Employers extending parental leave to new, part-time staff

About two-thirds (65 per cent) of U.S. employers are now offering parental leave for employees who’ve worked at their organizations for less than a year, according to a new survey by WorldatWork and PTO Exchange.

The survey, which collected responses from more than 500 WorldatWork members, found more than half of organizations said they’re now offering paid parental leave programs and three in five (60 per cent)
reported they use the programs as a tool to attract and retain new talent.

Employers are also increasingly extending parental leave policies to part-time workers. According to the survey, 57 per cent of part-time employees who are new parents were eligible for job-protected leave, compared to 47 per cent in 2016.

Read: Target expanding family care benefits for U.S. staff

Three-quarters (78 per cent) of employees are receiving their full salary during their parental leave, followed by a mix of full and partial salary (16 per cent) and partial salary (six per cent).

“The rise in parental leave programs may be a result of state-led mandates, in addition to employers striving for differentiated benefits in a strained labour market — or possibly both,” said Scott Cawood, president and chief executive officer at WorldatWork, in a press release. “These programs have quickly become an important and expected part of the total rewards equation, and are critical in maintaining an engaged and productive workforce.”

Looking at paid-time-off policies, the survey found more than half (52 per cent) of U.S. employers allow new employees to immediately use their vacation benefits. Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) said they offer new hires automatic access to their broader paid-time-off policy, which includes pooled vacation, sick and personal days.

Read: ‘Room for improvement’ in OECD, EU family-friendly policies, says Unicef

The survey also found one in four employers are getting increasingly progressive with their paid-time-off provisions by allowing employees to redirect their unused days elsewhere. One-fifth of employers with this option let employees donate their paid time off to a colleague who needs it; two per cent will convert the cash value of the unused time off to the employee’s 401(k); and a further two per cent provide employees with the ability to convert it to a donation to a not-for-profit of their choice.

These options may come in handy, since the survey found 37 per cent of employees don’t use up all of their paid time off by the end of the year. However, among employers that have a use-it-or-lose-it policy around paid time off, only 19 per cent of employees lose some paid time off.

“While the survey shows that companies are beginning to offer flexibility around benefits, employees need choices that support their station in life,” said Rob Whalen, chief executive officer at PTO Exchange. “Allowing employees to self-direct their unused PTO for emergencies, 401(k)s, health savings accounts, student loans or giving to a non-profit or colleague they care about is important and provides generational equality to the employee community.”

As well, 35 per cent of survey respondents said they offer paid time off to volunteer, compared to just 22 per cent in 2014.

Read: Federal government seeking to add more paid personal leave days