Large employers set sights on paid leave

Large employers are making big strides on paid leave.

So finds new research from the Business Group on Health, which says that the majority of U.S.-based large employers are expanding paid-leave benefits, including adding or considering new types of paid leave, increasing the number of days available for leave and broadening eligibility.

Nearly four in 10 (39%) respondents expanded paid-leave benefits in 2019; 38% are making changes this year; and 35% are considering doing so by 2022, the group found after surveying 113 large employers.

The expansion comes as more employers place a bigger emphasis on employee wellbeing–and more employees reach out to their employers for support.

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“Employers are investing in leave benefits as part of a more holistic view of the role employee wellbeing plays in workforce strategy,” says Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the Business Group on Health. “Leave benefits, especially for new parents and working caregivers, are highly valued by employees and address a growing area of need. Employers are evaluating and, in many cases, expanding these and other benefits to help meet those needs.”

Other research echoes Marcotte’s sentiment that paid leave is highly valued by employees. Paid leave is one of the most desired non-insurance benefits, according to recent research from benefits provider Unum. Its survey of more than 1,500 working adults found that paid time off (cited by 40% of employees), flexible and remote work options (30%), and paid family leave (22%) were the most desired employee benefits.

A number of employers recently expanded their paid-leave benefits to better support employees. In January, Intel enhanced its leave policies for new parents, caregivers and grieving employees, while the J.M. Smucker Company, Goldman Sachs, Pilot Flying J and The Washington Post were among the companies that expanded paid-leave benefits for new parents.

Intel, for instance, said the company’s enhanced benefits are part of its investment to support employee wellbeing and will better help workers through their life stages.

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“When our employees and their families are supported, they perform at their best,” says Julie Ann Overcash, Intel’s vice president of human resources and global director of compensation and benefits. “We strive to care for our employees and their families through every stage of life, whether they are caring for small children, aging parents or anyone in between.”

Related: 5 reasons to attend HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

While momentum has been growing for paid parental leave, in particular, the Business Group on Health’s research found that employers are going beyond programs for just new parents. Time off for caregivers is one such growing area: 35% of the employers surveyed offer caregiver leave benefits, and another 28% are considering it by 2022. Furthermore, employers are going beyond leave to care for a spouse, child or parent to add coverage for others that employees may have caregiving responsibilities for: 46% cover siblings, 46% cover parents of a spouse or partner and 38% cover grandparents.

LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the Business Group on Health, says she expects more employers to expand paid-leave benefits in the near future.

“Employers see their roles changing and want to support employees during the times they need it most,” she says.


For an inside look at family-friendly perks and other progressive employee benefits, don’t miss the upcoming Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, held April 15-17 at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas. Learn more here.

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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.