Access to and Use of Leave -- 2011 Data from the American Time Use Survey Technical Note

Technical Note

   The data in this release were collected through a supplementary set of questions,
the 2011 Leave Module, asked as part of the 2011 American Time Use Survey (ATUS).
The ATUS--a continuous survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau
of Labor Statistics--focuses on obtaining information about how individuals age 15
and over spend their time. In 2011, there were approximately 12,500 respondents to
the survey. For more information about the survey, see the ATUS User’s Guide at
www.bls.gov/tus/atususersguide.pdf. The purpose of the 2011 ATUS Leave Module was
to obtain information about workers' access to leave, use of leave, and ability to
adjust their work schedules or location. The data in this release pertain to wage
and salary workers and their main job. Self-employed incorporated workers are
classified as wage and salary workers. The data exclude all unincorporated self-
employed workers. Respondents to the 2011 Leave Module answered questions about
access to paid and unpaid leave, reasons for taking leave, use of leave during the
past 7 days, ability to adjust work schedules or location, times when leave was
needed but not taken, and other related topics.

   These data on leave were collected directly from wage and salary workers. The
data thus represent only workers' knowledge on these topics. Workers sometimes do
not know whether they can use leave or adjust their work schedules or location
until they have a need to do so. Leave Module data were collected from January
through December 2011.

   Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Leave questions and concepts

   In the 2011 Leave Module, questions about access to and use of leave were asked of
wage and salary workers. The survey was introduced as follows: "The next few questions
are about paid and unpaid leave from a job."

   Following the introduction, respondents were asked about access to paid leave at
their main job, reasons for which they can take paid leave, and types of paid leave
available.

   Respondents were then asked about access to unpaid leave and reasons for which they
can take unpaid leave from their main job.

   If respondents answered that they had access to paid or unpaid leave, they were
asked whether they had taken any leave during the past 7 days. If they took leave,
they were asked about how many hours they took, the main reason for taking leave, and
if available, what type of paid leave they used.

   In the next set of questions, respondents were asked about their ability to adjust
their work schedules or location instead of taking leave (asked of those with access
to leave), or because they needed time off from work (asked of those without access
to leave). If the respondents indicated they could adjust their work schedules or
location, they were asked additional questions about how they can adjust their
schedules or location and whether they adjusted their schedules or location during
the past 7 days. Respondents who adjusted their work schedules or location instead
of taking leave were asked about their reasons for doing so, and their reasons for
not using leave instead. Respondents without access to leave were asked about their
reasons for needing to adjust their work schedules or location.

   Respondents who worked during the 7 days prior to the interview were asked if there
were situations during the past 7 days in which they needed to take off from work but
did not. If so, respondents were asked their reasons for needing leave, and their
reasons for not using leave instead. Respondents without access to leave were asked
about their reasons for needing leave.

   The final two questions asked respondents about their health in general and their
average level of pain during the past 7 days. The Leave Module questionnaire is
available at www.bls.gov/tus/lvmquestionnaire.pdf.

Definitions

Employment and earnings

   --Employed. All persons who, at any time during the 7 days prior to the interview:

     1. Did any work at all as paid employees; worked in their own business,
        profession, or on their own farm; or usually worked 15 hours or more
        as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise; or

     2. Were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were
        temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare
        problems, labor-management disputes, maternity or paternity leave,
        job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not
        they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.

   --Employed full time. For the purpose of producing estimates related to leave,
     full-time workers are single jobholders who usually worked 35 hours or more
     per week.

   --Employed part time. For the purpose of producing estimates related to leave,
     part-time workers are single jobholders who usually worked fewer than 35 hours
     per week.
     
   --Main job. For persons holding more than one job, the questions in the Leave
     Module referred to the characteristics of their main job--the job in which
     they worked the most hours during the past 7 days.

   --Wage and salary workers. These are workers who receive wages, salaries, 
     commissions, tips, payment in kind, or piece rates. The group includes
     employees in both the private and public sectors and self-employed persons
     whose businesses are incorporated, but excludes self-employed persons whose
     businesses are unincorporated.

   --Usual weekly earnings. Estimates represent the earnings of full-time wage
     and salary workers with one job only, excluding incorporated self-employed
     workers, before taxes and other deductions.

   --Weekly earnings ranges. The ranges used for the quartiles represent approximately
     25 percent of full-time wage and salary workers (incorporated self-employed workers
     are excluded) who held only one job. For example, 25 percent of full-time wage and
     salary workers with one job only had weekly earnings of $540 or less.

     The ranges used for the median represent approximately 50 percent of the full-time
     wage and salary workers (incorporated self-employed workers are excluded) who held
     only one job. For example, 50 percent of full-time wage and salary workers with one
     job only had weekly earnings of $830 or less.

Leave related

   --Paid leave. Respondents were asked "Do you receive paid leave on your job?" or, for
     those with multiple jobs, "Thinking about the job where you worked the most hours
     last week, do you receive paid leave on your job?" Respondents were identified as
     having paid leave at their main job if they answered "yes" to one of these questions.

   --Unpaid leave. Respondents were asked "Are you allowed to take time off from work
     without pay?" or, for those with multiple jobs, "In your main job, are you allowed
     to take time off from work without pay?" Respondents were identified as having
     unpaid leave at their main job if they answered "yes" to one of these questions.

   --Reasons for taking leave. If respondents answered "yes" to having paid or unpaid
     leave, they were asked about specific reasons for which they could take paid and
     unpaid leave. The reasons are: own illness or medical care; illness or medical 
     care of another family member; childcare, other than for illness; eldercare, other
     than for illness; vacation; errands or personal reasons; and birth or adoption of
     a child.

Other

   --Average week. The average week reflects an average across all wage and salary
     workers in the population for the period of 7 days prior to the interview day.
     Interviews are conducted on nearly all days of the year. The sequence of days
     included in the average week differs for respondents whose interviews were
     conducted on different days of the week. For example, if the interview was
     conducted on a Friday, the average week refers to the previous Friday through
     Thursday (yesterday). If the interview was conducted on a Monday, the average
     week refers to the previous Monday through Sunday (yesterday).

   --Health. Respondents were asked "Would you say your health in general is excellent,
     very good, good, fair, or poor?" Answers to this question were used to categorize
     health status for the estimates in this release.

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the ATUS Leave Module are subject to both sampling and nonsampling
error. When a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, estimates differ
from the true population values they represent. The component of this difference that
occurs because samples differ by chance is known as sampling error, and its variability
is measured by the standard error of the estimate.

   Sample estimates from a given survey design are unbiased when an average of the
estimates from all possible samples would yield, hypothetically, the true population
value. In this case, the sample estimate and its standard error can be used to construct
approximate confidence intervals, or ranges of values that include the true population
value with known probabilities. If the process of selecting a sample from the population
were repeated many times, an estimate made from each sample, and a suitable estimate of
its standard error calculated for each sample, then approximately 90 percent of the
intervals from 1.645 standard errors below the estimate to 1.645 standard errors above
the estimate would include the true population value. BLS analyses are generally
conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.

   The ATUS Leave Module data also are affected by nonsampling error, which is the
average difference between population and sample values for samples generated by a given
process. Nonsampling error can occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample
a segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all respondents in the
sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents to provide correct information, and
errors made in the collection or processing of the data.

   Nonsampling error and leave. Data provided in the Leave Module may be affected by
nonsampling error for a variety of reasons. Access to paid or unpaid leave may be
misreported if respondents are unaware of their employers’ leave policies. For example,
newer employees may not yet know whether they can take paid or unpaid leave from their
jobs, under what circumstances or for which reasons they can take leave, or the different
types of paid leave available to them. Some employers may have formal or written leave
policies, while others may rely on employees’ supervisors to convey and implement leave
policies. Unless employees have inquired about the specific leave arrangements, they
may not know if the specific leave arrangements are possible. For example, workers with
paid leave, who have never used unpaid leave, may not know if they can use unpaid leave,
or under what circumstances they may use unpaid leave.

   Differences between employer- and employee-based surveys. Estimates of access to leave
that are derived from responses to household (or employee-based) surveys may differ from
estimates produced using establishment (or employer-based) surveys. In general, employer-
based surveys often provide more detailed and accurate data on employer leave policies,
while household surveys allow researchers to examine demographic factors such as sex, age,
ethnicity, education, race, and health status and how they relate to leave availability
and usage.



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Last Modified Date: August 16, 2012