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Frances P erk in s, Secretary
Isador L u b in , Commissioner (o n lea ve)
A . F. H in rich s, A cting Commissioner

Sick-Leave Provisions in
U nion Agreements

Bulletin 7V£o. 832

F o r sale b y th e S u p erin ten d en t o f D ocu m en ts, U . S. G o v e r n m e n t P rin tin g O ffice
W ashington 25, D . C.
P rice 5 cen ts


Letter o f Transmittal
U nited States D epartment of L abor,
B ureau of L abor Statistics,
Washington, D . C ., M a y 22, 1945.

The Secretary of L abor :
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on sick-leave provisions in
union agreements. This report is based on a study of 5,000 agreements current
as of December 1944.
This report, which appeared in the May 1945 issue of the Monthly Labor
Review, was prepared by Sophia F. McDowell under the direction of Florence
Peterson, Chief of the Bureau’s Industrial Relations Division.
A. F. H inrichs,
Acting Com m issioner .

Hon. F rances P erkins,
Secretary o f Labor .





p i 00 w

Unpaid-sick-leave provisions____________
Maternity leave____________________
Paid-sick-leave provisions_______________
Extent of provisions________________
General characteristics of plans_____
Manufacturing industries. __________
Nonmanufacturing industries_______



7n[ o . 832 o f the

U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics
[Reprinted from tbe M onthly L abor R eview , May 1945]

Sick-Leave Provisions in Union Agreements

The granting of sick leave without pay, but without loss of seniority,
is provided for in a large proportion of the current union agreements.
A small number of the agreements mention maternity leave and very
few of these provide pay.
Of 5,000 agreements examined, 350 provide paid sick leave, threefourths of these being found in nonmanufacturing industries. Some
of these stipulate full pay for a limited period, others a portion of full
pay for a limited period, and a few merely supplement group insurance
or workmen's compensation benefits. The maximum leave provided
varies from 3 days for all regular employees to 52 weeks per year for
employees with long service. Paid-sick-leave provisions are fairly
prevalent in agreements covering workers in the electric, waiter, and
gas, and the telephone and telegraph industries; as wTell as office and
professional, wholesale and retail trade, and State, county, and mu­
nicipal workers.
Unpaid-Sick-Leave Provisions

The granting of sick leave without pay, but without loss of seniority
or employment rights, has long been the practice in some American
industries and is provided for in a great proportion of current union
agreements. Many agreements which make no explicit provision for
unpaid sick leave specify “ leaves of absence for personal reasons" or
“ leaves of absence upon mutual agreement of the company and the
union" which may be assumed, in application, to include sick leave.
Whether seniority accumulates or is frozen during the period of
absence is not clear from those agreements which use such general
terms as “ seniority shall not be affected during illness" or “ no one
shall be removed from the seniority list." Although some agreements
specify a definite time limit, ranging from 6 months to 3 years, others
simply provide protection of seniority for a “ reasonable period," or
“ until the employee is able to return to his job ." Extension of these
designated periods during prolonged illness, with automatic extension
for employees injured on the job, is frequently provided.

Only a small proportion of the agreements specifically mention
maternity leave, but in cases in which no mention is made it is possible

( 1)

that such absence is considered as sick leave. Very few of the agree­
ments in which maternity leave is mentioned make provision for pay.
Maternity-leave provisions are common in the rubber and textile indus­
tries and are frequently found in the nonferrous-metals and machinery
industries and among office and professional occupations. The length
of time during which seniority is protected ranges from 8 weeks to 2
years, although again it is frequently not clear whether seniority
accumulates or is frozen as of the date of leaving the job.
About a fourth of the American Newspaper Guild agreements have
maternity-leave clauses,1 most of which provide for unpaid leave of
2 months’ duration. Some grant double vacation pay at the time of
leave, with deduction of this extra pay from the severance pay, if the
employee does not return. Certain other office and professional work­
ers’ agreements also provide for 6 months’ unpaid maternity leave,
sometimes with the specification that 3 months be taken before the
birth of the baby and 3 months afterward. One of the agreements
reviewed stipulated that “ vacation and unused sick leave not to
exceed 3 weeks may be taken as part of maternity leave.”
Pa id-Sick -Leave Provisions

To an increasing extent, labor unions are now bargaining to obtain
paid sick leave. Although the inclusion of such a provision in a
union agreement usually indicates a new concession, in a few instances
it represents a contractual arrangement for a policy already estab­
lished by the management.2
Paid sick leave is provided in approximately 350 of 5,000 union
agreements examined in the Bureau’s files. About 250 of these 350
agreements contain detailed information; the others merely state that
existing policies shall be continued, or otherwise fail to specify details.
The present report is based on information provided in 50 paid-sickleave plans, covering production workers in manufacturing industries
and over 200 plans covering workers in nonmanufacturing industries.
Only in public utilities, and among radio technicians, and news­
paper office and editorial workers are paid-sick-leave provisions in
agreements the rule rather than the exception. Such leave is fre­
quently provided, however, in agreements covering retail and whole­
sale trade, warehousing, and office and professional, and State,
county, and municipal workers, as well as those employed in the air­
frame and petroleum production and refining industries. Though not
widely prevalent, paid-sick-leave provisions are also found in some
agreements in the apparel, furniture, stone, clay, and glass, nonferrousmetals, machinery, automobile, professional and scientific instru­
ments, laundry and dry-cleaning, trucking, telephone and telegraph,
street and railway industries, as well as in agreements covering build­
ing-service employees.
1 I. e., 46 of 182 agreements (Guild report: Wages and Conditions in American Newspaper Guild Con­
tracts* June 10, 1944).
2 Under the present wage-stabilization policy, all new sick-leave plans must be submitted to the National
W ar Labor Board for approval. The Board, though inclined te approve “ reasonable” sick-leave requests
made jointly b y labor and management, usually denies requests in dispute cases. The Board has also
upon occasion ordered companies to incorporate tbeir voluntary sick-leave policies into the union contracts
despite management's contention that it should not be bound b y current plans “ simply because it has been
reasonably forward in the development of these welfare policies.” (See Tidewater Associated Oil C o.
Case N o. 111-5206-D.)


The plans providing paid sick leave may be divided into three
groups on the basis of the proportion of regular wages provided:
(1) Full pay for a limited period; (2) less than full pay for a limited
period, i. e., a stipulated portion of regular wages (such as 50 or 70
percent) or a stipulated amount (such as $10 a week or $50 a month);
(3) payments to supplement group-insurance or workmen’s compen­
sation benefits, as for example, payment of all or a portion of regular
wages during the waiting period for workmen’s compensation or after
insurance benefits have been exhausted.
The paid-sick-leave plans differ not only in their rates of pay, but
also with respect to qualifying requirements and length of leave
allowances. Some agreements provide uniform arrangements for all
eligible employees, while others offer more generous time and wage
allowances for employees with longer service. The former are re­
ferred to as fixed (or uniform) plans and the latter as graduated (or
sliding-scale) plans. Occasionally work requirements are imposed in
addition to service requirements.
The maximum period for which the payment is mp,de is almost
always stipulated in the agreements. It varies from 3 days per year
for all eligible employees (in fixed plans) to as much as 52 weeks per
year (in graduated plans for employees with long service). Under
some agreements the stipulated periods may be extended through
the cumulation of unused leave, and under others by special permission
of the management during serious illnesses. The provision, in some
agreements, of a waiting period during which payments are not made
serves to restrict compensation to illnesses of longer duration. How­
ever, if the illness extends beyond the waiting period, payments are
usually made retroactive to the beginning of the absence.
In over half of the agreements medical evidence of illness is required,
in the form of a certificate from the employee’s or company’s doctor.
In a small proportion sick-leave pay is specifically denied when the
absence is due to such causes as negligence, misconduct, immorality,
venereal disease, or use of drugs.
Most agreements carefully distinguish between vacation and sickleave allowances by providing safeguards against using sick-leave time
as vacation. For instance, one agreement states: “ In order to avoid
abuses * * * no sick leave will be granted or compensation paid for
any time off immediately prior to or succeeding any vacation period.”
A few agreements, however, allow combination vacation and sick
leaves. Under such arrangements a stipulated period may be used
either as paid sick leave or as a vacation, or employees are permitted
to add their unused sick leave to their allotted vacation period.3
Rate o f Remuneration During Sick Leave

Plans providing full pay.— In over two-thirds of the 50 sick-leave
plans covering production workers in manufacturing industries, full
pay or “ regular wages” during sick leave is either specified or definitely
implied. These include 8 of the 18 plans in the agreements analyzed
in the petroleum-refining industry. The method of calculating “ full
8 These combination vacation-sick leave plans were included in a recent study of paid-vacation provisions
in union agreements and will not be further discussed in this report (see M onthly Labor Review, February
1944, p. 303).

pay” is not always defined in the agreements* although some specify
“ average weekly wage as computed for the 3 months immediately
preceding disability” or “ base rate plus night-shift premium where
Paid sick leave of 5 working days or 1 working week per year after
a year’s service is the most common allowance for employees in manu­
facturing industries other than petroleum refining. However, about
one-third of the fixed plans do not mention service requirements.
This may be interpreted to mean that all regular employees, but not
necessarily probationary and part-time employees, are covered by
paid-sick-leave provisions. Occasionally the stipulated time allow­
ance applies to an individual illness, with no yearly maximum specified.
In a few agreements it is not clear whether the maximum applies to
one illness or to the entire year.
In the petroleum-refining industry, two of the three full-pay fixed
plans allow 2 weeks’ leave after 1 year’s service, while four of the five
full-pay graduated plans allow 1 week’s leave after 1 year’s service
with varying maxima ranging from 2 weeks for 5-year employees to
as high as 13 weeks for 10-year employees.
Plans providing less than full pay.—A large proportion of these
plans in manufacturing industries (other than petroleum refining)
provide 2 weeks’ leave at half pay after a year’s service, with a max­
imum of as high as 52 weeks for 26-year employees in a few graduated
plans. Other arrangements include a flat sum of $50 per month for
nonoccupational injuries, full pay for a stipulated part of the leave
period and half pay for the other part, and a provision that the sickleave payments “ shall be measured by and shall be the same as those
granted to its employees insured thereunder by the company’s group
policy” (i. e., about half pay).
Except for the four agreements limiting l^ ea r employees to a
week’s paid sick leave, practically all agreements with paid-sick-leave
provisions in the petroleum-refining industry offer one of the fol­
lowing arrangements: 2 weeks at full pay; 3 weeks at two-thirds pay;
or 4 weeks at half pay. The total maximum payments are the same,
however, under all three plans.
Plans providing supplemental pay.— Sick-leave payment equal to
the difference between full wages and workmen’s compensation
benefits is provided in one agreement which restricts its payments to
employees who have sustained occupational disease or injury. Five
plans which specifically allow sick-leave pay for nonindustrial disabili­
ties also make separate provision, in the case of compensable injuries,
to supplement workmen’s compensation by the amount required to
bring the total compensation up to the maximum benefits of the
plan. For example, two agreements of a large oil company grant
sick-leave pay equal to the difference between full pay and workmen’s
compensation in cases of occupational injury and, in cases of illness
not connected with the job, the payments are equal to the difference
between full pay and the benefits provided by the Employees Mutual
Benefit Association. Another oil-company agreement, which pays
only two-thirds of the regular wages during excused absences for
nonoccupational illness, provides supplemental payments for time
lost because of occupational injury “ to the extent necessary to bring
such employee’s benefit payments up to but not to exceed his regular
wage.” Another agreement grants full sick leave during the waiting
period imposed by the workmen’s compensation laws, but none later.

Work Requirements and Other Rules

Several agreements analyzed impose other service requirements in
addition to those noted above.. One specifies, for example, that the
employee must have been on the job at least 13 weeks immediately
preceding the absence. Another specifies that he must have worked a
total of 1,752 hours or more during the year; however, for fewer
hours, he receives proportionate benefits in the ratio that his actual
hours worked are of a full year (1,872 hours) of work.
Accumulation of unused sick leave from year to year is permitted
under a few plans but is usually limited to a maximum absence of
about 12 weeks, although in one plan the maximum is 72 weeks. In
one agreement under which leave may not accrue beyond 1 year,
unused leave is paid for in cash at the end of the second year.
A few agreements permit the management to extend the specified
maximum during serious illness. One of these specifically states that
an employee who has exhausted his sick leave may use earned vaca­
tion time as additional sick* leave.
Less than half the manufacturing agreements providing paid sick
leave specify a waiting period during which payments are not made.
The period mentioned is most frequently 3 days, occasionally 1 day
or 1 week, and is generally waived if illness extends beyond that period.


Among salaried employees and some other special groups of workers
in nonmanufacturing industries the granting of pay during sickness
is a common practice and union agreement provisions for these workers
are generally more liberal than those covering production workers in
manufacturing industries. Industries in which paid-sick-leave pro­
visions are fairly prevalent are described below.4
Public utilities.—About three-fourths of the 110 agreements ex­
amined for the electricity, water, and gas industries contain paidsick-leave provisions. Almost all of these provide full pay, and
graduated plans are more usual than fixed plans. Over half of the*
graduated plans provide at least a week's leave after 1 year's service,
the range being from 3 days to 2 weeks; the maximum that may accrue
is 12 weeks after 12 years' service. Well over half of the nongraduated plans provide 10 days or more of leave, with a range of from 5
to 90 days. Several agreements contain different sick-leave provi­
sions for monthly and hourly paid employees, granting more liberal
terms to the former. Accumulation of unused sick leave from year
to year is permitted in about a third of the full-pay fixed plans and in
one graduated plan, with maxima ranging from 30 days to an un­
limited period.
A small proportion of the agreements require a waiting period
ranging from 2 to 7 days. In about half of these agreements the
waiting period may be waived; some of these provide retroactive
payments to the first day of absence, if the illness exceeds the waiting
period by even 1 day, while others waive the waiting period only in
cases of prolonged illness.
Most of the less-than-full-pay plans provide full pay during the
first portion of the absence and half pay for the remainder. The
full-pay periods vary from 1 to 4 weeks for employees with 1 year o f
. 4 In addition are the workers engaged in the produclion and transportation of erudo petroleum who oro
covered b y the petroleum-refining industry agree com is discussed previously.

seniority, and in graduated plans may continue for as long as 13 weeks
for employees with 10 years’ seniority. The half-pay periods which
follow are usually 1 additional week for employees with minimum
service (1 year) and as much as 42 additional weeks for employees
with 15 years’ service. The leave at full pay and half pay combined
totals 2 weeks for 1-year employees, with a maximum of 52 weeks
for 15-year employees.
Under one plan the sick-leave allowance amounts to the difference
between full pay and the benefits received under the company’s
welfare program. Many of the agreements which provide full pay
for absences caused by nonoccupational disabilities specify that pay­
ment in cases of occupational accidents shall amount to the difference
between full sick-leave pay and workmen’s compensation.
Telephone and telegraph industry.—Paid sick-leave provisions are
the rule rather than the exception for plant and traffic department
employees in the major telephone companies under union agreement.
All these plans provide full pay, calculated at either the straight-time
rate or at “ the employees’ basic wage rate plus such differential pay­
ments which the employee receives under his regular assignment.”
The period for which pay is granted is almost always on an illness
rather than an annual basis, and benefits are frequently paid from a
company welfare fund when the sick-leave allowance has been ex­
hausted.5 Although the agreements speak in terms of 7 days’ leave
for all employees with at least 2 years of service, who suffer disabili­
ties of at least 7 days’ duration, payment for the full 7 days is usually
made only to employees with 10 or more years’ service. For em­
ployees with 2 but less than 5 years’ service there is usually a waiting
period of 2 days followed by a maximum of 5 days’ paid leave, and for
employees with 5 but less than 10 years’ service the waiting period
is 1 day with a maximum of 6 days’ paid leave.
The press-telegraph companies have varying sick-leave plans
ranging from 1 week at full pay, per year, to an undefined maximum
“ within reasonable limitations to be determined by the employer.”
Only one of the two major telegraph-company agreements current
in 1944 contained a sick-leave plan. This provided:
The company agrees that sick pay shall commence after the second week of
illness and shall be retroactive to the eighth day of illness. The second week of
illness shall be paid for at the employee’s full regular weekly rate of pay and sick
pay thereafter shall be given at one-half the employee’s regular weekly rate of
pay on the basis of 4 weeks’ sick pay for each year of the employee’s term of
service, with a maximum of 50 weeks.

Office and professional workers.—Almost half of the agreements
covering office and professional workers contain detailed provisions for
full-pay sick leave, while many others specify “ a reasonable amount of
sick leave in line with past practice.” Most of the described plans
provide 2 weeks’ leave per year, regardless of service, which may be
prorated on a monthly basis, and in a number of cases, accumulated to
a maximum of 1 or 2 months. Some agreements provide graduated
plans which grant paid leave ranging from a minimum of 1 week to a
maximum of 4 weeks. In agreements covering railway clerks a pre­
requisite to sick-leave payments is that the work of the absentee must
be carried on at no cost to the carrier.
Retail and wholesale trade.— Sick-leave provisions are also commonly
found in agreements in wholesale and retail trade, and are in effect in*
* An additional allowance in the form of board -and-lod ging stipend for the sick-leave period is frequently
allowed a traveling employee while working away from headquarters.

many other companies although not incorporated in the agreements.
Most of the agreement provisions allow full pay for 1 or 2 weeks of
sickness after 1 year of service. Plans providing for half or threefourths pay offer a greater maximum period of leave, one large depart­
ment store paying “ one-half of salary” for 10 weeks to any employee
who has been employed for over 2 months.
State, county, and municipal workers.—Full-pay sick-leave provisions
are prevalent i$ agreements covering State, county, and municipal
workers. Fixed plans providing 15 days’ leave per year are most
common, with accumulation of unused leave frequently permitted to a
maximum ranging from 28 to 60 days.
Radio technicians.—The agreements covering radio technicians al­
most invariably call for “ at least 2 weeks” of full pay per year for
absence caused by illness; service requirements range from 60 days to
6 months.
Newspaper employees.—All the American Newspaper Guild agree­
ments examined, which cover all types of newspaper employees except
those engaged in the mechanical operations, contain some mention of
paid sick leave. Most of these merely refer to the continuance of past
policy or provide that the amount of sick-leave compensation shall be
determined by the publisher according to circumstances, length of em­
ployment, and dependents. Occasionally the agreement provides that
when there is compensation insurance, the publisher shall pay the
difference between the insurance benefits and the regular salary.
The agreements which mention a definite* sick-leave allowance per
year specify as maximum “ at least 1 week,” “ not more than 4 weeks
unless in the judgment of the publisher the time should be extended,”
or a week for each 6 months of service until the maximum of 30 weeks is
reached after 15 years. One clause states: “ The publisher * * *
shall not be obligated to provide sick leave with full pay to any em­
ployee during any calendar year for more than 2 months, nor half pay
for more than an additional 2 months.”
Truck drivers.—A number of agreements for truck drivers contain
sick-leave clauses providing full pay for 1 week, with no mention of
service prerequisites, and several specify a 3-day maximum for em­
ployees of from 18 to 39 weeks’ service, and a 1-week maximum for
employees of over 40 weeks’ service.
Maritime personnel.—Provisions for sick leave are not included in
agreements for seagoing personnel since these workers are covered by
the Admiralty Law’s doctrine of maintenance, wages, and cure, which
guarantees “ full rehabilitation and cure” for disabilities and sickness
occurring during employment. Union agreements covering employees
on inland waterways sometimes contain provision for paid sick leave,
and occasionally agreements covering both licensed and unlicensed
personnel on river vessels provide some allowance, such as “ 1% days
sick leave with pay for every 30 days worked.” The following standard
clause is included in a small proportion of the agreements of the
Great Lakes shipping companies with the National Marine Engineers
Beneficial Association and with the Masters, Mates and Pilots:
All officers with over 1 year’s service with the company will be allowed 10
days’ sick leave without loss of pay each year. In the event that sick leave is not
taken in any 1 year it will accumulate for a period of 3 years or a total of 30 days.
Those applying for sick leave in accordance with this rule must furnish proof of
sickness from a practicing physician, which if questioned by the management must
be certified by the United States Public Health Service.