How Much Vacation Time Do We Really Need to Provide?

Evan Rodd, PayScale

According to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world where all workers are not guaranteed paid vacation. While some workers enjoy paid time off provided by employers, this is not an option for all, especially those that may have struggled with unemployment or partial employment during the recession. The report notes that the gap between the US and the rest of the world increases when paid holidays are added to the equation. Currently, there are no laws requiring paid holiday leave in the US, while many other countries offer 5 or more days per year. Austria and Portugal top the list, offering employees the most paid holiday leave.

Many European countries offer workers up to a month’s worth of paid vacation every year, in addition to paid holidays. Senior economist and report co-author John Schmitt states that relying on companies to provide paid time off to employees “just hasn’t worked.” Schmitt also notes, “It is striking that six years after we first looked at this topic absolutely nothing has changed. U.S. law and U.S. employer behavior still lags far behind the rest of the rich countries in the world.”

This is not meant to say that Americans don’t enjoy any paid vacation time–Workers in the private sector are provided an average of 16 paid days off per year, but these numbers diminish greatly for lower-wage or part-time workers. According to the report, “1 in 4 Americans has no paid vacation time during the year.”

Many workers find that paid vacation contributes to a healthy work-life balance, and companies of various sizes have begun to offer creative solutions to this dilemma, such as telecommuting, flextime, and other company perks. During a time when a number of organizations are concerned with employee retention, it would seem wise to address the various ways your company offers employees a healthy work-life balance, or what type of vacation perks you are able to provide. Younger generations of workers are growing increasingly displeased with typical 9 to 5 hours, so it may be wise to offer telecommuting opportunities as well.

What do you think? Should all Americans be legally entitled to paid vacation time every year? How does your company handle paid time off for holidays, and vacation? How can HR and management assure a comfortable work-life-balance for employees?

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