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HRE’s number of the day: Paid leave vs. PTO

Employers are split between traditional paid leave and PTO banks, new data finds.
By: | June 30, 2020 • 2 min read


49: Percentage of employers that offer a traditional paid leave plan

Employers are virtually split on the leave they offer employees, according to a survey of 457 U.S. employers by XpertHR. Nearly half (49%) offer traditional paid leave plans—where all leave is in separate categories, such as sick and vacation—while 44% offer a paid time off plan—where all or most leave is in a single PTO bank. Another 2% percent of organizations offer an “other” type of paid leave plan, such as unlimited paid time off or sick leave only. The total estimated number of employees of responding organizations is 831,319.

What it means to HR leaders

Paid leave benefits are always essential for workers. The benefit consistently ranks near the top of most desired workplace benefits in industry surveys. Still, many employers fall behind on generous time off for employees, and many part-time employees are not offered sick or vacation leave.

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Coronavirus, though, is putting a spotlight on leave plans, with many insiders calling for specific time off for both sick and vacation time, as well as caregiving, bereavement and other types of leave.

Paid sick leave policies, in particular, have taken the spotlight as thousands of employees get sick from coronavirus, yet have no paid sick leave offering from their workplace. Roughly 33.6 million people, or 24% of U.S. civilian workers, do not have access to paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The access rate to medical care benefits for part-time workers was 22%, according to a 2019 report.

The pandemic may cause those statistics to change—at least temporarily. Several employers have expanded paid leave benefits to more employees in light of the pandemic; others rolled out specific COVID-19 emergency leave policies. Amazon, DoorDash, Instacart and Lowe’s, for instance, said they would provide up to 14 paid days off to any employee quarantined or diagnosed with the coronavirus. Levi Strauss & Co. in March extended its sick leave policy to give all part-time employees access to those benefits.

Related: Benefits and the pandemic: Are you stepping up?

“Choosing between a traditional or PTO leave system is always an important challenge for employers, but this choice has taken on added significance due to COVID-19,” says Andrew Hellwege, surveys editor of XpertHR. “When setting up paid leave benefits—whether it be a traditional or PTO plan—employers should carefully consider how their plan protects employee and public health, as well as ensure it complies with any potential changes in leave legislation spurred by the pandemic.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s 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. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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