Access to paid personal leave

March 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has published information regarding employee compensation in the United States throughout its history. In 1979, the Bureau conducted a pilot survey on the incidence and characteristics of private industry employee benefit plans and provided the first estimates of the percentage of full-time private industry workers in medium and large establishments with paid personal leave. Since then, BLS has expanded the number of published characteristics for this employee benefit and currently provides information about employer-sponsored benefits through the National Compensation Survey (NCS).

BLS defines paid personal leave as a general-purpose leave benefit; used for reasons important to the individual employee, and not otherwise covered by other forms of paid leave (for example family leave, sick leave, vacations, and holidays). Some employers place restrictions on the purposes for which paid personal leave may be used, and employers may provide paid personal leave as a stand-alone leave plan or as part of a consolidated leave plan. BLS collects detailed plan information from survey respondents in order to appropriately code the costs, hours, and plan provisions for paid leave benefits. The information collected for paid leave benefits is an input for estimates available as part of the Employment Cost Index (ECI), Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), and employee benefits publications.

BLS assumes that eligible employees use all of their the paid personal leave hours, whether granted as a stand-alone leave plan or as part of a consolidated leave plan. This assumption is not made for all types of paid leave benefits and, in those cases, BLS collects the actual number of leave hours used. Accounting for leave hours is necessary in order to calculate employees' hours worked from scheduled hours. See Work Schedules in the National Compensation Survey, for additional information on scheduled and worked hours, and the role they play in the calculation of estimates.

Estimates of the percent of workers with access to paid personal leave were not published with the National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2017 bulletin, nor were estimates of access to paid leave benefit combinations that include personal leave. This was due to the identification of coding errors during collection that impacted these particular estimates. A data improvement effort was undertaken for the December 2017 reference period.

In December 2017, 45 percent of civilian workers (includes private and state and local government workers) had access to paid personal leave. The percentage of state and local government was 59 percent while 43 percent of private industry workers had access. (See table 1.)

Estimates of paid family leave, sick leave, vacations, and holidays are also provided in table 1, as a point of reference for the paid leave benefit combinations included in table 2. These estimates differ from those published for March 2017 due to sample rotation and the use of December 2017 weights from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program.

Table 1. Access to paid leave benefits, December 2017 (All workers = 100 percent)
Characteristics Family leave Personal leave Sick leave Vacations Holidays
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error

Civilian workers(1)

16
0.5
45
0.8
73
0.7
75
0.7
77
0.6

  Private industry workers

15
0.5
43
0.9
70
0.8
77
0.8
78
0.7

  State and local government workers

25
0.8
59
1.0
91
0.6
61
0.9
69
0.9

Footnotes:

(1) Includes private industry and state and local government workers.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey 

In December 2017, 43 percent of civilian workers had access to paid personal leave and sick leave. (See table 2.)

Table 2. Access to paid leave benefit combinations, December 2017 (All workers = 100 percent)
Characteristic Personal leave and sick leave Personal leave and vacation Personal leave, sick leave, or paid family leave Personal leave, sick leave, paid family leave, or vacation Personal leave, vacation, or holidays
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard
error
Estimate Standard error

Civilian workers(1)

43
0.8
41
0.8
76
0.7
84
0.7
83
0.5

  Private industry workers

41
0.9
42
0.9
73
0.9
82
0.9
83
0.6

  State and local government workers

58
1.1
35
1.1
93
0.5
93
0.5
87
0.6

Footnotes:

(1) Includes private industry and state and local government workers.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey 

Additional estimates of access to paid personal leave

In addition to the estimates highlighted in this release, a spreadsheet containing detailed estimates by worker and establishment characteristics is available at www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/paid_personal_leave_122017.xlsx. Worker characteristics include work status (full- and part-time), bargaining status (union and nonunion), occupational group, and workers within average wage categories. Establishment characteristics include industry group, establishment size, and geographic detail (census regions and divisions).

Glossary

The NCS Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms provides definitions of major plans, key provisions, and related terms.

Historical data

For historical information on the cost, coverage, and provisions of employer-sponsored benefit plans see the NCS publications list. BLS advises against making comparisons with previously published benefits estimates due to changes in weighting and sample rotation. The estimates presented were produced using December 2017 employment weights from the Current Employment Statistics program. The NCS uses a sample rotation, where one-third of the private sample is rotated each year except in years where the state and local government sample is rotated, which occurs approximately every ten years.

Comparing private and public sector estimates

Private industry estimates should not be directly compared with state and local government estimates as differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, comprise a large portion of private industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Professional and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the state and local government workforce, compared with one-half of private industry. Additionally, primary, secondary, and special education teachers typically have a work schedule of 37 or 38 weeks per year. Because of this work schedule, they are generally not offered leave benefits for vacations or holidays. In many cases, the time off during winter and spring breaks during the school year are not considered vacation days for the purposes of the NCS.

Handbook of Methods

The Handbook of Methods: National Compensation Measures provides information on the survey design, calculations, weighting, and imputation methods used to produce estimates for the ECI, ECEC, and benefit publications. Information on calculating the reliability of estimates (standard errors) is also included in the calculation section.

 

Last Modified Date: March 30, 2018