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Economic News Release
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ATUS TUS Program Links

Access to and Use of Leave Technical Note

Technical Note

   The data in this release were collected with a supplementary set of questions, the 2017-18
Leave and Job Flexibilities Module, asked as part of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) in 2017
and 2018. 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. For more information about the survey, see the ATUS User's Guide at
www.bls.gov/tus/atususersguide.pdf. 

   The 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module was sponsored by the Department of Labor's
Women's Bureau. The purpose of this module was to obtain information about workers' access to
and use of leave, job flexibilities, and work schedules. The data in this release pertain to
wage and salary workers and their main job. The data exclude all self-employed workers.
Respondents to the 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module answered questions about access
to paid and unpaid leave, reasons for taking leave, use of leave during the past 7 days, times
when leave was needed but not taken, shift work, advance notice of schedules, workers' control
over their schedules, work-at-home arrangements, and other related topics. There were about
10,000 respondents to the Leave and Job Flexibilities Module in 2017-18.
   
   These data on leave were collected directly from wage and salary workers. The data thus
represent workers' knowledge on these topics. Workers sometimes do not know whether they can
use leave or adjust their work schedules until they have a need to do so. Leave and Job
Flexibilities Module data were collected from January 2017 through December 2018.

   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

   The 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module was introduced with the statement, “The
next few questions are about paid and unpaid leave from a job.” Following the introduction,
respondents were asked whether they receive paid leave at their main job and, if so, the
reasons for which they can take paid leave. Respondents were then asked about their ability
to take leave without pay and reasons for which they can take unpaid leave from their main job.

   Respondents with access to paid or unpaid leave were asked whether they had taken any leave
during the past 7 days. If they took leave, they were asked about the length and main reason for
taking leave. 

   In the next set of questions, respondents were asked about how much flexibility they
have in arranging their work schedules. Respondents were asked if they can vary or change the
times they begin and end work. If able to do so, respondents were asked how often they can change
these times, and whether their ability to do so was governed by a formal or informal arrangement
with their employer. Workers unable to vary the times they begin and end work were asked whether
they have input into their work schedules. Respondents were then asked how far in advance they
know their work schedule.  

   Next, respondents were asked about the time of day and days of the week they usually work. Those
working a non-daytime schedule were asked about the shift they usually work, and the main reason
why they work this shift. Respondents were then asked on which days they usually work during the
week. 

   Next, respondents were asked if they can work at home. Respondents who indicated they can work
at home were asked if they ever do work at home, if they are paid for the hours they work at home,
and the main reason they work at home. Those who do work at home were asked if there are days they
work only at home and, if so, how often.

   In the last section, respondents were asked if there were times during the past month in which
they needed to take off from work but did not. If so, respondents were asked their reasons for
needing to take leave. Respondents with access to paid or unpaid leave were asked about their
reasons for not using leave. 

   The Leave and Job Flexibilities Module questionnaire is available at 
www.bls.gov/tus/lvmquestionnaire1718.pdf.

Definitions

Employment and earnings

   --Employed. All persons who:

	1) At any time during the 7 days prior to the interview did any work at all as paid
	employees, or worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm; or 

	2) Were not working during the 7 days prior to the interview but had jobs or businesses
	from which they were temporarily absent because of 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; or

	3) Usually worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise.

   --Employed full time. For the purpose of producing estimates related to leave, full-time workers
     are single jobholders who usually worked 35 or more hours 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 and Job Flexibilities
     Module referred to the characteristics of their main job--the job in which they usually worked
     the most hours. 

   --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. For
     the purpose of producing estimates related to leave, wage and salary workers do not include any
     self-employed workers; this differs from the annual ATUS news release, in which workers who are
     self-employed and whose businesses are incorporated are classified as wage and salary workers.

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

   --Weekly earnings quartiles. The ranges used for the quartiles represent approximately 25 percent of
     full-time wage and salary workers who held only one job. For example, 25 percent of full-time wage
     and salary workers with one job only had weekly earnings of $590 or less in 2017 and $630 or less
     in 2018. Weekly earnings in the 25th to the 50th percentile range amounted to $591 to $920 in 2017
     and $631 to $960 in 2018. Weekly earnings in the 50th to the 75th percentile range were $921 to
     $1,440 in 2017 and $961 to $1,530 in 2018. Those earning greater than the 75th percentile had
     earnings of $1,441 and higher in 2017 and $1,531 and higher in 2018. Earnings ranges were estimated
     using the 2017 and 2018 ATUS data.

Leave related

   --Paid leave. Respondents were asked “Do you receive paid leave on your current job?” or, for those
     with multiple jobs, “Do you receive paid leave on your main job? By main job, we mean the one at
     which you usually work the most hours.” 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; vacation; errands or personal reasons; and birth or adoption of a child.  

   --Workers who needed to take leave. Respondents were asked if there were times in the previous month
     when they needed to take leave, but did not. Those who responded “yes” were asked, “Why did you
     need to take off work?” Those with access to paid or unpaid leave were asked, “Why did you decide
     not to take leave?”

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).

   --Work schedule flexibility. Respondents were asked “Do you have flexible work hours that allow you to vary
     or make changes in the times you begin and end work?” Respondents were identified as having work schedule
     flexibility if they answered “yes” to this question.

   --Workplace flexibility. Respondents were asked “As part of your job, can you work at home?” or, for those
     with multiple jobs, “As part of your main job, can you work at home?” Respondents were identified as
     having workplace flexibility if they answered “yes” to one of these questions. 

Comparability of the estimates

   There are some key differences between the 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module and the 2011 Leave
Module to the ATUS. Some of these differences affect the comparability of estimates produced from the two modules.

   Both modules asked wage and salary workers about their access to and use of leave; however, wage and salary
workers were defined differently in the two modules. The difference was in how self-employed workers of
incorporated businesses were classified. This group of self-employed workers was included in the 2011 Leave
Module definition of wage and salary workers, but excluded from the 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module
definition. All estimates shown in this release--for 2011 and 2017-18--were generated using the narrower
2017-18 definition of wage and salary workers. However, because of this change, estimates published in the
news release “Access to and use of leave--2011 data from the American Time Use Survey” should not be compared
to the results in this news release. Additionally, this is why 2011 estimates on access to paid leave in this
news release differ from estimates appearing in the original release of 2011 data.
         
   The methods used to generate statistical weights for the 2011 Leave Module and the 2017-18 Leave Module data
were slightly different. The 2017-18 weighting methodology included a modified adjustment for weekday and
weekend diaries such that the distribution of weighted person-days corresponded to the proportion in the calendar
for each month. This is important for time-use estimates, as people spend their weekdays and weekend days
differently. BLS analysis indicates that this change in weighting methodology had only a negligible effect on
the estimates about access to leave shown in table 1.

   The 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities Module questionnaire is a re-designed and improved version of the
2011 Leave Module questionnaire. Questions were added, dropped, and modified, and these changes affected the
comparability of some results. The 2011 Leave Module questionnaire included some questions about types of leave
that were not asked in 2017-18. While this change affected the ordering of some questions, any impact on the
results is thought to be minimal. Additionally, questions about respondents' use of leave were streamlined in
2017-18, so that everyone with access to leave was asked whether they had taken leave in the prior 7 days.
In 2011, information collected earlier in the ATUS about labor force participation in the previous week was
used to determine which questions about use of leave respondents were asked in the module. Questions about
an unmet need for leave were asked in both of the modules, but the period referenced by the questions differed.
In 2011, workers were asked whether, in the past 7 days, there were situations in which they needed to take off
from work but did not; in 2017-18, the question instead referenced the previous month. 

   The 2017-18 Leave and Job Flexibilities questionnaire collected more detail than the 2011 questionnaire
about the reasons people took leave, and for those who needed to take leave but did not use it, it collected
additional information about the reasons they needed to take leave and the reasons why they decided not to
take leave. Collecting this additional detail about workers' reasons for using or not using leave improved
the 2017-18 results by reducing the percentage of workers appearing in the residual “other” columns in the
tables of this news release; however, because of these changes, the 2017-18 results for these questions are
not comparable to the 2011 results. 

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the ATUS Leave and Job Flexibilities 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 and Job Flexibilities 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 and Job Flexibilities 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, and race, and how they relate to leave availability and usage.  



Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: August 29, 2019