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Employee Benefits: Questions and Answers
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What types of benefit data does the BLS provide?▸
The National Compensation Survey (NCS) Benefits series is comprised of two annual publications on the incidence and provisions of selected benefits provided by employers to their employees. These publications are the incidence and key provisions and detailed provisions, which are released in two stages. In the fall, data are published on the incidence and key provisions of selected benefit plans and detailed provisions of vacation, paid holidays, sick leave, nonproduction bonuses, life insurance plans, health insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, health savings accounts, wellness benefits, financial benefits, and other benefit plans. Employer and employee shares of contributions to medical care premiums and their average amounts are also presented. In the spring, more detailed information on the provisions on health and retirement plans are published. It has information on plan features, costs, and limitations or restrictions for health and retirement plans.
Detailed provisions of health care and retirement benefit plans are published annually with the focus on a particular benefit rotating between health care, defined benefit, and defined contribution plans. For the most recent complete collection of data on these detailed provisions see the Health and Retirement Plan Provisions page. For additional information for plan details or concepts and terms see the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms.
For what worker and establishment characteristics are benefit data available?▸
Information is provided by ownership which includes workers in civilian, private industry, and state and local government. Worker characteristics include broad occupational groups, full-time and part-time employment, union and non-union, and average wage percentile categories. Establishment characteristics include major industry groups, establishment size, and geographic location. Information related to industry groups and industries, occupational groups and occupations, and Census region and divisions can be found through the Classification systems used by the NCS page.
How much has the cost of employer-provided benefits changed in the last 5 years?▸
The Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) provides historical employer-provided benefits costs for paid leave, supplemental pay, insurance, retirement and savings, Social Security and Medicare, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation and other benefits. The Employment Cost Index (ECI) provides health insurance and total benefit cost changes.
Does the BLS have estimates on the cost and types of benefits for a specific occupation?▸
NCS publishes benefits data for a selected number of occupational groups. Some detailed occupational groupings such as protective service workers in private industry and primary, secondary, and special education school teacher occupations in state and local government are also available. More information on occupations can be found through Classification systems used by the NCS page.
Can the benefits data be used to compare changes over time?▸
The NCS survey methodology is designed to create detailed cross-sectional benefit estimates by geographic area or industry. These are point in time estimates and are less useful for comparing two or more points in time. Challenges in using benefits data as a time series include changes in the occupational, industrial, and geographic classification systems, changes in plans and provisions, changes in composition of employment mix among industries, changes in survey concepts, changes in the survey reference period, changes in mean wage estimation methodology, and changes in overall NCS methodology.
Are there micro data available to the public?▸
Benefit microdata are available on a limited basis to researchers for the purpose of conducting valid statistical analyses. For more details and how to apply for access, see the BLS Restricted Data Access page.
Does the BLS track the amount of sick leave employees use?▸
The BLS does not produce data on the use of such benefits, but the ECEC does use the average sick leave to adjust the work schedule and calculate the average costs to employers of providing sick leave to their employees. However, the BLS does produce data on availability of sick leave and other disability benefits as part of our benefits survey. See the NCS Benefits home page for the most recent information.
What percentage of the American work force has access to employer provided childcare?▸
The NCS Benefits survey provides incidence data of employee benefits for private industry and state and local government workers. Additionally, the BLS publishes the incidence of benefits for civilian workers, which includes data from both private industry and state and local government. See the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for the BLS definition of childcare.
Is a company mandated to give employees a specific number of paid holidays?▸
Additional benefits required by State and local laws (such as sick leave and short-term disability) are reflected in the individual benefit components for ECEC and reflected within total benefits within ECI. Additional provisions may be reflected within the benefit data.
Does the BLS have any information on the difference in benefit packages between companies of different sizes?▸
The NCS Benefits survey provides information by size of establishment. The establishment size is characterized by the number of workers, and broken out into two broad categories 1-99 workers and 100 or more workers and into four additional sub-categories: 1-49 employees; 50-99 employees; 100-499 employees; and 500 or more employees. For the availability of leave, insurance, retirement, and other selected benefits by size of establishment, see the most recent data. These data are produced annually.
Where can I find information on paid family leave?▸
Where does the BLS provide the total number of workers or establishments?▸
Each publication contains two appendix tables. Appendix table 1 contains the estimated number of the establishments in the sampling frame and appendix table 2 contains the estimated number of workers represented in the survey, for all workers and occupational groups.
For example, in March 2021 there were 114,522,100 private industry workers represented by the survey and there were 44 percent of private industry workers with access to personal and sick leave. By multiplying these two data (114,522,100 * 0.44), it can be estimated that approximately 50,389,724 private industry workers have access to personal and sick leave.
Where does the BLS provide information for my unemployment benefits, claims or payments?▸
Why are some March 2022 estimates for paid sick leave and vacation not available in the latest release?▸
The estimates for consolidated leave plans and the number of annual days by length of service for paid sick leave and paid vacation will be published in 2023.
Retirement benefits information
What are frozen retirement plans and how prevalent are they?▸
Frozen retirement plans are defined benefit plans that are closed to new enrollees and that may limit future benefit accruals for some or all active plan participants. Some plans may no longer allow participants to accrue additional benefits, while others may change the plans prospective benefit formula in such a way as to limit or cease future benefit accruals for some active participants. More information on frozen defined benefit plans can be found through the following link: What statistics does the BLS provide on frozen defined benefit plans?.
How prevalent are cash account (cash balance) pension plans?▸
Cash account pension plans are a type of defined benefit plan. See the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms for a more detailed definition of this type of plan. Information on the prevalence of this type of defined benefit plan can be found through the latest dataset.
Does the BLS provide information on life insurance benefits for retirees?▸
The National Compensation Survey (NCS) no longer collects this type of data. Costs for retiree life insurance are out-of-scope since they are not costs incurred by the employer for active employees. However, data are available for access to retiree health care benefits for employees under 65 years and 65 years and older.
Health benefits information
What are high deductible health plans and how do they differ from traditional health plans?▸
Data on employee and employer contributions to medical care are available for civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers. For information on employee premiums for single and family coverage, and provisions on deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums see the Health and Retirement Plan Provisions page.
What information does the NCS collect about Flexible Spending Accounts? Does the NCS capture data regarding the details of how an employer reimburses their employees for valid transactions? ▸
The NCS Benefits publishes data on employee access to Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), but does not capture information about reimbursements. More information about flexible benefits can be found in this factsheet and the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms.
For questions regarding tax implications of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), visit the Internal Revenue Service website.
Does the BLS provide information on the detailed provisions of employer-provided health insurance plans?▸
Yes, the NCS Benefits provides comprehensive information on health benefit plans. Under the NCS program, information on the incidence and provision of benefits is published in stages. This information is published with a March reference date each year with data collected from respondents in private industry, and state and local government workers. The published data contains the access to, and participation in, selected benefits such as health care plans and employee shares of contributions to medical care premiums and their average amounts.
A second publication, based on employer documentation of benefit plans, is published annually with more detailed information on basic provisions of health plans. Also, additional provisions of health benefit plans are published on a rotating basis. For the most recent information, see the latest health benefit publications.