U.S. News


The Forever Worker: Companies Can't Get Americans To Take Vacations

The average American worker receives 14 paid vacation days a year but only uses 10.
Posted at 8:50 PM, May 23, 2019

Don'tcha love a good vacation? The beach or cabin, a book and a beer. Most importantly, a deep breath. But studies show most Americans don't take all of their vacation time — that is, if they even get paid time off. 

Expedia's "Vacation Deprivation" study found the average American worker receives 14 paid vacation days but only uses 10. That's 653.9 million days left behind every year. Some other key findings: 63% go six months or longer without a vacation. A quarter report checking work email and/or voicemail at least once a day while away. The youngest workers are the least likely to check in, while 31% of over-50s do. Keep in mind, a quarter of America's private-sector workers don't get any paid time off, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. They don't get it because American employers don't have to grant it. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act does not require PTO, and neither does any state.  It's not that way in many foreign countries, where employers are legally required to give workers a break and pay them for it.  Employees in Brazil, for example, are entitled to 30 days of paid leave each year; in the United Kingdom, 28 days. 

Workers in some parts of Europe are essentially forced to take time off in August because their employer closes for the month. There's no sign U.S. companies will be required to follow suit anytime soon — if ever. Some companies that offer paid vacation are experimenting with ways to encourage employees to take it. The reasons: Vacations can make workers more productive and creative and time off also has mental and physical benefits. The companies have tried out unlimited vacation time. A policy of paying employees $1,000 to take vacation time also has been tested. And then there's the mandatory vacation minimum program. 

Kickstarter found that the unlimited plan actually resulted in employees taking less vacation time, and Buffer, a social media sharing platform, found the mandatory approach the most effective, according to a report from Fast Company

And how about this twist: the "workcation," an arrangement that allows an employee to relocate for a while and work a regular schedule remotely.  (They still get PTO, separately.) The benefit of a "workcation"? The employee can visit a new locale without it being counted as vacation. It's an idea that hasn't caught on, but millennials are interested; 39% find "workcation" appealing, more than Gen-X and Boomers. If you do get paid time off, the best plan seems to be use it. Vacations are good for you and good for business.