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Europe ahead of the U.S. with mandatory time-off policies for workers

July 09, 2014 at 12:30 PM

Would Americans vacation more if they knew their jobs would still be there when they returned? Nobody knows for sure but the subject of guaranteed paid time off is an ongoing debate among employers and government officials.

According to a report issued in May of 2013 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the United States is the only developed country that doesn’t mandate employers to guarantee paid time off. Speaking to those stats, Tony Schwartz, appeared on the July 3, 2014 CBS This Morning news and noted the benefits of taking vacation time.

Personnel records show nearly 430 million vacation days go unused in the U.S. every year. Ask an American worker why they don't use their available time off; replies might include “I have too much work to do”, “I’m afraid my job wouldn’t be here when I got back”, or “I have a deadline to meet”. In some cases workers' health is affected, they become burned out or unmotivated and some quit the job altogether.

Although U.S. workers are the second highest producers in the world, the stats show that part of the reason is due to 20% more hours worked than any other country. More hours equal more production, but some professionals think that too much work and not enough play actually equals burn out.

77% of U.S. employers offer paid time off as a company benefit at an average of 21 days of combined holiday and vacation time, much less than the minimum mandate in other countries. The remaining 23% of workers have no paid time off at all.

Conversely, in the European Union, employers are required by law to give a minimum of four weeks paid vacation to all workers. European polices are ahead of the rest of the world and allow the most generous amounts.

Austria leads the number of paid days off with a minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays for a total of 35 days every year. Portugal is tied with Austria, followed by Germany and Spain at 34, France at 31, and Belgium and Italy at 30.

If the survey statistics are correct, it appears that the U.S. has some catching up to do. However, the debate continues and the idea of mandating paid time off in the United States hangs in the air.

Currently there is no active legislation suggesting mandated paid time off; it is up to employers.

Tags: paid time off vacation time time-off policies
Category: Vacation Time

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