HRE’s number of the day: leave program changes

42: Percentage of employers that have made, or are planning to make, changes to PTO, vacation and sick-day programs due to the coronavirus pandemic

More than two in five employers say they are making changes to leave programs to enhance employee flexibility and lessen the buildup of accrued days by year-end, according to a survey of 817 employers from consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. To minimize lost days, 24% of employers are planning to increase carryover limits, and 21% are allowing negative balances. Sixteen percent require employees to take PTO or vacation time to reduce year-end buildup, and 22% are planning or considering this requirement. And, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, 12% are allowing donations to other employees, and 15% are planning or considering a donation program.

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The coronavirus pandemic is causing a great deal of change in employees’ lives–from additional childcare and caregiving responsibilities to more workers who need to take sick days because of the virus. HR leaders would be wise to step up by not only reminding employees to use paid time off, but also by enhancing or changing their policies to help employees through this difficult time.

“Leave policies have become incredibly important to those employees juggling new work arrangements and family situations such as children being home from school,” says Rachael McCann, Willis Towers Watson’s senior director of health and benefits. “Employers recognize that these programs are relatively easy and inexpensive to change and generate a great deal of goodwill.”

Related: Here’s how employers are changing benefits due to COVID-19

Overall, employers that are making investments in benefits right now are not only helping employees, but also positioning themselves as an employer of choice, McCann says.

“By taking positive actions around health, wellbeing and leave, employers are putting people first. That’s an investment that’s likely to build employee loyalty, raise engagement and enhance future productivity.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.