Did You Know You Have No Legal Rights To Your Vacation?


It’s almost time for summer vacations, but did you know there is no U.S. law that requires your boss to give you a single paid day of vacation time? Ever. Many companies do, probably due to competitive pressures, but twenty-five percent of private sector employees get no paid vacation time or holidays. You are less likely to get paid time off if you are a part-timer, a low wager earner, or work for a small company (under 100 employees).

It is astonishing that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation or holidays. In the EU countries, workers are entitled to at least four weeks’ annual leave each year, with additional time for national holidays. In France and Finland, thirty days is the minimum standard. Other counties including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan also provide guaranteed paid leave for their workers.

According to a recent study entitled “No-Vacation Nation” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, Americans get an average of 15 total paid days off per year, comprised of nine vacation days and six holidays. This falls well below the required standard in the nineteen other countries studied.

Other studies have shown that even with these comparatively paltry leave policies, many Americans do not take all of their allowed vacation time. When paid days off are the perk rather than the rule, why don’t more people take full advantage of their benefits?

From the Center for Economic and Policy Research (PDF document)

This entry was posted in Holidays, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Did You Know You Have No Legal Rights To Your Vacation?

  1. Joseph Mark Jarvis says:

    I completely disagree.

    Why should the government be involved in a voluntary contract between a competent adult and an employer? If one wants vacation, one should work for an employer who offers it.

    As you note, if employers must bear the cost of vacations to retain the employees they needs, then a majority of the market will (and currently does!) offer vacations.

    Moreover, I think America’s divergence from Europe on this issue is nothing to be ashamed of. While the appropriate balance between individual liberties and equal opportunity are a spectrum, I’m reassured that the personal liberties central to the United States’ creation are still alive today.

  2. Amy F. says:

    While I too feel that people should take responsibility for themselves in general, getting ample vacation time just isn’t as simple as choosing to work for an employer that offers the kind of vacation most people want. It’s not easy to find good vacation benefits, and many people do not have the luxury of holding out for the job with the best benefits–they have to take what they can get. Good luck starting off at a new company and getting four weeks off, whether they’re paid or unpaid!

    Also, as Valerie noted, many people do not even take the small number of vacation days they are allotted, often because their jobs are so demanding that they can’t actually take time off. With so many workaholics in this country, many of them the ones running companies and making decisions about our vacation days, government mandated vacation would not be such a bad idea for those of us who think that a break from work is essential.

  3. MJT says:

    Bob Herbert from the NY Times wrote an interesting op-ed about this recently (only subscribers can access):

  4. MikeVx says:

    Due to some prior experience in life, when my employer lifted the cap for accrued vacation, I let more accumulate. In the event of unemployment, I can claim my vacation time (paid at the last rate that applied) and use it as a form of employment-emergency fund. At the moment, I have a month in reserve.

    Not the usual way to have an emergency fund, but it has worked before.

  5. Joseph Mark Jarvis says:

    Re: Bob Herbert’s New York Times op-ed supporting government mandating most businesses offer seven paid sick days per year…

    For many of these employees, sick leave equates to unpaid leave. Why is it not an individual’s responsibility to save for the rainy days in their life?

    I do have sympathy for those struggling in lower-wage jobs to better their financial situation. I give to private charities for this reason.

    As a DC-based employee of the federal government, let me be the first to say that government mandates in the name of equal opportunity, while potentially effective at reaching the desired ends, involve messy means that create complex layers of restrictions on individual liberties (anyone filed their own taxes lately?).

  6. Pingback: Anonymous

  7. jos says:

    well its good to know im not the only one who doesnt get paid time off… i work 6 days a week and dont get 1 damn paid day off and im the only one in my office that doesnt but thats another story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *