Listen to four thought leaders in employee benefits and leave management discuss leave strategy.
Our recent survey of more than 400 employers across the country revealed that 44% of employers were planning to expand paid leave benefits in the coming year. Only a quarter said they weren’t.
It’s not hard to see why. As the pandemic made people sick, closed schools and shuttered businesses, lack of paid leave had many employees juggling in a hurricane — trying to weather an extraordinary storm while balancing life at work and at home.
Corporate sick-leave and vacation/PTO quickly ran out for employees affected by the pandemic. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides some leave for illnesses or caregiving, but that leave is unpaid — it protects an employee’s job, but not their paycheck. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) requires employers to provide paid leave in some pandemic-related circumstances — but only until the end of 2020, and only for employers with under 500 employees.
These gaps have shown employers that their paid leave programs might not be sufficiently robust. With COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in many places, they want to be prepared to do more in the coming year.
Rob Hecker, Vice President of Global Total Rewards for Unum, says that employers need to broaden their idea of the value of paid leave. Paid parental leave has been a big topic in recent years, but “people have all sorts of caregiver challenges beyond taking care of a new baby. There are a number of different demographics that paid leave impacts.”
Hecker advises that employers take a short step back and consider how leave fits into their whole benefits portfolio. “It’s always important to look holistically — you must have a diverse portfolio to meet the needs of diverse employees. Does paid leave make sense, does it align, do you need to do other things with the investment?”
“There’s no question we’re not out of the woods yet,” says McCann. “Employees are still going to need leave.” To protect their company’s resiliency, employers should be plotting their next move now.
Finally, while it might not seem like it right now, at some point the pandemic will end, and paid leave will retain its value for recruitment and retention. Sharlyn Lauby, President of ITM Group Inc. and author of HR Bartender, says, “Even though we hear about unemployment and furloughs, the talent market continues to be challenging. Employers will want to make sure their benefits package is competitive, and paid leave keeps bubbling up to the top as a must-have benefit.”