25% of US Workers have No Vacation Time?

According to the Center for Economic Policy & Research, the United States of America is the only so-called advanced economy in the world that doesn’t gaurantee employees paid vacation. The report says:

European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year,  with legal requirements of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offers none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer at least six paid holidays per year.

wish you were here vacation equality program - chairs on a beach

In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 percent) and no paid holidays (23 percent). According to government survey data, the average worker in the private sector in the United States receives only about ten days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year: less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world’s rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid vacation days and requires no paid holidays).

At the risk of sounding like a liberal, I am rather taken aback by these figures. But closer reading of the research reveals at least one critical issue that’s not addressed: the percentage of workers who are self-employed or run their own business.

That’s the category I’m in, and I don’t have paid vacations because, well, who would pay me? I run my own publishing business so every day I’m working, I’m earning money, and every day I’m not working, I’m earning royalties and residuals, advertising revenue and other revenues from my various properties, but a day’s pay for no time spent working? Not happening.

CareerBuilder indicates that 6.6% of American jobs are held by those who are self-employed, but I surmise that figure is low, especially when you take into account franchises, two-person businesses and the like. A food truck, for example, might be staffed with three, but there’s precious little surplus to pay someone to have a week off with salary.

vacation equality programVacation Equality Program sponsor Hotels.com clearly has a bias — more vacations = more travel = more booked hotel rooms and trips — but I still am struck by the differences. How do startups work in a country like New Zealand where they’re legally mandated to offer 20 paid vacation days/year? That’s four weeks each year, or 1/12% of your annual pay for zero work.

Now I’m a definite fan of vacations and holidays, don’t get me wrong. Recharging your battery is crucial for mental and physical health. But forcing it? And requiring employers to allocate 10% or more of an employees salary to vacation time when their current budget might not have a single paid day of leave? Not sure I can support that.

What do you think? The Vacation Equality Program makes some pretty compelling points. I just wonder if they’ve dug deep enough into the economics of the situation…

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