A new study finds that many firms are incentivizing employees to sign up for paid leave without a defined benefit or a guaranteed amount of time off.
The research was conducted by researchers at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
The researchers used an online survey of more than 5,500 employees in five companies and analyzed how they were compensated for their time off during their tenure.
Participants were asked to identify how much money they received in remunerations for each month of work they took, as well as their expected pay over the duration of their employment.
The results showed that many workers reported receiving less than the full expected amount of money for each week they worked.
For example, only 6% of respondents reported receiving a total salary of $3,400 for a single week.
In addition, the researchers found that workers who were paid the full amount of the remunerated pay they received received significantly fewer hours of paid leave during their first year of employment, than those who were compensated less than their expected salary.
“Our results suggest that the incentives for employees to take time off are likely to be greater than the benefits that would otherwise be offered, in order to meet the needs of the company,” said lead author Mark P. Smith, a doctoral student in the Department of Organizational Psychology at Harvard.
In a previous study, Smith and his colleagues found that nearly 80% of large companies offer a salary-based paid leave benefit.
These programs offer up to 10 weeks of paid time off per year for employees who work less than 20 hours per week, or up to 12 weeks of pay for employees working 30 hours or more per week.
Smith said that while these programs have a long track record, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to understand the benefits they offer.
“In order to fully understand the cost-effectiveness of these programs, more research is needed,” he said.
“The results of this study suggest that these programs may not offer the full range of benefits expected from firms.
We also need to examine how these programs can be more easily tailored to meet specific workplace needs.”
The study also found that companies often offered paid time-off for workers who are sick or injured, or for workers in a variety of other circumstances, such as caring for a child or elderly family member.
In fact, only 2% of the employees in the study said that the company offered paid leave for any of these circumstances.
“When companies offer paid leave, it is often to compensate employees for work that has been missed, such that workers are paid for working longer hours, for not taking sick leave, or simply because they are sick,” said co-author and assistant professor of organizational behavior and human decision processes Daniel W. Karp, a professor of management at Harvard Business School.
“Employers may also use paid leave to reward employees who are highly motivated to be productive and improve company performance, but may not be incentivized to offer paid time out to those who do not meet these expectations.”