Time off trends

Major Employee Benefit and Time-Off Trends in 2018

We’re several weeks into 2018, and a lot is going on in the business world. Some changes and trends are favoring employees with regard to everything from bonuses being paid, to new paid time off policies.

The following are some of the biggest trends to keep an eye on as it relates to employee benefits and time-off.

Expanding Family Leave and a New Tax Credit

There has been a big push for something to be done at the federal level when it comes to issues like maternity and paternity leave. While lawmakers are hesitant to jump in with national mandates, citing issues like differences between states and potential burdens on smaller organizations, a lot of businesses are doing it on their own. Even smaller businesses are moving toward increased family time off.

It’s becoming more common for new fathers to take paternity leave, and increasingly employers are also giving paid time off for things like adoption leave and surrogacy leave. Be sure to check out custom labels in CaptureLeave to help you manage all these different types of leaves.

Th tax act that was signed into law at the end of 2017 also offers a federal tax credit for employers providing paid family and medical leave to employees, starting this year. It is set to expire at the end of 2019, although that is likely to change. Many employers have shown that they are interested in taking advantage of the credit, and the hope among employers and employees seems to be that it becomes permanent through legislation in the future.

Technically called the Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave, stipulations include the following:

  • Employers who are eligible can claim a general business credit that’s equal to a percentage of the wages they’re paying qualified employees, as highlighted under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Employers have to offer at least two weeks of leave to be eligible for the credit, and they have to provide compensation for at least 50 percent of regular earnings to employees.
  • The credit ranges from 12.5 percent to 25 percent of the cost of each hour of paid leave.
  • For employers to use the credit, it has to go toward employees who have worked for them for at least a year, and they couldn’t have been paid more than $72,000 in 2017.
  • For an employer to claim the credit, they have to offer paid leave to full and part-time employees.
  • Employers are required to let part-time workers take a commensurate amount of paid leave, which is based on a prorated schedule.

The primary stipulation for employers to be aware of is the fact that the employer has to have a written policy providing at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave, with wages being paid at no less than 50% of full-time wages and a prorated amount for part-time employers. These paid weeks can’t be offered as vacation, personal, medical or sick leave.

Flexible PTO Policies

More companies are starting to implement what are called flexible PTO. Flex PTO policies provide paid time off not divided into categories. For example, employees aren’t designating their paid time off as vacation, sick or personal.

Rather they have a type of savings account of PTO days that they can use as they choose. With flex PTO policies, approval from a supervisor is typically still required, but employees can do what they want with their time. Parents, as an example, tend to like this approach because they can do things like attend school events. It’s also easier for HR departments to manage time off under these types of policies, although they usually do still require a tracking system for things like caps and limits.

One trend that is still in its infancy is the idea of unlimited paid time off. There are a few companies, primarily tech companies, which offer this, but they’re finding it’s not necessarily as beneficial as they might have thought.

Often when employees are faced with no limitations to their paid time off, they don’t use it at all. Employers are having to find a balance between trends that are more liberal with PTO and encouraging employees to actually take advantage of the benefits and options available to them.

Financial Wellness Programs

Along with some shifts in how PTO is handled, a lot of businesses are implementing a new benefit for employees, which are programs that help them manage their finances.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s research, around 48% of surveyed businesses offer individual retirement planning as part of a benefits package, and 44% offer retirement preparation advice. Offering any kind of financial advice has also increased about 12% from five years ago.

Student Loan Assistance

Another big topic of discussion when it comes to employee benefits trends is student loan assistance. Some employers who want to attract and hold onto to top talent in their industry are offering loan repayment for employees.

Despite the growing interest, it’s still something that few companies are actually offering right now. Benefits experts say it could be difficult for this trend to catch out in a widespread way because it is expensive, and it has to be in line with the overall strategic objectives of a company. Two places where it does tend to work well are finance and technology, however.

Flexible Scheduling

Finally, there are different ways workplaces are approach what a schedule looks like. The concept of flexible scheduling isn’t new, but there are newer ideas such as the 9/80 schedule. The 9/80 schedule includes nine hours a day for the first week, and then nine hours for four days, that means an extra day off every other week. A lot of millennials find the idea of a compressed work week appealing.

Also, somewhat related to the idea of flexible scheduling is how gig employees are now being viewed. With more people opting to enjoy the flexibility of working as a freelancer or contractor, some employers are starting to offer them slimmed down versions of a benefits package.

While many of the benefits and PTO trends are most applicable to larger companies, smaller businesses are looking at ways they can embrace these ideas as well.

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