Bryce Covert of Think Progress reports that Americans are failing to do something important: Take paid vacations. 15% take none of the time coming to them – 75% take only part of it. That’s a lot of compensation that is going back into the employers’ pockets. Covert adds that 60% of those surveyed say that they often do some work while on vacation. Paid time off is a type of compensation. When we don’t take that time or when we work while on vacation, it’s the same as working for free. Many of my friends and clients have told me that they don’t take time coming to them or work while on vacation because their companies are understaffed. “There is no else to do the work.” What that means is that it pays for companies to stay understaffed, which keeps them from paying for time off. It’s not quite wage theft, but it’s close.
According to the Chicago Tribune, American workers are using only 14 of an average 18 vacation days. Workers in other countries get more time off – and they use it (French workers take 35/37 days, English 25/28). The overall gain to companies through unused vacation time is estimated at $67 billion. That’s productivity!
What’s wrong with Americans? (That’s a loaded questions!) The reasons given in the article include: pressure from the boss, too much work, fear of being laid off, and understaffed companies where the work has to get done. In a time of high unemployment, such fears are reasonable.
But it’s odd that companies making big profits and often paying no taxes will ask employees to give back paid time off, especially after many were asked to take pay cuts in recent years. Maybe it’s not odd. Maybe it makes perfect sense given the way working people are treated today.