America Has the Worst Vacation Policies Of Any Developed Country

March 18th 2015

A hiring manager friend once said he'd never consider an applicant who asked about vacation policies during the interview process. Inquiring about time off, right away, he said, means the person isn't fully committed.

Given the United States' unaccommodating approach to vacation, these perspectives are probably common. Here's an ATTN: video that explains more:

A recent infographic on Dadaviz illustrates that the United States is the sole developed country that doesn't require employers to provide vacation days to workers:

Paid vacation in countries

France, known for a culture that embraces pleasure, requires employers provide at least 25 paid vacation days each year. Even industrious China, which reportedly has 600,000 people die each year from work-related issues, guarantees a week of vacation annually.

And it's not just vacation time, maternity leave, or sick days that the U.S. won't guarantee. A 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that America was the only rich country that didn't force employers to provide paid holidays. John Schmitt, a senior economist who co-authored the report, said in a statement that it's not enough to assume companies will be fair, "Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn't worked."  

So which workplaces do provide paid vacation?

Luckily, most bosses don't expect their employees to be complete workaholics. CEPR also found that 91 percent of full-time workers received paid vacation, but only 35 percent of part-time workers reported the same benefit. Less than half of low-wage earners are granted paid vacation, a stark contrast to the 90 percent of high earners enjoying paid time off.  

But do Americans actually utilize paid vacation time?

In 2014, careers site Glassdoor surveyed more than 2,000 workers and found that only 51 percent of them used their paid time off, and of the people who took vacation, 61 percent reported working off the clock. Employees cited fears of falling behind as a major reason for working on vacation. Seventeen percent blamed anxieties about termination and not meeting goals. 

Can't vacations be a good thing?

As a wise former boss once told me, "people are expensive," and when employed people get vacation time, the company pays for it. But the cost of allowing the overworked to unplug could ultimately lead to happier, more productive employees.

"Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out," Dr. Francine Lederer, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist, told ABC News. 

One could argue that vacation makes it difficult to return to reality afterward, but a 2011 survey conducted by Expedia found 45 percent of vacationers "come back to work feeling rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected to their personal life."

Bosses have loads to worry about besides vacation policies, but disengaged workers can end up costing companies billions of dollars each year, and it's easy to become disengaged when compensated downtime is viewed as an unattainable luxury. If you're going to spend money regardless, why not use it to make your employees happier and more useful? 

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