Paid Leave Movement Gets Boost from New Study, Social Media

Nearly all full-time employees have access to a number of paid leave options, according to a new study by the Families and Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management. The same cannot be said for part-time staffers.

Over the last year, the travel industry has made a push to convince Americans to use their paid time off. But recently, attention has shifted to the amount of time off that employers offer their employees to begin with.

Enter the #PaidLeave movement.

Conversation around the hashtag, helped in part by President Obama’s call for paid leave legislation in last month’s State of the Union address, has exploded. Nearly 3,000 tweets have mentioned the hashtag since then, according to a statement by the Families and Work Institute. And now, FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management are looking to capitalize on the movement’s success.

This week, the groups released a study—“Paid Time Off, Vacations, Sick Days, and Short-Term Caregiving in the United States” [PDF]—that looks into the types of paid time off that employers offer, and to whom they offer it. The good news: The study found that 99 percent of employers, both for-profit and nonprofit, offer some kind of paid leave to some portion of their workforce. However, it gets rather complicated from there.

“While most full-time employees have access to paid leave, the changing nature of work, where more individuals are working multiple jobs or are working part-time positions because they can’t find full-time work, can pose economic and work-life challenges for these employees,” Kenneth Matos, senior director of research for FWI and author of the new report, said in the statement.

Broken down, here’s how employers offer paid leave options based on employee status:

As Matos noted, a noticeable gap exists between the availability of paid leave options for full-time and part-time employees. Less than a third of employers offer any kind of paid leave to their part-timers. Citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, FWI said the number of people with multiple part-time jobs grew 11 percent between 2007 and 2014, or by about 2 million people—a large number, but less than 1 percent of the 156 million people currently in the U.S. workforce.

“The old-school model of part-time jobs is that they are inherently flexible because the employee is choosing to only work part time in order to pursue school, caregiving, a career in the arts, or some other activity and is not wholly dependent on their part-time job to make a living,” Matos said in a blog post analyzing the study. “For those who can choose to pursue full- or part-time work this is true. However, in an economy where full-time jobs are not readily available and employment systems are built around assumptions of the causal part-time job, employees trying to make ends meet through multiple part-time jobs can find themselves without important benefits.”

To begin addressing that issue and more, Matos suggested that a bigger question must first be considered: “How do we create a workplace that fosters a gainfully employed national workforce contributing to the success of their employers, communities, families, and themselves?”

“To start exploring that bigger question requires an understanding of more than the problem,” he wrote. “It requires a real understanding of and engagement with the causes of those problems: the changing nature of work.”

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!