Vacation Time: How America Stacks Up vs. The Rest of the World


America is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to developed countries and their allocation of vacation time. It seems like paid time off is simply not a primary concern in America. This is, of course, considering that nothing has been done about the problem of vacation time in years.

Mandatory PTO

In most developed countries, it is mandatory for companies to give out paid vacations to their employees. Apart from the few weeks’ mandatory vacations, employees are also entitled to be paid on holidays and during sick leaves. This system, as one might expect, has had positive results in many countries. After all, it’s common knowledge that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Happy Employees Around the World

In France, for instance, workers get a minimum of 5 weeks off. Plus, they also have at least nine paid public holidays in a year. In Australia, folks get at least four weeks of paid leave and ten days of paid public holidays. Incentives like these are a fantastic way to keep employees happy, in turn yielding more productivity for employers. Both countries are developed, and this system has been proven to work excellently for them.

Not Mandated in America

While some companies in the U.S. do give employees paid vacation time, it is relatively rare. Since it’s not mandatory by law, often employers opt not to offer paid time off. Therefore, many people believe America is behind the times when it comes to giving vacation time to employees. Since it’s been proven that giving employees paid time off typically improves performance, it’s curious why more companies don’t.

If you’re an employee in America, the only long vacation you might even get is the around the winter holidays. And that still very much depends on your like of work.

FLSA Requirements

According to the Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act “does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave or holidays (Federal or otherwise). These benefits are matters of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).”

It seems that in America, the principle is that to live, you also have to work. As simplified as that may sound, to live, one also needs to take of onesself both physically and mentally.

State Labor Laws

The U.S. differs from many countries in that it does not have any federal mandates requiring paid time off. However, some states have or have at least proposed laws that require employers to grant workers paid vacation time. Labor laws vary quite a bit from state to state. As such, employers need to have explicit, written policies regarding paid vacation time.

Holidays and Vacations

It is worth noting that not all countries that require paid vacation time pay for holidays that fall on weekends. Some pay just half of the employee’s salary during this vacation period. It all depends greatly on the company and what the local laws require. Still, the fact that they have laws that mandating vacations is a pretty big deal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if America could follow suit and make paid vacation time a requirement? Perhaps we’d all be much more productive if we had more paid time off.