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February 2009, Vol. 32, No. 2
Leisure and illness leave: estimating benefits in combination
Iris S. Díaz and Richard Wallick
Paid vacation leave, holidays, and sick leave are among the most expensive benefits offered to employees in private industry.1 They are also some of the most widespread: according to the National Compensation Survey (NCS), 78 percent of private sector workers receive paid vacation leave, 77 percent receive paid holidays, and 6 percent receive paid sick leave.2
In NCS parlance, an employee has access to a benefit plan if the plan is made available by the employer, regardless of whether the employee actually participates in the plan. For some benefits, such as paid vacation and paid sick leave, access and participation are interchangeable: the NCS program assumes that all employees who have access to these benefits also participate in them. For other benefits, such as outpatient prescription drug coverage, the NCS collects specific data on who participates and who does not.3 NCS access rates for paid vacation, paid holidays, and paid sick leave have remained stable since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began publishing them in March 2003.4
BLS publishes annual estimates of employee benefits in private industry. These estimates include access rates for individual benefits such as vacation leave, paid sick leave, and short- and long-term disability coverage. Not included in the estimates, however, is any analysis of combinations of benefits. Because some benefits can be used interchangeably, a “use-oriented” analysis, in addition to the existing plan-oriented analysis, can yield new insights. This article introduces a use-oriented analysis of paid-leave benefits.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 2009 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Private-sector employers spend an average of $1.78 per employee-hour for paid leave. Only legally required benefits ($2.24 per employee-hour) and insurance benefits ($2.05 per employee-hour) are higher. See Employer Costs for Employee Compensation, June 2008, Bureau of Labor Statistics, table 5, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ecec_09102008.htm (visited Jan. 2, 2009).
2 See National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2008, Bulletin 2715, (Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2008) and Natalie Kramer and Alan Zilberman, “New Definitions of Employee Access to Paid Sick Leave and Retirement Benefits in the National Compensation Survey,” Compensation and Working Conditions, Dec. 23, 2008.
3 See BLS Handbook of Methods, chapter 8, for further information about access and participation rates. Available on the Internet at www.bls.gov/opub/hom/homch8_c.htm (visited Jan. 2, 2009).
4 BLS has reported on employee benefits since the early 20th century, although the methodology has differed over time. See Allan P. Blostin, “An Overview of the EBS and the NCS,” Compensation and Working Conditions, Spring 1999, pp. 2–5, for a discussion of National Compensation Survey predecessors. See Hilery Simpson, “Paid Personal, Funeral, Jury Duty, and Military Leave: Highlights from the Employee Benefits Survey, 1979–1995,” Compensation and Working Conditions, Winter 1997, pp. 35–45, for a historical perspective of leave benefits. Paid sick leave access rates were not reported by the NCS in 2003. See Kramer and Zilberman, “New Definitions of Employee Access,” for new estimates on paid sick leave.
National Compensation Survey - Benefits
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