America is the land of the free, but one thing we’re not free to do is take a break from work.
The United States is the only country, with an advanced economy, that doesn’t have any federally mandated vacation, maternal, or holiday paid leave. Similarly, outside of government contractors, there is no federally mandated sick leave.
In addition to being an ethically responsible choice, there are several benefits that offering your employees paid leave can bring your business. If your company does offer paid leave, there are multiple steps to ensuring your company gets the most out of it.
Paid leave is any time that is taken off of work, and is paid for by your employer. Employers can decide to offer several different types of paid leave.
Types of Paid Leave
Vacation allows for employees to travel or spend time at home. The average amount of vacation employers in the U.S. offer is 11 days.
Sick leave provides eligible employees with paid time off in the case of illness or injury. The average amount of sick days provided by employers is 8-10 days, depending on the length of service.
Personal leave is leave that is used for a purpose other than illness or vacation such as: caring for a child, school meetings, errands, and appointments.
Parental leave is leave given to the parent of a newborn, or soon-to-be-born child. More companies now offer some maternity leave (for the mother), with others beginning to offer paternity leave (for the father).
There are six major holidays in the U.S. that employers aren’t required to provide paid leave for, but many do:
— New Years
— Memorial Day
— Fourth of July
— Labor Day
In addition to these holidays, some companies offer paid time off for the day after Thanksgiving, MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, Good Friday and Veterans Day. Some employers also give employees a holiday for their birthday.
Sabbatical is a paid leave during which an employee is granted an extended period of time off, beyond their vacation. Sabbaticals are used to further extra education, do nonprofit work, or simply get away from work and come back renewed and refreshed.
Employers provide bereavement leave to an employee who has had a close friend or family member die. An average amount of bereavement leave is three days.
Find out more about bereavement leave.
Some employers will pay the difference between an employee’s regular salary and what they receive for serving on the jury.
Some businesses will pay all or a portion of an employee’s time off they spend fulfilling any military commitments.
Current Trends in Paid Leave
Paid Time Off
Paid Time Off (PTO) is a paid leave plan that combines sick leave and vacation (can include other types of paid leave, if noted). PTO gives employees an account with a set amount of hours, from which they can take paid leave.
So, for example, if an employer offered 11 vacation days, eight sick days, and three personal days; their employees’ total PTO would be 22 days. Employees have increased flexibility, as they are free to use this time off however they please and don’t have to use them individually as vacation, sick, or personal days.
Employers, though, usually use a PTO system to offer less, total paid leave than under a traditional leave system, which is a drawback to employees. Using the previous example, an employer would likely offer 19 or 20 PTO days instead of 22.
Some employers offer one or two paid floating holidays. Employees can use floating holidays for any holiday event they choose, including their birthday.
These floating holidays give employees the flexibility to choose a holiday that they want to celebrate; possibly in addition to those the whole office celebrates.
Unlimited vacation allows employees to take as much vacation time as they want. Almost all companies that offer unlimited vacation carry a stipulation that no matter how much vacation you take, you must keep your performance above a certain level. Netflix, Linkedin, Grubhub, Virgin Group, and General Electric, among others, all offer unlimited vacation.
Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
VTO hours grant employees a certain amount of paid leave for doing volunteer work. VTO hours allow employees to give back and gives them a sense that their employer cares about both them and the community. Deloitte, Salesforce, and Stryker all offer VTO.
Offering maternal and paternal leave is not a new trend amongst businesses, though it is growing in both popularity and length. According to a 2015 study, by the Society for Human Resource Management, 21 percent of companies now offer paid maternity leave. While 17 percent offer paid paternity leave.
Additionally, more companies are offering extended amounts of parental leave. Google now offers new moms 18 weeks and new dads 12 weeks of paid leave. Adobe offers 26 weeks paid parental leave for new moms. Last year, Netflix announced that it would offer unlimited paid maternity and paternity leave.
Get More From Your Employee’s Leave
Most employers understand that giving employees paid leave allows them to come back to work refreshed and more productive as individuals. Few companies recognize that they could be using their employees’ paid leave to get more out of their organization as a whole.
When an employee leaves for a vacation, sabbatical, holiday, or even a personal day, give them something to think about during that time. Don’t give employees homework, but let them use the creativity they replenish over their break.
For example, if you have a specific work problem ask them to think of a few solutions. Employers should be taking advantage of employee’s time off, and using it to generate some creative and innovative thinking.
When an employee takes paid time off, specifically a vacation or sabbatical, use it to test the rest of your team. Make other employees take up some of the work that the employee on leave usually does.
This time affords you a chance to give team members new responsibilities. An employee’s paid leave will allow you to evaluate how the other individuals in your team perform without him or her, and how they respond to new challenges.
A company can offer its employees several types of paid leave. Even if you cover every type, and have extensive coverage for each type, you have to know how to reap the benefits this time off affords your company.
Challenge employees to use their time off to generate new ideas, and think of creative solutions to problems. Use the time that employees take off to test other team members; you may discover that some employees aren’t as high performing as you previously thought.
The one thing you shouldn’t do during an employee’s paid leave is, leave the status quo.