July 24, 2008
Shared leave: Donating paid days off to coworkers in need
Earlier this year, I was out walking my dog and got to talking to a neighbor who'd been undergoing chemo for breast cancer. She was doing well, but she of course needed the day off work once a week for her treatments, and sometimes the day after that to recover from side effects. As she was single, I was curious: How could she afford all that time off, and what did her employer think of the absences?
Fortunately, the neighbor worked for a state agency that had a generous shared leave policy: coworkers were lining up to donate their unused paid days off to her (sick days, vacation days) so she wouldn't lose out on valuable income.
On the other side of the coin, another woman in my community, a married homemaker, was recently diagnosed with cancer and also just began chemo. Her husband, who works in the private sector, has been taking off one day a week to accompany his wife to her treatments. But for him, it means lost wages; thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), he gets the time off, but the days are unpaid.
The Society for Human Resource Management reported in June that 21 percent of U.S. employers offer shared leave -- double the amount offering this benefit in 2004 -- and that a majority of these employers are in the health, government, and nonprofit sectors.
And the Portland Business Journal recently ran a story on the success of the shared leave program at accounting firm KPMG LLP in Portland. But I'm wondering what private sector employers up here in the Seattle region offer shared leave and what employees think of those programs.
If you have experiences with shared leave (in the private sector, at a nonprofit, or at a university or government organization), I'd love to hear from you. Have you received or donated paid days off through such a program? What did you think of the program? Are there any drawbacks (people feeling pressured to donate time, people abusing the program), or is everything peachy in shared leave land? Comment away.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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