There’s always that one kid at school who somehow had perfect attendance. You wonder —How did he never get sick? Why didn’t he have conflicts with extracurriculars? Wasn’t he ever just tired?? Is he actually a robot???
If schools had an HR team, they’d probably check in with that student and recommend he take some time off. Whether at school or at work, time off is vital to keep our sanity, stay healthy, and prevent burnout.
That’s why companies offer various employee leave options. The requirements and eligibility for leave vary depending on the company’s policies and the laws governing their location. Leave benefits can also vary from fully paid time off (PTO) to partially paid, or to unpaid.
Here we’ll discuss twelve of the most common types of leave from work. From vacation time to voting leave, each option has its own unique set of rules and regulations. If you want to protect your employees rights, while ensuring they have access to their earned benefits, then familiarizing yourself with the different types of leave is a great way to help!
- Vacation Time
Vacation days are a way for employees to take a much-needed break from their everyday jobs. They allow them to enjoy relaxing activities like travel or leisurely family time. Depending on your company, vacation time is sometimes referred to as vacation leave or annual leave.
In the US, vacation timeis not mandated by law, but some employers may offer it as part of a benefits package. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, vacation entitlement averages at about 11 daysper calendar year. Consider the needs and flexibility of your company to determine what number of vacation days makes sense for you.
- Sick Days
Sick days are offered to help employees manage their healthand address any medical issues that may arise. With sick leave, employees have time to recover from illnesses and seek medical treatment if needed. It is up to the company’s discretion whether to require a doctor’s notebefore granting them paid sick leave.
Employees who qualify for sick days in the US typically receive an average of 8 days per calendar year. Again, the amount of sick time a company is obligated to provide depends on the location and policies of the company. The US has no federal legal requirements to provide paid sick time; however, the laws vary from state to state.
- Bereavement Leave
Bereavement or funeral leave is a type of time off from work that employees can request when a family member or loved one passes away. This leave allows workers to grieve and attend funeral services, or take care of other related duties.
In the United States, bereavement leave is not a mandatory requirement for employers, and the amount of time off offered can vary from one company to another. However, on average, companies usually allow up to three days of paid bereavement leave, though some may offer more depending on the circumstances or needs of the employee.
- Medical and Disability Leave
Medical and disability leave address two types of physical health complications. Medical leave is taken for illness or injury which is assumed to have an eventual recovery date and an ability to come back to work. In contrast, disability leave is taken for a serious health condition that prevents an employee from working. There are laws to protect an employee’s job while on either of these types of leave, so they don’t have to worry about losing their job.
It’s important to note that an employer can’t require a staffer to use their vacation or sick days before taking medical or disability leave. Also, if your disability leave policy is unpaid, consider letting your employees know what their interim income options are. For example, they may be eligible for benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Parental Leave
Parental leave is designed to give employees the flexibility and time off they need to take care of their newborn child. Some companies may still refer to this type of leave as maternity or paternity leave rather than the more inclusive parental leave.
In the US, no federal laws mandate employers to provide paid parental leave. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)grants parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Some states, like California, require employers to provide their employees up to eight weeks of partially paid family leave.
Unfortunately, this still pales in comparison to the parental leave policies in other countries. Since this is a common complaint from American parents, consider providing a more generous parental leave policy at your company to attract new hiresand increase job satisfaction.
- Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)isn’t just for new parents. It also protects employees who need extended periods away from their job due to a severe illness or injury or for caretaking responsibilities of an immediate family member.
As mentioned earlier, employers must grant their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA leave for qualifying reasons. They must also guarantee them job reinstatement upon return. This law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who take this type of leave.
- Jury Duty Leave
Jury Duty Leave is, as you’d expect, a leave entitled to employees who are called for jury duty. In the US, this leave is mandated by the federal Jury System Improvement Act (JSIA)and is unpaid. However, some employers may allow their staff to use their paid time off instead of taking unpaid jury duty leave.
- Military Duty or Service Leave
Military duty or service leave allows active military members, reservists, and National Guard members to take time off from their civilian jobs to fulfill their military obligations. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)mandates this type of leave.
Under USERRA, employers allow employees to take up to five years of unpaid leave for military service without the risk of losing their job. During this time, workers are eligible for reemployment when they return, as long as they meet specific requirements outlined in the law.
- Floating Holiday
A floating holiday, sometimes called a personal day or personal leave, is time off that “floats” around the calendar. In other words, employees can request the time off whenever they need to. Floating holidays are typically paid and are not subject to the laws governing vacation time and sick leave.
Since over half of US employees are afraid of asking for time off, a floating holiday policy shows your employees that you encourage taking time off. This flexible leave can be used for any purpose, including attending special events, birthdays, or holidays that aren’t already designated time off for the whole company.
- Religious Holidays and Observances Leave
Religious holidays allow employees to observe and participate in spiritual practices that are not recognized as official holidays. In the US, employers with 15 or more employeesmust grant time off for religious holidays, like Rosh Hashanah, Holi festivals, or Lent.
However, US companies are not required to provide paid leave for these religious holidays. The amount of time off allowed depends on the company’s policies and local laws regarding religious observance.
- Sabbatical Leave
Sabbatical leave is typically offered to employees who have been with the same company for an extended time. It allows them to take a break from work for personal or professional reasons. Depending on the organization’s policy, they can take anywhere from a few weeks of leave to a few months or even a year.
In the US, companies are not required to provide sabbatical leave. However, it tends to be a common practice in education and academia so that staff can undertake research and write books or papers. It shows employees that their hard work and dedication are recognized and rewarded with a much-needed break from their daily routines. You might want to use sabbaticals as an opportunity for talent retention or to encourage professional development.
- Voting Leave
Voting leave gives employees enough time off work to cast their ballots in elections or referendums. Offering this leave can help show your employees that your company cares about engagement with the current political and social issues affecting their lives.
In the US, no federal laws mandate employers to provide paid voting leave. However, some states have laws requiring companies to pay employees for votingup to a certain number of hours.
Reframe Time-Off Language Around Wellness
The language you use to describe the types of leave you offer can positively impact your employees’ work-life wellness journey. For example, try reframing “personal days” as “wellness days.” This way, when employees hear the term “wellness day,” it reminds them that their wellbeing is a valid reason to take time off.
This encourages an environment that prioritizes its employees’ mental and physical health. It also prevents an employee from feeling uncertain whether their personal obligations or needs are enough of a reason to take time off.
As explored in this article, there are many types of leave of absence. If you offer these options to your employees, it’s worth paying attention to the language you use. Using words that encourage rest, recovery, and time to recharge means that when your employees return to work, they are ready to tackle the days and weeks ahead!
If you want to learn more about fostering a happier and healthier workforce, speak to a Gympass wellbeing specialistand see how you can shape the welfare of your employees today!
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- USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. (2023). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved on January 24, 2023 from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra.
- Vacation Leave. (2023). U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved on January 24, 2023 from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/vacation_leave#:~:text=The%20Fair%20Labor%20Standards%20Act,(or%20the%20employee%27s%20representative).
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.