A new study confirmed what many people already know, from their own lives. The US has no law requiring paid vacations. According to the authors, “The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.” Most European countries offer 20 days (that’s four weeks) or more, while Canada and Japan require ten days. They also require pay for certain holidays, which the US does not.
In fact, our laws do not require that any employer provide vacation, personal or sick time. Paid vacation has become customary in certain fields, so an employer not offering vacation time with pay may not be able to attract the employees it wants. But if there are too many people wanting jobs, and the jobs are low paying, it’s a different story. In some economic sectors, it is more likely that an employer grants time off grudgingly, and is more likely to terminate an employee for taking a few days off. As the authors note, “In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 percent) and no paid holidays (23 percent).” This lack of vacation time is most acute for part-time workers, employees of small businesses, and low wage workers.
A law introduced into the Maryland legislature this year would have required paid sick leave. It failed, but will be offered again. But the idea of paid vacation, with enforcement mechanisms to make sure that employees can actually take that time, is unlikely to take hold in our country. Imagine the possibilities, though, for families with children, individuals with creative interests, and the rest of us who may just need to recharge.