dropped in 2015 by 5 percentage points, while the rate of those offering paid vacation plans went up by 6 percentage points. Paid sick days went up, as well, with 42 percent of companies offering them in 2015, compared with 33 percent in 2014.

Parental Leave

Unlike most developed nations, the United States does not have a federal law that guarantees paid leave for working parents who have or adopt a child, says Melissa Burdorf, legal editor at XpertHR. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides some employees protections to take unpaid leave to care for a new child, but it doesn’t apply to every employee.

And paid parental leave has become a hot topic in recent months, Burdorf says. For example, the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, introduced by the Council of the District of Columbia in October, would require employers to provide up to 16 weeks of paid family leave and 16 weeks of paid medical leave per year, and it’s expected to be approved.

According to the SHRM report, more employers are offering paternity leave. In 2014, 12 percent of respondents said they offer paid maternity leave; in 2015, 21 percent said they do. Paid paternity leave and paid adoption leave both jumped from 12 percent to 17 percent. In addition, about 1 in five companies offer parental leave beyond what’s required by state and federal FMLA laws.

State laws requiring paid leave insurance that can be used during parental leaves may be inspiring employers to provide more leave. In addition, big-name organizations have been providing high-profile new leave benefits for parents, as well. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, recently announced that employees will be able to take up to one year of paid parental leave, starting in 2016. Netflix, Adobe and Microsoft also have recently increased parental leave policies, Burdorf says.

Unlimited Paid Vacation

According to a recent survey by Accountemps, a Robert Half company, 30 percent of employees said that other than additional compensation, more vacation days led the list of things that would top their wish list for the coming year. More time off outscored “a better benefit plan, such as enhanced health care plan,” scheduling flexibility and training. Unlimited paid vacation time — often seen as a Silicon Valley dream perk — is offered by less than 1 percent of companies, the SHRM survey found.

Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave also has been in the news lately as mandated paid sick leave is picking up at the local level. The number of jurisdictions mandating paid sick leave doubled in the past year, Burdorf says. At the federal level, President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order establishing paid sick leave requirements for federal contractors and has put the heat on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would expand paid sick leave protections to private industry, Burdorf says.

The SHRM survey found that the percentage of companies that offer paid sick leave went up from 33 percent to 42 percent in the past year. In addition, 3 percent of employers offer unlimited paid sick leave.

Paid Volunteer Time

“There is a nice trend in Fortune 500 companies to use paid corporate international volunteerism programs to increase employee engagement,” says Paula Caligiuri, distinguished professor at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. These paid time off opportunities can last weeks or months as employees volunteer their professional skills to nongovernmental organizations in developing countries.

As employers look for ways to attract and retain millennials, these kinds of programs can appeal to members of that generation who desire to work for organizations that have strong missions that match their own values. The programs help employers meet corporate social responsibility goals while dramatically increasing engagement, Caligiuri says.

The SHRM study found that 21 percent of employers offer paid time off for volunteering. In 2014, 16 percent of employers offered these programs.

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