Don’t we all wish we had more vacation days? At the same time, do we usually try and negotiate for an additional week of vacation in a new employment opportunity?

But before we can say - I want more vacation time; let’s first look at how this country’s corporate culture feels about vacation. Vacation pay is not required by U.S. law. In fact U.S. employers don't have to offer vacation time off even without pay. Vacation pay is strictly voluntary for employers, but many offer it as a benefit to attract and keep employees. This traditional approach to a vacation policy has been working up to now, but does it meet the requirements of the emerging generation or allow us to compete effectively on a global basis? Maybe not, but let’s look at our current US vacation policy and trends.

If employers do offer vacation pay, then employees are entitled to it under the terms and conditions in their related policies. Most employers offer the standard 2 to 3 weeks and sometimes allow employees to purchase and/or accrue based on policy or contract. In some states, they must offer the accrued vacation pay when employment ends. In most cases, U.S. employees reaching 15 or more years of service are awarded time-off allowances that are similar to those mandated by the government in other countries for all employees, regardless of tenure.

Current research shows about 90 percent of U.S. employers offer vacation. Workers received an average of nine days of paid vacation and six paid holidays, a total of 15 days off per year. 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays.

Because offering vacation pay is voluntary for employers, they may impose other conditions and restrictions as well. For example, your employer can likely require you to schedule your vacation in advance or postpone it. Some companies won't allow you to take more than 1 or 2 consecutive weeks of time off - especially if you aren't performing a 'mission-critical' function. Then there is always the feeling of never having time to take vacation.

We all want more vacation, but the surprising statistic is that US workers gave back close to 574 million vacation days in 2006, depriving themselves of much-needed breaks, according to Expedia's annual vacation deprivation survey. On average, Americans leave at least four days unclaimed annually. And the number of vacation days employees are skipping this year is forecasted to increase by one over last year.

The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays, according to a recent Reuters Press Release. As we move towards developing new vacation policies and innovative flexibility to attract talent on a global basis, it will be interesting how the US adopts these additional days off. I would think the first response would be ABSOLUTELY we will use them, but culturally we tell a different story.

Maybe it is a generational condition that is leaving the market with the baby boomers and one that we will no longer see as the next generation of talent enters the workforce? Then again, how many of us leave for the beach without a Blackberry or laptop?

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Comment by Rob Clarke on July 3, 2008 at 1:11pm
Interesting points Luigi, I always think it is funny when physicians ask about vacation time about prospective opportunities- most positions are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-8 weeks, however physicians very rarely take more than 2 weeks anyway, I guess there is security in knowing it is there, but I know most feel guilty about stepping away as it increases the burden on peers or administration to find a replacement while away. Some run their own business so that, like many sales positions, means lost revenue. On a personal note- I know I need one!


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