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Employers Are Expanding Their Paid Leave Benefits

Many large employers in the United States are expanding paid leave benefits.


Part of the expanded benefits include adding or considering new types of paid leave, increasing the number of days available for leave and/or broadening eligibility. This is according to a Business Group on Health survey of 113 large employers which also revealed that employers are responding to employees’ needs and a more diverse workforce by expanding paid leave for parenting, caregiving, bereavement and for other reasons.

The “2020 Large Employers’ Leave Strategy and Transformation Survey” found that almost four in 10 (39%) respondents expanded paid leave benefits in 2019, 38% are making changes this year and 35% are considering doing so by 2022. More specifically:

  • 30% of employers added new leave programs in 2019. Additionally, 24% are planning to add programs this year (with 18% considering new programs in 2021/2022).
  • 24% of employers increased the duration of leave available last year. Additionally, 23% plan to increase the duration of leave this year (with 23% considering doing so in 2021/2022).
  • 12% of employers expanded eligibility for leave benefits last year. Additionally, 8% plan to expand eligibility this year (with 15% considering doing so in 2021/2022).

“Employee well-being is a top area of focus for employers,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of Business Group on Health. “Employers are investing in leave benefits as part of a more holistic view of the role employee well-being plays in workforce strategy. Leave benefits, especially for new parents and working caregivers, are highly valued by employees and address a growing area of need. Employers are evaluating, and in many cases, expanding these and other benefits to help meet those needs.”

Embracing Caregivers and Expanding Bereavement Leave
Employer interest in supporting employees with caregiving responsibilities is growing. Over a third of respondents (35%) offer caregiver leave benefits and another 28% are considering it by 2022.

WorldatWork’s “Paid Time Off/Paid Parental Leave Programs and Practices” survey found that 52% of organizations offer some form of paid parental leave, regardless of their short-term disability offerings. And three in five organizations tout their paid parental-leave programs to attract new employees.

“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 labor market — or possibly both,” said Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork. “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.”

According to the Business Group on Health survey, many employers have gone beyond leave to care for a spouse, child or parent to also cover others that employees may have caregiving responsibilities for: 46% cover siblings, 46% cover parents of a spouse/partner and 38% cover grandparents.

The survey also noted that employers understand the importance of being there for employees when they most need support. In fact, all respondents in the survey offer bereavement leave. On average, employers offer six days of bereavement leave, with some providing up to 20 days.

“We expect large employers to continue expanding leave benefits in the coming years, and not just for parents and caregivers,” said LuAnn Heinen, vice president, Business Group on Health. “In fact, employers are looking to volunteer leave, bereavement leave, military leave, mental health days and summer Fridays off. Employers see their roles changing and want to support employees during the times they need it most.”

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