Benefit Flexibility
| Jan 27 2022

Reviewing your PTO Benefits? Look Beyond National Norms

Emily Ferreira
Associate, Health & Benefits Survey Research, Mercer
Rich Fuerstenberg
Senior Partner, Health, Mercer

Mercer’s latest Absence and Disability Management Survey uncovered some important developments in broad national trends we’ve been tracking over the years. Just as important, the survey data also reveal how these trends vary across industries and regions and by employer size. With time-off plans and policies changing rapidly, employers need to know how their current offerings stack up against the organizations they compete with for talent, not only against national norms. Here’s a look at some of the differences we’re seeing in just a few of the benefits covered by the survey. 

Holidays. While the average number of paid fixed holidays offered to employees has remained at 9 days since the 2018 survey, the 2021 survey found that employers are beginning to add new holidays – Juneteenth and Election Day. Employers in the Northeast were the most likely to make Juneteenth a holiday in 2021 – 17%, compared to 9% nationwide. On the industry level, Financial Services employers were most likely to make Juneteenth as a holiday (13%). Wholesale/Retail employers were the most likely to close for Election Day – 4%, compared to 2% of all employers. With the prevalence still low, it’s not yet clear whether employers are replacing existing fixed or floating holidays with the new holidays, or adding to the total number of holidays provided. Either way, trends point to more employers offering these days as paid holidays going forward.  

Parental leave. We’ve seen consistent growth in parental leave benefits over the past decade: Nationally, three in five employers now offer paid parental leave. Among the largest organizations, this popular benefit is becoming table stakes – over 70% of employers with 5,000 or more employees offer paid parental leave, compared to just 57% of employers with 100-4,999 employees. By industry, health care employers are lagging in this space, with just 31% offering paid leave. The services industry leads at 76%. Employers in service industries are also out in front in offering time to employees who are adopting a child (75%) or welcoming a foster child into their homes (53%). 

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Paid-time-off (PTO) plans, which typically combine vacation and paid sick leave into a single bank of paid time off, are now offered by more than two-thirds of employers. They remain most common among employers in healthcare organizations, with 9 in 10 offering a PTO plan. Manufacturing companies are the least likely to offer PTO plans, at 58%.   

Unlimited PTO policies are offered to at least some employees by 20% of employers. In the West region, however, this jumps to 34% of employers (with 8% offering it to all employees, 14% to executives and exempt employees, and 12% to executives only). One reason is that unlimited PTO is popular in tech companies, which are concentrated in the West; another is that California-based employers are required to payout all accrued, unused PTO at termination. 

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National trends provide a valuable big-picture view of how employers are reacting to changing workforce needs and governmental policies. But being able to drill down on these trends to see what other employers in your industry, geographic area or of similar size is the essential benefit of benchmarking. Want to explore other areas to benchmark for absence and disability management? Check out the full 2021 Mercer Absence and Disability Management Survey Report, available for purchase here

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