Paid Time Off Benefits Not Equally Available to Employees

August 17, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - A U.S. worker with a paid time off job benefit is more likely to be higher paid, have a full-time white-collar position, and be better educated, according to a new government study.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) researcher Linda Levine found the uneven voluntary benefits distribution in her report,Leave Benefits in the United States, according to a news story by legal publisher BNA.

The CRS report said the most commonly offered leave benefits are vacations and holidays, with more than three-fourths of private-sector employees getting those benefits. Meanwhile, 57% of private sector employers offer paid sick leave.

“This unevenness appears to exacerbate wage inequality, with leave benefits more often available to higher than lower paid workers, to more rather than less educated workers, to white collar compared to blue collar or service workers, to persons working full rather than part time, and to employees of larger in contrast to smaller firms,” Levine wrote.

Benefits account for 30% of the total compensation of wages and benefits of employees in the civilian economy, the report said. Leave benefits represent 7% of total compensation.

Except for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), federal officials have taken a comparatively limited role in forcing employers to offer worker leave benefits, CRS said, but state governments have been more active in this area. However, Congress has mandated Social Security, unemployment compensation, and workers’ compensation.

The CRS document also noted that the federal government does not require employers to offer employees non-wage compensation such as health insurance, retirement plans, and leave. State statutes may require the provision of leave beyond requirements of federal law, and employers and unions may negotiate paid time off as a supplement to wages in collective bargaining agreements, the report said.

The CRS report also indicated:

  • More than 75% of private sector employees are provided paid vacations and holidays, making these the most widely available leave benefits.
  • About 70% of workers have access to paid funeral leave.
  • Considerably fewer employees in the private sector (57%) have sick leave.
  • About 40% of workers can take paid leave for personal reasons.

In the United States, congressional interest recently has coalesced around family-friendly paid leave proposals, the report said. These proposals would entitle individuals to paid time off for parenting and caregiving obligations, such as bonding with a newborn or newly placed adopted child or assisting a seriously ill spouse.