It's been months since Sharon Crampton and Carol Herring-Reid showed up for work at their Xerox Corp. offices, but neither woman is playing hooky.

They are among eight Xerox employees nationwide selected this year for Social Leave, a 19-year-old program that guarantees job security and pays full salaries and benefits for as long as a year while they work for nonprofit organizations.

Crampton, 45, a manager at Xerox's Tysons Corner office, is working with the Office on Women in Alexandria, piloting a program for teenage girls. Herring-Reid, 40, an administrative assistant based in the District, reports each morning to the Council on Literacy in Prince George's County, where she is revamping the office and its resource programs.

"It's just part of the basic philosophy of putting something back into the communities that we work in," said Robert Gudger, vice president of the Xerox Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company.

The program is unusual in that it releases employees for extended periods of time and guarantees their jobs upon their return. Of 900 major U.S. companies offering volunteer opportunities, according to a 1989 survey by a national volunteer group, only International Business Machines Corp. and Wells-Fargo Bank have programs similar to Xerox's.

"Releasing an employee for that amount of time is a substantial gift," said Sandra Gray, vice president of Independent Sector, a national coalition of more than 700 corporations that promotes volunteerism. "They're visibly showing their commitment to enhancing and strengthening a community."

Other firms offer executive lending or mentor programs for their employees, but the difference is that they allow employees to work only part time, and on projects that the nonprofit organizations initiate. Xerox's program requires employees to design their own volunteer projects.

Citing a decline in employee loyalty and continued growth of the work force, psychologist Douglas LaBier said Xerox Social Leave may become a blueprint for other corporate programs as office-sponsored volunteerism flourishes in the 1990s.

"It provides a way that people can experience a set of values that are not associated with career: generosity, caring, giving," he said. "It's not just another yuppie acquisition. It's more of a heartfelt need ... a rethinking of the question, 'What is a successful person?' "

The Xerox Foundation allots $300,000 annually to take over payment of the salaries of people on Social Leave as well, freeing each recipient's office to hire replacements, Gudger said. About 80 percent of leave-takers return to their original job, and the rest are guaranteed positions of at least equal status.

Crampton and Herring-Reid are staying in close touch with their offices during their leaves, helping their replacements and staying abreast of what's happening there.

They joined other Social Leave-takers for a three-day orientation at Xerox headquarters in Stamford, Conn., last fall, discussing the program with past participants to prepare for the transition from corporate to volunteer life.

"There's a whole host of things that we have to think about so the person will go out and be a good representative," Gudger said.

Crampton, who worked in community programs full time in the 1970s, is using her leave to implement "Project Step Out," which she designed for 23 girls from Hammond Junior High School in Alexandria.

Participants in Project Step Out, many of whom are from single-parent families receiving some form of government assistance, in April began attending weekly after-school sessions on topics from career choices to sexuality. This summer, Crampton will match each girl with an adult volunteer who is to act as a mentor and adviser.

She has recruited health practitioners, education specialists and other professionals in Alexandria to conduct the weekly sessions and will spend much of the summer raising money to continue the program next fall with more Hammond students and girls from nearby George Washington Junior High School.

In Hyattsville, Herring-Reid is drawing on 10 years of experience as a Xerox administrative assistant to overhaul the Prince George's County Council on Literacy.

She is compiling a resource book for council staffers, recruiting tutors and standardizing the information-booth materials the council uses at job and educational fairs.

"If the parents can't read with the child, then there's an {educational} breakdown," she said. "Just take five or 15 minutes -- don't do the dishes one night. Sit down with your child, and if {he or she is} having problems, find out what's wrong."

Herring-Reid described Social Leave as the epitome of employee-management relations. "You can go out into your community and actually select something that you want to do, and your company is supporting you," she said.

Experts said Xerox's return on its investment in the program is a sense of camaraderie in the workplace and a reputation for community activism.

"It makes it possible for employees to identify more strongly as a company and feel good about {Xerox}," said Myra Alpershon, project director for corporate social responsibility at the Council on Economic Priorities in New York. "Getting their company's support is a very crucial thing in enabling them to try this experience."