SHRM Survey Finds Significant Difference in Maternity and Paternity Paid Leave That Reinforces Gender Roles

Paid-time-off plans and paid vacation plans often based on employee tenure; vacation ranges from 8 days to 22 days

October 6, 2016
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that, on average, women receive almost twice as much paid parental leave after the birth of a child as men.

The Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey found that women, on average, were given 41 days of paid maternity leave compared with 22 days of paid paternity leave for men. (This is in addition to other forms of paid leave that might be available to new parents.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, noted Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics at SHRM, the survey showed that very few employees left any parental leave unused.

“The imbalance in parental leave indicates that organizations still expect mothers to take on the majority of care for a new child,” Esen added. “This inequity in paid-time-off days may discourage fathers from taking a similar amount of time off to care for a new child.”

Released as big-name employers are announcing increases in paid time off and paid leave legislative measures are being debated, the survey also found that the average amount of paid adoption leave was 31 days, and 36 days was the average paid surrogacy leave. 

The SHRM survey also examined paid leave plans, finding that the majority of employers used employee tenure as the basis for leave offered in paid-time-off (PTO, a combination of vacation, sick and personal leave) plans and vacation plans. An employee with two years of tenure received an average of 15 days in a PTO plan and 11 days each in paid vacation and paid sick plans. Overall, paid vacation ranged from eight days to 22 days, based on employees’ length of service. 

For plans that were not based on tenure, full-time employees, on average, were awarded about 18 days of PTO or 16 vacation days, 11 sick days and four personal days per year. 

Full-time employees generally had to wait six weeks to nine weeks before they were eligible to take leave from PTO, paid sick and paid personal plans. Wait times were the longest — slightly more than three months — for employees with paid vacation plans.The survey also examined the following types of paid leave:

Bereavement: On average, four days of bereavement leave were given for the death of a spouse or child.

Sabbaticals: Generally, 132 paid days were awarded for a paid sabbatical program, and 116 days were given for an unpaid sabbatical program.

Time off to vote: 37 percent of respondents provided paid leave beyond what is required by law.

Methodology: The survey polled 2,665 randomly selected SHRM members from November 2015 to January 2016. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Media: For more information or an interview, contact Vanessa Hill at and 703-535-6072 or Kate Kennedy at and 703-535-6260.

Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

About the Society for Human Resource Management 
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries. For nearly seven decades, the Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SHRMPress.


Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Are you a department of one?

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.