By: Amy Dozier on October 30th, 2023

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5 Key Trends in Employee Leave Benefits

Leave Administration

The 2020s have been an unpredictable decade, to say the least. Stressful events have forced many people to reevaluate their careers, their work-life balance, and their relationships with employers.

For employers, it's been hard to keep up. One of the biggest trends we've seen is the desire for improved Total Rewards options and an improved work-life balance. According to some studies, 1 in 10 employees would even take a pay cut in exchange for better benefits.

One of the most valued benefits of all is paid leave. Flexible leave policies make it easier for people to meet the demands of their busy lives while also staying fully engaged at work.

The question is, what type of leave benefits should you offer?

5 current trends in leave management

Industry expert NFP has conducted a detailed study on the current state of leave management across the United States.

You can read the full report here, which contains detailed stats and analysis. The report outlines several trends that may impact your leave management strategy, including:  

1. Artificial Intelligence is taking over leave management

The biggest challenge in leave management is balance. How do you create a leave policy that suits everyone's needs but doesn't impact productivity?

AI might be the answer. Employers report that they are using AI tools to help with tasks such as:

  • Managing leave schedules: AI can help plan absences and avoid scheduling conflicts. AI-powered chatbots make it easier for employees to use self-service portals.
  • Analyzing leave data: AI is great at finding patterns in large volumes of data. AI-powered leave management tools can help identify ways to improve your leave policies.
  • Personalized communications: AI tools can also help deal with employee queries, process leave requests, remind employees of their leave entitlements, and even suggest dates.

Eventually, AI may be able to offer personalized leave packages tailored to each employee. This could improve efficiency and lead to a much better employee experience.

2. States are introducing bereavement leave laws

Bereavement Leave has become a political issue recently, with several states introducing legislation that guarantees employees can take time after the loss of a loved one. Maryland, Illinois, California, Washington and Oregon are introducing state-level legislation, with others set to follow.

These new laws are very different from each other. From a compliance perspective, you'll need to be aware of three key details:

  • Eligibility: Bereavement leave laws only apply to specific family relationships. There may be different rules for close family and extended family.
  • Paid/unpaid leave: Laws may entitle people to paid leave or leave without pay, or a mix of both.
  • Covered employer status: Leave laws may not apply to smaller employers. For instance, companies with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from Maryland's laws.

Roughly one in four employers are planning to review their bereavement leave policies in light of these new laws. Remember—state benefits are a minimum. You can offer a bereavement leave policy that goes beyond those requirements and show compassion to your people when they need it most.

Download an example Total Rewards statement

3. Employers offering new types of leave benefits

Around 72% of employers now offer a general PTO allowance rather than separate "pots" of paid leave for different purposes, such as vacation days and personal days.

However, there is still a need for designated forms of leave outside of normal PTO—bereavement leave, for example. Some employers have started offering special leave benefits such as :

  • Grandparental leave: More people are now working into their 70s, and many of them would enjoy leave to bond with new grandchildren. Only 8% of employers offer "grandternity leave", but 38% are considering it.
  • Menopause leave: According to the Mayo Clinic, 11% of women aged 45 to 60 have missed work due to menopause-related symptoms. That's a good reason to offer menopausal leave, which is currently only available from 4% of employers, although 34% of companies plan to offer it in the next few years.
  • IVF and pregnancy bereavement leave: Around 28% of employers offer bereavement leave in respect of pregnancy loss or failed IVF. This type of family relationship is also specified in the Illinois bereavement leave law.

Many of these leave allowances may be linked to your DE&I strategy, so talk to your DE&I team to find out if your team feels fully supported.  

4. Maternity and Parental leave are leading to compliance issues

Maternity leave and Parental leave remain a complex issue governed by a confusing matrix of local, state and federal laws.

NFP's research has found some common problems, such as:

  • Underused benefits: Birth and recuperation are counted as "pregnancy-related disability" under EEOC rules, meaning that employees may be entitled to short-term disability benefits. However, 32% of employers don't require their staff to file a benefits claim, which means they're leaving money on the table.
  • Regional variations: On the other hand, some maternity or parental leave policies fail to consider each employee's circumstances. Workers based in other states may not enjoy the same benefit entitlements, which could leave them at a disadvantage to their colleagues.
  • Bonding Time: Pregnancy-related disability is normally recognized as six to eight weeks. If you offer more than eight weeks' leave, the additional period is considered "bonding time" with the new child. All parents are entitled to equal amounts of bonding time under EEOC rules, so you'll need to offer equivalent parental leave to all employees.

 Maternity and Parental leave is a vital benefit and a key part of your employee value proposition. If in doubt, speak to a benefits expert about the best way to support new parents.

5. Leave management remains challenging for remote workers

The remote/in-office debate rages on, with 82% of remote workers saying their working patterns have changed in the past year. These changes make it harder for managers to administer leave allowances, with issues including:

  • Monitoring: 14% of employers find it more difficult to monitor leave usage for remote employees.
  • Uptake: A further 13% say they must encourage remote workers to use their leave allowances.
  • Administration: Around 53% of companies have amended their leave policies recently to accommodate remote employees.

It's crucial that remote workers and on-site staff be treated equally, especially when it comes to benefits. Make sure that remote staff understand their leave benefits, know how to use them, and track their time accordingly. 

Attract, engage and retain with the right employee leave benefits

Total Rewards play a vital role in defining your organizational culture. With the right benefit options in place, you'll find it easier to attract and retain the kind of people you want on your team.

But how do you get the right mix of leave benefits? It's simple—just talk to your team.

There are five generations in the workforce today, each with their own distinct needs. Consult with your team, find out how to support their needs, and create benefit packages that help them build a perfect work-life balance.

Need more help with compensation and benefits? Book a call with a Helios HR consultant and find out how to build a winning Total Rewards package.

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