Leave Benefits in the United States

Source: Linda Levine, CRS Report for Congress, Order Code RL34088, May 7, 2008

Currently, there are few federal statutes that pertain directly or indirectly to employer provision of leave benefits for any purpose. This report begins by reviewing those policies, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs, which five states have established to compensate for lost wages while workers are recovering from nonoccupational illnesses and injuries, are discussed as well. So too are the California and New Jersey family leave insurance programs, which essentially extend the TDI programs of the two states to employees caring for family members.

The report then examines the incidence of different types of paid leave that U.S. employers voluntarily provide as part of an employee’s total compensation (wages and benefits). For example, vacations and holidays are the most commonly offered leave benefits: more than three-fourths of employees in the private sector receive paid time off for these reasons. Access to leave by various employee and employer characteristics also is analyzed, with particular attention focused on paid sick leave, which is offered to 57% of private sector employees.

The report closes with results from a federal government survey of the average direct cost to businesses of different types of leave. Indirect employer costs that might arise in connection with some types of leave more than others, such as the greater likelihood of hiring and training temporary replacements for employees absent because of maternity versus bereavement reasons, are not included. Neither are estimates of potential gains to employers (e.g., a more stable and experienced workforce, increased productivity due to greater worker morale) and society (e.g., improved public health, lower formal caregiving costs, and broader participation in civic affairs).

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