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Do U.S. Employees Take Enough Vacation Days?

Do U.S. Employees Take Enough Vacation Days?

In response to my own headline, I know I donít. But I had assumed this was because I work as a freelancer and do not get paid for holidays, vacation or sick days. But it turns out that many of my fellow Americans also do not take many vacation days — nor do they get paid for them.

Some countries require employers to provide paid vacation and holidays, and not just any random number of days but a minimum of days. Austria leads the pack by requiring a whopping 42 days (vacation and holidays combined), while other countries like France, require at least 30 days.

This is according to a May report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “No Vacation-Nation Revisited” looked at labor laws regarding paid vacation and holidays in 21 major economic nations (all members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) including the United States, Australia, Canada, 16 European countries, and New Zealand.

The United States is the only country in the group that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time, and nearly 1 in 4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. So it looks like I am not alone.

Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries, and many also have legal rights to paid holidays over and above paid vacation days. Canada and Japan guarantee at least 10 days of paid vacation per year. Five countries even mandate that employers pay vacationing workers a small premium above their standard pay to help with vacation-related expenses.† And several countries give additional time off for younger and older workers, shift workers, and those doing community service including jury duty.

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,” John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasnít worked.”

Hoping to change this, Florida Congressman Alay Grayson has proposed The Paid Vacation Act (H.R. 2096) that would provide paid vacation time under federal law.

Using Bureau of Labor Statistic reports, Congressman Graysonís office reports that the average American worker now works one month more per year than in 1976, and that absenteeism, lost productivity, †and health issues from job-related stress cost U.S. businesses about $344 billion a year.

Read more: Career, General Health, Health, Healthy Aging, Holidays, Life, , ,

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.

81 comments

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6:15AM PDT on Oct 11, 2013

I hope Congressman Grayson gets The Paid Vacation Act (H.R. 2096) passed. EVERYONE deserves some down time from their job!

11:56AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

In Ireland basic paid holiday leave is ... 8 hours paid leave out of every 100 hours worked ...work 92 hours paid for 100... and that is basic plus there are 9 paid public holidays.

9:02AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

Thank you Judi, for Sharing this!

3:16PM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

We need more.

7:37PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Vacations should be enjoyed.

3:29PM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Yeah right, I haven't taken a vacation in over 10 years! I'm allowed 3 weeks, but since I don't take it I just get the pay for it. If I ask for a day off the boss has a way of making me feel guilty for doing so. So pretty much the only time I do is if I'm sick or have doctors appointments.

12:57AM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

There was a term coined some years ago - work/life balance.... don't hear that term much these days. The idea was, that balance in life is healthy. Time off from work allows people to spend time with family, take care of health, enjoy the fruits of their labour, which in turn helps support their local economy. Work/life balance - a win/win situation for both employee and employer.

2:19PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

It's good to take breaks now and again; hopefully employers will realize the link between productivity and downtime.

8:58AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

I'm in my first week of two weeks vacation. Not even going anywhere, just relaxing and not thinking about work. I usually go for a week here and there, but I was burned out and hating my job, which I don't usually, so 2 weeks should do the trick.

8:25AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

My husband is the hardest working man I know. He works outside for the county forest preserve, in the heat, in the cold, through poison ivy. He sometimes works 6-8 days in a row, from early in the morning to the evening. They do not get over-time at all!! Any extra is put down as flex time....He hardly ever takes a day off as they're short-staffed, and is always willing to do extra and with a good attitude.......and yes he's an American, born and raised. And yes Americans know how to work hard, some people are very myopic, and make cynical nasty genralizations.

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