U.S. employers tweaking vacation, paid-time-off policies amid pandemic: survey

Employers in the U.S. are changing policies related to vacation and paid time off in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

In a bid to help with recruitment and retention during these tumultuous times, nearly three-quarters of employers said they’re granting vacation or paid time off immediately to new hires.

Some 67 per cent of employers said they’ll allow employees who haven’t used all of their accrued vacation time to carry it over to future years. Most commonly, employers reported allowing staff to carry over just five days (29 per cent). However, less than a quarter (16 per cent) of employers said they’re allowing employees to carry over 40 days or more.

Read: Employers encouraging, requiring staff to take vacation to avoid burnout: survey

“We have seen COVID-19 cause several different changes to paid time off,” said Julie Stich, vice-president of content at the IFEBP, in a press release. “Recognizing that employees had few vacation options this year, some employers are allowing workers to roll over more days than usual to 2021 or are paying them for their unused leave time. Other employers are recognizing the importance of time off for mental health and mandating that employees take time off within certain parameters or are giving additional paid leave to be used for any reason.”

Additionally, 23 per cent of employers said they’re permitting leave donation, which allows employees to donate time off to colleagues in need. Fifteen per cent of employers said they allow their employees to sell excess time off and six per cent said they allow employees to purchase additional time off.

Read: What do your employees want for the holidays?

When it comes to paid time off during the last month of  2020, eight per cent of organizations surveyed said they’ll give staff the full week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as paid holiday time. And for flexibility and inclusivity during the holiday season, 53 per cent of employers said they offer paid floating holidays — most commonly one or two days — a perk that allows employees extra time off on a day of their choosing.

The survey also found 50 per cent of employers offer a paid vacation plan, 43 per cent offer a paid-time-off bank and three per cent offer unlimited vacation time.

Most commonly, employers said they offer 10 vacation days after a year of service and increase that amount in increments of five days at service year milestones, offering 15 paid vacation days at five years of employment and 20 vacation days at the 10-year mark. The number of paid-time-off days offered was a little more varied, with 10 days at one year of service the most common option and time varying widely in ongoing years.

Read: Canadian workers want vacation, benefits plans and to work from home: survey