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New SHRM Research Shows Employers Offering Paid Leave Has Increased

ALEXANDRIA, Va., September 15, 2020 — A voluntary, comprehensive, and uniform federal paid leave framework is necessary to meet the needs of a modern, 21st century workplace, SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) wrote in a response to the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau Request for Information on paid leave.

The letter presents research from SHRM and Oxford Economics that found more employers are offering paid parental leave—including maternity leave, paternity leave, and adoption leave. The report showed:

  • Over half of employers (55 percent) now offer paid maternity leave, 45 percent offer paid paternity leave, and 35 percent provide paid extended family care leave;
  • Offering paid leave tends to have strategic benefits, including their ability to attract talent (58 percent), retention (55 percent), employee health and wellness (61 percent), and employee engagement (60 percent);
  • Employers' most commonly cited reason for not offering paid leave programs was cost. The cost of a comprehensive national paid leave program could range between $21.5 billion and $43.0 billion annually, depending on policy.

"As U.S. workplaces adapt, and respond to the pandemic, employers have called on their HR departments to re-examine and update leave policies amid significant labor market turmoil," said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM Corporate Secretary, Chief of Staff, & Head, Government Affairs. "Congress should work towards a voluntary federal framework that gives employers the flexibility to offer a paid leave program that meets the unique needs of both employees and the business interests of the organization."

Notably, more states are mandating paid leave in 2020 than they did in 2019. Additionally, most companies expect their paid leave benefits to remain the same or increase over the next two years. It's important to note, however, the COVID-19 pandemic may have shifted executive and employee perceptions about the need for paid leave.

Media: Contact Julie Hirschhorn at and 703-842-5152 or Cooper Nye at and 703-535-6447.


The research findings detailed in this report are based on parallel surveys fielded online between mid-November and mid-December 2019. Both surveys included respondents from for-profit businesses and non-profits and government organizations.

The survey of SHRM members

The survey used to calculate cost scenarios was drawn from HR professionals who are SHRM members. A total of 1,036 organizations responded to the survey, yielding 842 valid responses. The sampling margin of error (at 95 percent confidence) for percentage share estimates (e.g., the percentage of firms offering a certain type of leave) is ±3.4 percent

Over one-third of respondents were in the education, health, and government sectors, with government representing approximately 10 percent of total respondents. Non-profit organizations were not broken out separately, but most fell into the education, health and government grouping. The largest class of organizations, those employing over 10,000 workers, represented 42 percent of total employment in the survey.

The survey of senior executives

The second survey was fielded to senior executives—C-suite and direct reports to the C-suite—outside SHRM's membership. This survey was administered through an independent survey vendor; 3,654 executives were contacted, yielding 507 valid responses. Respondents to this survey spanned industries, sizes, and locations within the US, but responses may not be representative of the US economy as a whole. The sampling margin of error (at 95 percent confidence) for percentage share estimates is ±4.4 percent.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.


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