The Current State of PTO and Paid Parental Leave Programs in the US

By Gregg Makuch - Jul 15, 2019 3:49:00 PM - 6 MINS READ

More and More Progressive Companies Are Allowing PTO Alternatives

SEATTLE, WA - August 5, 2019 - PTO Exchange, a benefits platform that turns unused paid time off (PTO) hours into liquid assets that can be converted into things employees value, today announced the availability of new research conducted by World At Work entitled "2019 PTO / Paid Parental Leave Programs and Policies." Paid time off (PTO) is a powerful tool to attract talent in today's competitive labor market. The report is available for download from the PTO Exchange website. 

world-at-work-logo“This survey highlights a critical shift,” said Scott Cawood, President and CEO, World At Work. “Organizations that deliver benefits like paid time off, flexibility, and paid parental leave – benefits that provide a great work experience and a great life experience -- are often valued higher by employees than other rewards like salary or health benefits. The rise in parental leave programs may be a result of state-led mandates, in addition to employers striving for differentiated benefits in a strained labor market--or possibly both. These programs have quickly become an important and expected part of the Total Rewards equation and are critical in maintaining an engaged and productive workforce.”

Key Findings Regarding Paid Time Off

  • Most employees do not have to wait to take time off after starting a new job. 52% of organizations allow immediate use of vacation time benefits, and 63% of organizations provide immediate use of PTO bank (pooled vacation, sick, personal) time benefits.
  • Progressive employers are allowing paid time off alternatives. One in four employers allow employees to redirect unused paid time off. For example, a donation to colleagues who need it to utilize the time off instead of themselves (20%), to redirect the cash-value of unused time off to their 401(k) (2%) or to convert to a donation to a not-for-profit that is important to them (2%).
  • A considerable number of employees do not maximize PTO. 37% percent of employees do not use all of their PTO each year. However, employers that establish plan guidelines help promote usage of PTO benefits. For example, in organizations with “use it or lose it” policies, only 19% of employees lose some paid time off.
  • Paid military service time and paid time to volunteer are on the rise. 49% as compared to 39% in 2014 and 35% as compared to 22% in 2014, respectively.

Key Finding Regarding Paid Parental Leave

  • The United States is making inroads in expanding paid parental leave policies, and more than half of organizations offer paid parental leave programs separate from short-term disability.
  • Family planning need not be influenced by employment tenure -- 65% of employers allow parental leave for employees who have been employed under one year.
  • Paid parental leave is being used as a recruiting tool to entice potential employees. Three in five organizations tout paid parental-leave programs to attract new employees.
  • Part-time employees are increasingly eligible for parental benefits traditionally reserved for full-time employees. For example, in 2019, 57% of new-parent part-time employees are eligible for job-protected leave, as compared to 47% in 2016.
  • Employees typically receive their full salary during parental leave. Pay during parental leave is most often full salary (78%), a mix of full salary and partial salary (16%) or partial salary (6%).

“While the survey shows that companies are beginning to offer flexibility around benefits, employees need choices that support their station in life. Allowing employees to self-direct their unused PTO for emergencies, 401(k)s, health savings accounts, student loans, or giving to a nonprofit or colleague they care about is important and provides generational equality to the employee community,” said Rob Whalen, CEO, PTO Exchange. “More companies need to view PTO as part of an overall employee compensation package which is earned and accrued through the process of their work, productivity and the value they deliver to the company and shareholders. Companies that view PTO in this way will lead in the war for top talent. The survey also underscores the critical need for companies to offer creative solutions that support their workforce in an individualized and personal way.”

Definition of Paid Parental Leave

Paid leave for use by new parent employees to recover from the birth of a child and/or to care for or bond with a new child. Definition of “new-parent employee” (i.e., birth mother, father, domestic partner, adoptive parent, etc.) and qualifying circumstances (i.e., birth, adoption, foster placement, surrogacy birth, etc.) may vary and will be covered in this survey. This paid parental leave is distinct from other paid leave programs. While using this type of paid leave, a new-parent employee does not need to use or exhaust other paid-time-off earnings or accruals such as vacation, sick time or personal leave or PTO; however, an employee may be able to use other earned/accrued paid time off after the paid parental leave benefit is exhausted, if organizational policy allows.


Journalists may request a complimentary copy of the survey report by contacting Judy Kalvin,

PTO Exchange: Kelli Reagan, kelli (at) mpublicrelations (dot) com.

About the Study

World at Work collected survey data for the “2019 PTO/Paid Parental Leave Programs & Practices Survey” from March 13, 2019 to March 29, 2019. The survey report was based on 532 responses. Survey respondents were WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of U.S. organizations.

About World At Work

World at Work is the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and Total Rewards. We serve those who design and deliver total rewards programs to cultivate engaged, effective workforces that power thriving organizations. We accomplish this through education and certification; idea exchange; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and affiliation and networking. Founded in the United States in 1955, today WorldatWork serves total rewards professionals throughout the world working in organizations of all sizes and structures.

About PTO Exchange

PTO Exchange is a benefits platform that turns unused paid time off (PTO) hours into liquid assets that can be converted into things employees value – retirement accounts, student loan repayment, travel awards, charitable causes and more. PTO Exchange helps companies attract & retain talent, reduce balance sheet liabilities and strengthen community all while employees reclaim lost PTO. PTO Exchange is SOC 2-certifed and trusted by Premera, DaVita Kidney Care, SH Hotels and others. Learn more at

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Gregg Makuch

Gregg is CMO at PTO Exchange. Passionate about solving customer problems, cycling, caffè, wine, and all things Italian.

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