Leave Policy in the United States

Leave Policy in the United States
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Leave policy in the United States is unique. Unlike many jurisdictions, all leave, including annual leave, are left to contractual agreements between employers and employees. That means, no universal annual leave days are applicable at a national level to all US employees. Moreover, except for federal employees annual leave for US employees is calculated according to the base rates each employee is entitled to in their employment contract.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) do NOT mandate, contrary to a common but mistaken belief, nationwide annual leaves or benefits. Only certain leaves and benefits for certain categories of workers are determined on a case-by-case basis.

For full-time federal employees annual leave entitlements are calculated as follows:

  • Less than three years of service: half day (= four hours) for each standard pay period
  • Over three years but less than 15 years of service: ¾ day (= six hours) for each standard pay period — except for 1¼ day (=10 hours) in the last standard pay period
  • Over 15 years of service: one day (= eight hours) for each standard pay period

Check out the Pay & Leave Policy Fact Sheet to understand how annual leave is calculated for other categories of employees  (part-time, uncommon tours of duty, senior level, and more).

The US follows a "Use or Lose" annual leave policy for federal employees whereby any amount of annual leave not used in a given leave year is NOT carried over to the next leave year and is forfeited. The ceiling of annual leave for US federal employees is set as follows:

  • 30 days for US-based employees
  • 45 days for out-of-US employees
  • 90 days for senior and professional employees

The current state of the United States leave policy leaves open for employers to provide competitive benefits to US-based employees and contractors. Skuad, a global employment solution provider, is your ultimate go-to partner to help you develop competitive benefits for US-based employees and contractors.

Public holidays

The public holidays in the United States are just as unique as the US leave policy. That means, unlike many jurisdictions, different states may have additional holidays, in addition to federal holidays which states may or may not apply. There are generally, however, 11 federal holidays as follows:

Date Holiday
January 1st New Year’s Day
3rd Monday in January Martin Luther King’s Birthday
3rd Monday in February Washington’s Birthday
Last Monday in May Memorial Day
June 19th Juneteenth National Independence Day
July 4th Independence Day
1st Monday in September Labor Day
2nd Monday in October Columbus Day
November 11th Veterans’ Day
4th Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day
December 25th Christmas Day

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Types of leave in the United States

Family leave

Family leave in the United States is regulated under FMLA. Unlike many jurisdictions, US-based employees are NOT generally entitled to paid family leave. Special exceptions and rules do apply, however, including

  • Being employed for at least the previous 12 months
  • Having at least 1,250 hours of work over the previous 12 months
  • Working from a location where an employer of 50+ employees is within 75 miles
  • Working for a public agency, or a public or private elementary or secondary school

FMLA also specifies which cases or situations abovementioned categories of employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year including

  • Giving birth to or caring for an infant
  • Caring for an adopted or in-foster-care child
  • Caring for an immediate family member suffering from a serious medical condition
  • Being unable to perform duties because of a serious medical condition

Maternity leave

Maternity leave in the United States does not exist per se. Instead, only eligible federal employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid leave under Title 5 of Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) — a major departure from unpaid leave under FMLA.

Granting a paid or unpaid maternity leave to employees and contractors in different US states is state-specific and is subject to contractual agreements between employers and employees.

Examples of maternity leave (also generally known as "family leave") in some US states include:

  • New York: 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of base salary
  • California: eight weeks of paid leave at 60%-70% of base salary
  • Louisiana: 12 weeks of unpaid leave at 100% of base salary
  • Montana: determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Kansas: six weeks of paid leave at 100% of base salary

Clearly, maternity (family) leave policy in the US is subject to in-state laws and regulations, in addition to local cultures and labor practices. This could be overwhelming to many employers.

At Skuad, we are best positioned — given our extensive market exposure and in-depth knowledge of local labor laws and regulations — to provide you with unmatched insights into maternity leave in the US and more.

For a starter, check out our comprehensive guide on maternity leave. So, you would get a basic understating of what considerations you should account for when developing your maternity leave in the US and beyond.  

Paternity leave

Paternity leave in the United States falls — as maternity and parental leave do — under family leave regulations and specifications as indicated under maternity leave above.

Parental leave

Parental leave in the United States follows the same rules and specifications as maternity and parental leaves and is usually referred to as "family leave."

Medical leave

Likewise, medical leave in the United States is regulated under FMLA, and as such employees applying for medical leave are subject to the same requirements and specifications as for maternity, paternity, and parental leaves.

Uniquely enough, US federal laws do not require sick leave. Moreover, since different states can provide sick leaves to employees, variations do exist in leave policies per state. This is yet another area Skuad can help you fill in by providing leave benefits that strike a balance between your business requirements and employee needs.

Jury duty leave

The US adopts a jury system where randomly selected citizens who are registered voters are summoned by district courts to serve as jurors. The underlying rationale of such selection is to ensure that a judiciary process is performed with as much representation as possible of all people in a given community.

The jury duty leave in the United States is, accordingly, a leave entitlement a chosen juror might be eligible for. Legally speaking, however, FLSA does not require — at a federal level — any payment for time not worked, which includes jury duty leave. Instead, a jury duty leave is left to employers and employees to agree on. Then again, in some states employees are entitled to jury duty leave. For example, while Texas does follow a federal unpaid rule for jury duty employees, a jury duty leave is required if an exempt employee misses only part NOT a full work week to serve as a juror.

This discrepancy in jury duty leave at federal and state levels opens up yet another window for employers to get creative and provide unique jury duty benefits for employees chosen to serve as jurors.

Navigating the current unclear scene of US jury duty leave is beyond the legal expertise of many employers. Here is where Skuad can step in and provide enormous value to help you craft the best benefits options for your employees.  

Military leave

Military leave in the United States is regulated under FMLA. In 2008, however, Military Family Leave provisions were added to FMLA to address the specific needs of servicepersons and families. Two types of leaves are granted under a military leave banner:

Qualifying Exigency Leave

This leave is granted for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to an eligible employee when an immediate serviceperson family member is being deployed overseas.

To be eligible for a Qualifying Exigency Leave, an employee must be

  • A spouse, parent, or son or daughter of a serviceperson being deployed
  • Covered by their employer
  • An employee of the current employer for the last 12 months
  • An employee of the current employer for at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months
  • Working for your current employer who has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace

The serviceperson relative must also be on "covered active duty."

The reasons why a spouse, child, or parents of a serviceperson may be qualified for an Exigency Leave include

  • Managing short-notice deployment issues
  • Managing financial or legal matters arising from the deployment
  • Attending counseling support
  • Attending military events and activities
  • Spending up to 15 days with a serviceperson family member who is on Rest and Recuperation leave
  • Addressing childcare-related matters arising from a serviceperson family member's deployment

Military Caregiver Leave

This leave is granted for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to an eligible employee when an immediate serviceperson family member is injured or seriously ill.

To be eligible for a Qualifying Exigency Leave, an employee must be:

  • A spouse, parent, son or daughter, or next-of-kin relative of a serviceperson who is seriously injured or ill
  • Covered by their employer
  • An employee of the current employer for the last 12 months
  • An employee of the current employer for at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months
  • Working for your current employer who has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace

Paid time off (PTO)

Paid time off in the United States is a function of years of service and is compensated accordingly.

Seamlessly navigate leave policy in the United States

Getting leave amounts and other benefits right is critical for your business's success, employee happiness, and regulatory compliance.

Skuad can help you navigate leave policies and benefits packages in over 160 counties. Fully knowledgeable of the labor market in the US, Skuad is best positioned to be your EOR.

Talk to our experts for advice on leave policy in the United States

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