US Paid Time Off Policies Are Absolutely Miserable

I’ll do my best to not make this a full-on rant. But, I’m sure I’m not alone in being frustrated by paid time off policies in the US.

I work for a small business and my boss is probably more obsessed with travel than I am. So, I’m fortunate that my coworkers and I get 6 weeks of paid time off. The only rule we have is we can’t be gone during our busy season (which is a 4-5 month window each year).

As great as my work schedule is, I can never take full advantage of it because my wife works in the corporate world with a miserable leave policy. This year, all of her vacation time was accounted for by mid-January. In 2014 and 2015, we didn’t even make it into the calendar year before she was out of leave. And that’s after ‘buying’ an extra week off.

I appreciate that miles and points help us travel a lot more than most people. But, I’m green with envy when I hear about a cheap/mistake fare and know we can’t jump on it. And there have been plenty of times where a rare award pops up. But, we can’t take advantage of it because she doesn’t have any vacation days left.

I know some of you will say, “just go on your own.” And I do travel on my own. But, I try to reasonable about it because my wife is left with twice as much work taking care of our girls when I’m gone.

The worst part about the system in the US is how many jobs link vacation time and longevity. While I’m sure the intention is to reward longtime employees, it also serves as a frustrating set of golden handcuffs.

For example, my wife is currently interviewing for a job and it would be a great new opportunity for her. The only downside is she’d lose at least 10 vacation days per year because she’d be starting from scratch with a new company that also ties vacation time to longevity. She turned down a great job offer last year for exactly this reason.

We’ve tried negotiating more leave (even if it means less salary). But, most of the big companies she’s been through this with have zero flexibility. The policy applies to tens of thousands of employees and for some reason they aren’t big on making exceptions for people with travel-obsessed spouses.

It sort of amazes me that these policies persist because I’m sure it’s a barrier recruiters face when bringing new talent to a company.

Have you all been in a similar situation where paid time off was a deal breaker for changing jobs? And for those of you not in the US, what do you think about our miserable vacation policies?

Comments

  1. BTW, I recognize this post doesn’t address the many workers who don’t get any paid time off in the US. Compared to that, I understand my gripe is relatively trivial.

  2. My employer gives me six weeks, and those six weeks are the thing keeps me from bothering to talk to recruiters. Once you dive in to travel hacking, money becomes so much less important than PTO that I would never consider taking a job that gives me less. You could offer to double my salary, but if it means less PTO, you can keep it. I’d even take a cut to get eight or ten weeks!

  3. Ditto here! I just left a job that had 3 weeks of PTO (and would guilt you for taking them) for one with up to 6 weeks of PTO per year (thanks to being able to bank overtime in a salary position!). When the new offer came up, my prior company simply wouldn’t budge on the PTO issue and ended up losing a rather critical, experienced worker. Their loss!

  4. Being from the UK and living in the US I have worked in both sides.

    Yes I agree that the US has some of the worst time off policies in the WORLD, just google the worldwide mandatory standards and the US is the only one with 0.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_by_country

    But….That being said…..Living in the US sign up bonuses are 5 times compared to europe and I think its because it’s harder for Americans to travel, so for the points game the US is better.

    Yes time off is more in Europe, but if you are a company owner it means you need to employee more people as they are legally required the days off per year, so technically you could say, yes people do work harder in the US, but if you wanna make a lot of money, the US is the place to be.

    I’m just rambling, and I do agree the US has terrible time off, but I don’t think that’s every going to change.

  5. Jim — Lucky still writes an overwhelming majority of the posts. Shut up.

    As to the topic at hand, I’m lucky to be a teacher. I work really hard 10 months of the year, but do get two off in summer.

  6. I believe things have improved in this respect, at least for some people. You mentioned six weeks of paid time off for yourself. Also, based on your photo you seem to be pretty young.

    17 years ago, when I started to work in this country, all jobs I found were offering 2 weeks and 3 weeks was considered really good! Later in my career, my large employer decided to give 4.5 weeks to all new hires (!). I’ve heard from friends who work for other companies that they were also able to get about 4 weeks per year. This is a small sample but I like to see the full half of the glass.

  7. Given the nature of the economy over the last 7 years or so, the fact you both still have jobs is a big plus.

    Our friends in Sweden get 6 weeks (paid), per year. That’s the way it is there. Doesn’t matter who you work for, what you do, or how long you’ve been there. Some companies give their people even more. But with that comes HIGH taxes on income(close to 60%) and things like gas. As well as a VAT of 25% on just about everything you buy!

    So it’s either you have plenty of $$ to travel, but no time off. Or, very little $$, and plenty of time off!

  8. Agreed 100% that the policies are often unnecessarily restrictive. We have a similar issue in that my husband gets a ton of hours on paper (many years of tenure at an old company), but in practice can’t actually use any of that vacation time. He is able to work remotely on occasion, so we plan trips around internet access, but that’s hardly the same, and 70% of his PTO is wasted each year.

  9. Try being a business owner… not only would you risk everything to start the business but you’d get ZERO paid days off.

  10. False dichotomy. Most people in the U.S. already pay 50-60% in taxes after you figure in federal income, state income, local income (if applicable), real property, personal property, sales taxes, payroll taxes, etc.

    The difference is attitude. In the U.S., if you forfeit unused vacation time at the end of the year, you’re a hard worker. Anywhere else, you’re an idiot.

  11. I work for a huge automotive company, and the max vacation time you can get is 3 weeks (15 days) per year. You don’t even get the 3 weeks until you’ve been with the company a full 7 years. It’s crazy to think that there will never be any more days. You’re absolutely right about being limited, as far as taking advantage of cheap flights or good award availability. I feel like I’m forced to connect my vacation days with weekends to maximize days off, but it’s much more costly to depart and return on weekends. First world problems, I suppose, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

  12. I have the same issue! My job is a PTO dream with 5 weeks and additional can be earned. I took a pay cut but it was definitely worth it! My wife has the usual USA plan which is try not to take too much or look bad so vacations are more difficult. Solution is that I fly coach a week earlier and later and stay at lower-end hotels (usually traveling to areas she’s not interested in) while she flies business and we stay at Park Hyatts when she’s here. Not ideal but at least finding flight availability is much easier when looking for one person.

  13. Great post, Mike. One additional aspect of paid time off is that many companies don’t allow it to carry over from year to year (mine is one example, though my wife’s employer does allow her to carry vacation and sick time from one year to the next). I would much rather save a day or two each year so that I could take a blowout six-week trip every 5 years or so. The “use it or lose it” policies are an additional handcuff.

    To me, this is where a boss can really stand out. The senior VP of my department regularly gives us “free days” right after our busiest times of the year. She knows that her hands are mostly tied from a compensation standpoint but recognizes the work that we do and rewards us accordingly. That little “bonus” goes a long way towards loyalty and has led me to stick with my current company despite the fact that I have already reached the corporate max of paid time off.

    Note that the flipside to this argument is that more flexible vacation policies don’t necessarily lead to more actual time off. Studies have shown that employees at companies with unlimited vacation actually take LESS time off. Of course, us travel enthusiasts would likely utilize these policies to the fullest, but it’s still an interesting counter-argument.

  14. I worked for a fortune 10 company for 11 years, they figured out that giving more time off really didn’t cost the company anything because most people could never afford (workload wise) to be away from their jobs for the 5-6 weeks of leave that we were given. After I had worked for the company for 5 years I had 26 days of paid leave, 11 holidays, and 20 sick days per year.

    I never got the chance to take anywhere near all of the leave due to the fact that I had too much work to do. Even when I was on leave, I was usually responding to email and queries every day.

  15. You get six week off and you want us to feel sorry for you. Just because you can’t get things to jive wither wife schedule. What a cry baby.

  16. Totally agree. My boss is awesome about letting me take 2 weeks at a time, but my current company offers 15 PTO days + 3 floating holidays.

    So, this year, my 1 week trip to Brazil in February + my 2 week trip to SE Asia in May = almost all of my vacation used up with half of the year left.

    I’d love to join an unlimited PTO company, but I’ve read arguments against that, too: http://www.inc.com/gene-marks/why-unlimited-paid-time-off-is-bad-for-your-employees.html

  17. Pointster –

    I would love to see your math on that…. But of course that math doesn’t exist. I make mid $200k own a half million dollar house, and my effective tax rate, all in, including property and VAT and payroll taxes, is about 29%. Facts are useless when they’re not true.

  18. For the US companies offering four, five, or six weeks off, does that include sick days? I worked for a company which went from having three buckets of time off: vacation, personal days, sick days, to just one bucket for all time off. This was great, since I was rarely sick. By he time I left (was laid off), I had six weeks per year. Even better, I always has managers who never kept track. And, as a I us, most of the six weeks was paid out to me at the end, since it was never accounted for in the system.

  19. To say that Mike’s post isn’t relevant is crazy. Having millions of points and miles without the flexibility to use them is a very real issue.

    That said, you can enjoy much more PTO in Europe, but you will then need to also deal with 70% marginal tax rates, 20% unemployment, and a complete lack of infrastructure to build your own business if you ever want to be an entrepreneur. You can also compare to many Asian and Middle Eastern countries where the mere concept of PTO is foreign…

  20. Yep! I’m fortunate enough to have been with my company for 11 years, so I get 4 weeks paid vacation and 2 weeks of paid personal time, thus 6 weeks a year – and we’re off the week of Christmas but it counts towards our 12 paid vacation days. Like today, President’s Day, I’m working while my husband has it off.

    I’ve been very lucky in the vacation department because the company I previously worked for gave us 3 weeks of vacation after 3 calendar years, so when I joined the company late 2004, I qualified for 3 weeks within a year and a half. And when my company was acquired, I was already at the company for 5 years, which meant I got to keep my 3 weeks since the company that acquire us gives 3 weeks after 5th calendar year. When I hit 10 calendar years combined with previous and acquired company, I now have 4 weeks.

    I do want to leave this company in the next couple of years but I’m only willing to give up one weeks of vacation – so, 3 weeks or I just won’t accept the offer.

  21. You’re not alone. I’m a doctor with AA and Delta Platinum, but I only get 18 trip days a year. 18. A year.

  22. I am not sure I would characterize the US’s PTO policies as “absolutely miserable.”

    Also, if you have all this extra time and want to travel, why not take the kids and give your wife a bit of a break at home? I am assuming the kids can travel when your wife has to work, as you make it seem that if your wife had time off, the family could travel more.

  23. Wait until your daughters are in grade school and you have to plan your vacation time around the school calendar in addition to your wife’s constraints. Makes the miles/points game a little more difficult because you are competing for award space during peak travel periods. If it is possible, I would recommend that your wife seeks out a lucrative part time (i.e. nursing) or freelance gig where she can get large portions (of usually unpaid) time off. Or find a job that allows her to work remotely most of the time, i.e. consulting. It’s easier said than done, but it does wonders for vacation planning and being able to jump on deals when they happen.

  24. @Andrew – Trips with just the kids are definitely part of my plan in the future. Just waiting for them to a be a bit older. I’m sure there are parents that manage travel by themselves with young kids. For us, it’s still a two-person job to take them on the road.

  25. Your frustration is that you have more vacation time than your wife. You mention not traveling much alone because that puts double work on your wife to take care of your girls while you are gone. Ever consider traveling with your girls when your wife can’t go? Use the full time difference between your 6 weeks and her 2-3 weeks to travel, or even just spend time, with your kids.

  26. And I’m lucky to be in California, where it’s the law for our vacation to be carried over if I used up to 2.5 times the amount – plus the company has to pay out for unused vacation (not PTO though) if separated from the company.

  27. @Brian – I was just going to mention that no one has said that PTO = ALL time off, including sick days.

    Recently I was laid off from a job that I had worked up to the max PTO, 20 days. I’m down to 18 now but am still lucky, the typical Tech company (small, startups) usually offer 10 days total with little longevity increases. Working in such restrictive environments I’ve been fortunate to manage others and to give them flexibility. My teams usually are on call and I’m happy to surprise employees with a go home early today or take 2 additional days off sometime this quarter. It’s no guarantee for time off but it’s better than nothing.

  28. @Aaron. No, you do not. A number of companies in SV are moving towards an unlimited PTO policy, and employees on the whole are not happy about it.

  29. I started my new job this year & PTO was the only thing I negotiated. Fortunately for me, they were open to the idea of giving me 10 years of credit on their seniority system as I’ve been in the working world for over a dozen years post college. My wife & I are fortunate enough to be taking a 2 week vacation to Asia for the 1st time starting Wed. We both feel a lot of loyalty towards our employers due to their time off policys.

  30. Speaking of kids, we have a toddler and before her my husband and I would travel at the drop of a hat. Our kid is too young for an international flight – a 5 hour flight isn’t fun with a 3 year old, so we’re not going to bother with 11 hours to Europe just yet.

    We both love to travel, so these past couple of years we’ve taken trips as a family to Hawaii (the kid has already been 3 times), Montreal, off to Costa Rica in July. For mommy and daddy getaway, we’ve gone to th Bahamas and Punta Mita, then for the trips to Europe, we visit separately – last year he went to Ireland which I have no interest in visiting really, so he went with a friend. Last year, I went to London and Paris with my mom, and I’m off to Paris with my best friend in April for a week.

    You have to do with what works for you – my husband and I don’t have any hang ups that we have to travel together. It’s a time out for each of us which is needed.

  31. Sure, it sucks. Start your own business if you don’t like it. Or get a better education and job. PTO costs $ somewhere. Make your own decision. Or emigrate if you want. Or vote for Stalin, I mean Bernie Sanders. Good luck with that. Ask Pol Pot’s or any other socialist’s populace what they think about socialism…. Or any entrepreneur brought up from Soviet era country. Then you might be thankful for your ribeye steaks in your local market and your warm home. Quit whining, and make your own life better. Poor you.

  32. My wife and I have never had issues negotiating PTO when accepting job offers (and at large companies, at that). It’s simply another form of compensation, and just like you negotiate a salary, it’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate time off, and I think many employers understand that. Also, if you really want me as an employee, if I’m at a job where I get 25 PTO days a year and you’re only offering 10 or 15 out of the gate, you have to know that I’m not going to accept that, and will be willing to negotiate as a result.

  33. I was totally shocked when I first heard (a few years ago) about how atrocious the leave policies are in the US. In the UK we get 5-6 weeks per year (dependent on seniority) plus bank holidays. However if you want to be really jealous, look at Australia! They have ‘long service leave’ where in some places after working for 10 years for the same organisation you can get six months off on full pay, or a year on half pay!!

  34. I’m not complaining. I get 3 weeks’ vacation, 2 personal days, and 5 days sick leave, in addition to getting all the Federal holidays off (In another 3 years, I will be eligible for an additional week of vacation time). If I have to work on a weekend or holiday, I get a “comp” day (even if I only work an hour), so I end up with more “comp” time than vacation time when all is said and done. I didn’t end up using all my vacation time last year, so I was able to “roll over” six days.

    Yes, I got more time off when I lived in Australia (where I grew up), but I’m earning twice what I was earning in Australia, and am much better off financially. So, no complaints.

  35. I’m a dual citizen so I consider myself quite lucky. In my job (outside the US) I get 7 weeks PTO plus another 2 weeks personal leave each year, with any leftovers rolling over from year to year. I also get to take advantage of the US signup bonuses because I have a US address and social security number.

    I work 7 hours a day and make six figures (albeit barely). There’s no way I’d ever get something like this if I moved back. Moving overseas was perhaps the best decision I ever made.

  36. Vacation time was a big reason for becoming self employed. The downside is anytime I am not working I am not getting paid. But, if I want to leave for 2, 3 weeks or a month I can, which we do often. My husband is about to start looking for a new job after 12 years as a stay at home dad with our two kids. My fear now is the same as yours. We have seriously discussed only considering a job that will work with our current lifestyle.

  37. I am so grateful to also have 6 weeks vaca + holidays. I dont know if my boss reads this blog, but if he does, THANK YOU! it is probably the number one thing that retains my very long employment.

  38. Slavery made America great. After the emancipation we needed the wage slaves to stay great. So here is to all you dumb workers that keep voting for the scoundrels in Congress. Now get back to work.

  39. Wait a second, your wife would lose 10 days due to longevity issues for switching employers, which presumably leave her with 5-10 days of vacation in a new job.

    So you want us to feel sorry for you that your wife gets 4 weeks of vacation at least right now? Yeah pretty dismal……

  40. Why would a new employee think that they deserve a certain amount of PTO? It should be based on seniority. If you or your wife don’t like your respective PTO policies then you should search for jobs that provide for more, which generally means less pay. Or, you could always move to France, just saying …

  41. Yes, it does suck. But, there is more to this story.

    If you own the business, and an employee does not come to work, you have to hire someone to fill that position, and pay them. Where does that money come from? How does that work for the business owner?

    I do think more businesses should give people an opportunity to take some additional time off, without pay. Sadly, that flexibility often does not exist, even for some hourly folks.

  42. “This year, all of her vacation time was accounted for by mid-January. In 2014 and 2015, we didn’t even make it into the calendar year before she was out of leave. And that’s after ‘buying’ an extra week off.”

    Are you saying she borrowed her current year vacation time in a prior year, and that’s why she had none left?

  43. @Andrea – the math is slightly more complicated because the new company has “forced vacation” days. Essentially they make you use your leave to cover holidays, etc. Those holidays (i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas) don’t currently count against my wife’s PTO. I’m not looking for everyone to feel sorry for our situation. We understand we are fortunate to travel more than most people. But, there is certainly some frustration that comes from having the means to travel but limited opportunity.

  44. As an HR professional, one can negotiate vacation if companies are open to the concept. My previous employer, allowed for negotiation. However, my current employer does not and its a hard and fast rule – no negotiation. But with the PTO time also at 2 weeks, it’s not that bad as combined vacation days and PTO is 4 weeks off the bat.

  45. Just vote for Bernie Sanders and he will give you mine months vacation and have the top 3% pay for your vacations.

    Or you could stop whining and work with what you have been provided by your company.

  46. @mangoceviche – no, she can’t borrow against the future and none of her leave carries over. What I mean is that we plan in advance. So, the trips on the books for each of these years accounted for all of her leave before the year even started. ‘Buying’ a week is taking a week of unpaid leave, which we happily do but won’t be an opportunity at the new job if she ends up there.

  47. If she wants more time off then take it without pay. Most companies have that option. If you can’t afford to do that then you can’t afford to go on vacation.
    Our company tried to offer more vacation to new hires as an incentive to stay but found that that really didn’t work

  48. @ Gary — you are the type of greedy jerk behind this problem. OMG, you actually have to pay people to work? What are your employees, your slaves?

  49. @Mike (the pseudonymous commenter, not the author) and @me – that’s a loser attitude. When you get jealous of what someone else has, you should work harder to improve yourself and your own lot, not try to drag them down. If someone else has the stones to fight for more vacation time, it takes a special kind of coward to tell them that they should stick their head back in the sand while they spend 51 weeks a year marching towards an early grave.

    “Get back to work, peasant,” is the cry of a self-hating peasant, not a winner.

  50. Mike, kudos to you for posting something that generates this much comments.

    From my personal standpoint, I don’t know if I characterize US PTO as miserable. I think it’s just right. Most companies usually provide 10 business days, in addition to the usual US holidays. Plus Christmas is usually a full week holiday, unless you’re on a manufacturing environment.Even if you, most companies that I interact with still provide ‘floating’ holidays to make up for those days on Christmas week. I also learnt that some of my supplier partners start having no set-days PTO policy, aka if you need time off, take them.

    I started with 10 days PTO, 10 personal business allowance days (PBA), and 3 float holidays. Sick days are separate. By year 5, I ended up with 20 PTO, 10 PBA and the whole week during Christmas since I moved to corporate function. I moved to a different employer in 2014, and I started out almost the same way, 10 days PTO, 10 PBA, no float, but holidays can carry over. These are many, especially if you’re being strategic with them, pairing the travel with an established holidays (think Memorial day and Labor day).

    I’ve seen the other side of the coin too, where I have staff based in EU and they have 62 vacation days. Sounds good, on paper, but in practice, it’s challenging figuring out how to take that many days.

    Anyway, if you’re really interested having tht many vacation days, or work for firms that have no set-days, then move or start finding ways to join them. Or join Intel, I think they still have their 10 week sabbatical with 7 year tenure.

  51. We are very, very, very lucky. My husband is a teacher so he gets 2 months off in the summer, along with spring break, thanksgiving break and Christmas break. I work freelance and can take time off whenever I want. I typically take the entire summer off and another few weeks here and there. And I try to only work 1-2 days a week.

    I know our situation is rare and many people have to/want to work corporate jobs but as long as we live below our means, we’ll never have to work as much as some people.

  52. Pointer, amen…to both of your comments.

    It’s taken many years but people in the USA are finally waking up to the fallacy of if you just work hard enough and keep your mouth shut you’ll do better than the previous generation. Many more people are now waking up to this scam.

    In the words of the great George Carlin, “it’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

  53. I believe in getting paid to work, not to take time off. Never had a day of paid vacation in my life, and never expect one…

  54. Mike,

    I am lucky to have 30 days annual leave per year but my family logistics are a bit like yours. So, my 2 daughters take turns with one-on-one trips with me somewhere overseas (we’re American). It is wonderful to connect with each one this way and my wife is very supportive so long as I use points and miles so it is affordable. So far they’ve each had 3 trips–Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, & Patagonia. All south of here on purpose so no jet lag when dealing with a little kid all alone.

  55. ROLO: re: working is a scam.
    So, what are you suggesting folks do instead.

    SHANE : re: Never got one day of paid vacation.
    Guessing you are hourly or have always worked for yourself. No corporate jobs with paid vacation, holidays, etc?

  56. Wow, PTO has always been a very key factor in my compensation package. I remember a job I had in grad school where I got a single week of leave, and it frustrated me so incredibly much, that I vowed never again. Luckily I have that luxury, at least at the moment, am in a very good position, and consider myself blessed. But it is still very mind boggling that companies are so backward thinking.

    I’d love to say that when the economy gets better, hopefully folks that value their vacation time will have the opportunity to find companies that share their values, thus making backwards thinking companies re-think their policies. Of course, I won’t be holding my breath.

  57. @ Mike

    “Trips with just the kids are definitely part of my plan in the future.”

    Please don’t bring those little rug rats into first–we don’t like kids in first. Good time for you to try economy class while you’re crying about your vacation days.

  58. In HK, the law requires the employer to give the employee 7 days of PTO. Thanksfully, we get a lot of public holidays (3 days for Lunar New Year, 2 days for Easter…)

  59. I’ve been extremely lucky in that my first job came with 40 days combined PTO + holidays annually, and my current one is at a small family office where PTO isn’t tracked for executive-level employees; it’s basically a “don’t abuse it and nobody will say anything” system. I do think characterizing US time off policies as “miserable” is perhaps a bit harsh, but there is usually a trade-off. You can work in a less stressful environment where you might be limited to 2-3 weeks, but you actually get to come home at 5 and have weekends/holidays to yourself. Or you can take a job in a big consulting/accounting firm where you ostensibly get 6-8 weeks off, but are also expected to put in 60+ hours a week, work weekends, and be “available” while on PTO. There’s rarely a perfect answer. Fortunately I lucked into a position that’s pretty darned close.

  60. This is a surprisingly off-mission and divisive post.

    I skew towards the “no one made your wife accept her job” camp, but I can at least partially sympathize if the argument is for something like paid sick/maternity leave for hourly workers. Complaining about your wife’s 3+ weeks of paid vacation from her salaried position seems odd when ample alternatives exist. I get her current employer won’t allow her to trade time off for pay, but no one is stopping her from finding a different employer, switching careers, or becoming self-employed.

  61. @Alan
    You almost got it right – In Australia we receive 3 months 3 months full pay long service after 10 years (at 7 years we receive 6 weeks). We also have very generous maternity leave allowances and can take up to 12 months off (not paid – only about 14 weeks paid) rather than the stingy 3 months the US allows (if you have an agreement with your business). We are very, very lucky.

  62. @jo145

    And what do your taxes look like?

    US employers can offer ‘unlimited vacation” but most of these silly start-ups aren’t even in business long enough. Plus any company with that policy will make you feel guilty if you take ANY of it. Stupid.

  63. Welcome to why I became more or less self-employed (since I work for what will shortly be a non-profit, I do have the other members of the board as bosses in a sense) in a field where I get to travel anyhow. Of course, most of that travel is last minute and to places that aren’t normally tourist destinations. Definitely not complaining about the lack of pushy American tourists though….

    Our travel policy was actually one of the most complicated ones we have that doesn’t directly address an IRS requirement but when it comes to personal time off, we try to make as much time as possible available. The exact amount of time off is negotiable though. In theory at least, I could push for a Lucky style “working from the road” arrangement if I really wanted.

  64. @jo145: to add on to what @me asked:

    “And what do your taxes look like?”

    Or, what about cost of living, cost of housing? The last time I checked, the average home price in Australia is over $650k. I make over 6 figures, and I couldn’t imagine have to fork over that much money for an “average” house; my own home cost me less than twice my annual income.

    The grass isn’t always greener; there are benefits to living in almost every country, but every country also has its drawbacks.

  65. @me Our tax rates in Australia are pretty close to those in the US. At the very top rate, they are a couple of points higher, but then we have no need to pay for health insurance every month.

    By the way, most of us also get something called ‘leave loading’: we’re paid a small bonus while on leave. It’s usually around 11%-12% of one’s salary, but I’ve enjoyed leave loading as high as 25%.

    And it’s a rare Australian employer who will allow you to forego your leave because you’re too busy. Most employers will force you to go on leave if you store too much of it up.

  66. @Adam:

    I live in DFW/Fort Worth, one of the largest cities in the US. Median house prices here are US$135k.

    Yes, New York and San Francisco are more expensive, but the figures I provided were for Australia wide (not just Sydney!) In the USA, the median house price is $183,500.

  67. So US paid time off policies are miserable because they do not allow enough time and flexibility to allow points and miles enthusiasts to fly to their hearts’ content and take advantage of mileage run opportunities that pop up from time to time? LOL Y’all really are whining here. Guess what? That’s not what paid time off policies are designed for.

    As someone who is self employed, there is no such thing as paid time off for me. It is a very simple principle: No workee – no payee. Be glad you get any time off paid for by someone else. While self employment means there is no paid time off, it allows me to set my own schedule and determine how much I want to work and when. If time off is that important, go into business for yourself. Then you (not your employer) set the policies and incur the cost of those policies.

    Anything over four weeks paid vacation (not counting holidays) is way too much time off for the overwhelming majority of Americans who will just sit around the house for most of that time.

    Vacation time is tied to longevity in most cases. I don’t know of a better way to do it. Mike says his wife has a miserable vacation policy at her job. Yet it is apparently good enough to keep her from switching to a better job. There is nothing wrong with an employer using vacation time and other benefits like pensions as retention tools to keep valuable employees who they have invested in over the years. But in the end it is all a choice as to where each of us decides to work.

  68. Gary,
    Self employed.

    But I would always take extra pay on the job over pay for time off, and that is what the choice really boils down too (not usually for the individual, but for the company).

    If you think about it, getting paid to not work does not really ever make sense.

    Americans in general have lost the ability to save and plan ahead; therefore, paid time off becomes attractive. But it is not better than having the cash in hand with the choice to take the time off or work.

    Paid time off is not free, even if it feels like it.

  69. Put it another way. What’s better? 2% cash back or 2% toward any travel expense?

    (I don’t put any spend on my 2% for travel Capital One Venture card)

  70. @susan yes, I realise that’s nation wide, but it’s an average and it’s skewed by extraordinary high prices in Sydney, Melbourne and, increasingly, Brisbane. These cities are comparable to New York or San Francisco and, if you remove them from the calculations then the average plunges. In cities that are smaller than Sydney and Melbourne but still big – say, Newcastle or Perth – then housing is very affordable.

  71. Australia has the most generous vacation time followed by ME. In ME, if you work in academic, both local and western, setting you have the best of both worlds. You enjoy all western holidays and Eid holidays, which are many. During Ramadan, you only work half day. No stress. It is also a short distance to travel to Africa, Asia and Europe, possibly Australia. There is no income or sales tax, or any tax for that matter. Accommodation, medical/dental benefits and prescriptions plus annual r/t airfare home are included in your compensation package. The downside is over time, the purchase power of money decreases as you own no assets and accrue no pension. In Singapore, they work five and half days a week, half day on Saturdays. And they bust their behind. It is amazing that Americans continue to whine about taxes when they pay the lowest tax rates among western and developed countries. Americans work among the hardest, yet remain the most indebted and discontent people because they want everything best now.Perhaps we should prioritize our goals and self-sacrifice the materialistic and superficial things in life.

  72. For those who think it would be great if everyone had more paid time for not working, remember the TANSTAAFL principle — There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch! Who is paying for your time off? Is it you in lower wages and benefits? Your employer in lower profits. Customers in higher prices. The national economy in lower productivity and levels of employment. All of the above. Rest assured those costs are being paid for.

  73. @Mike
    My friends are in the same boat as you. Most are married and have to plan vacations months in advance, but at least they have unlimited sick leave.

    I sort of envy them since at least they have someone to come back home to. For me, I’m in an unhealthy marriage with my work, but it’s somehow manageable, thanks to my PA, since I enjoy my profession and essentially get to travel the globe and write about it. I guess reading these articles once in a while is my way of decompressing.

    However, the last four years since I moved to Asia, to expand my business, has been exhausting. Unfortunately, this work-life imbalance is becoming a global epidemic with the rise of the multinationals. The competition at work in developing nations is also forcing the workforce to avoid using paid time off to excel against colleagues. Of course, the irony is that when everyone does that, you end up on the same playing field again. It’s tough maintaining a healthy work life balance and even more so for some business owners. I sympathize with my staff and try to give them a flexible schedule, but that is not always possible.

    Regardless, my only advise to young professionals that I meet is to take every single minute that you are allotted for leave, to travel, live and experience the world. Life and responsibilities only grow with age.

  74. Mike:
    From the other side of the coin- I employee 5 persons and try to be as flexible as possible but our biggest client has a daily deadline for information we deliver each day.
    When someone is off, I backfill for their work to get it done. They get paid above average but certainly not the best.

    I have found the that the happiest people are self employed and dictate their own schedule.

    So you post seems a little off – all of us here love travel and other passions where we cannot capitalize on every possibility.

    Either you love your work or the work pays for your real love.

  75. She can always take unpaid leave. So it isn’t that she doesn’t get enough time off. It is she doesn’t get enough time off when someone still pays her even though she is not adding value.

    I’ve taken unpaid days off before for this very reason. It is called putting your money where your mouth is.

  76. Australia definitely has the best leave policy. If you’re a shift worker you’d get between 5-6 weeks leave. If you’re rostered off on public holidays you accrue what’s called DIL. Days in lieu. These can also be added on to your leave. After 10 years we get 90 days long service leave. Some companies will allow you to take the full 3 months at once full pay or 6 months half pay. Every year after the 10 you accumulate 9 days long service plus your annual leave. Your leave just banks up. Now if you happen to work for an airline, well you’ve struck gold@:)

  77. A complete non-sense post! I feel shamed for you and your employer. You are a full time employee! You get 8-9 National holidays, 2*52=104 weekend days, and 3*5=15 PTO days per year. That’s totally, 127-128 days off a year, not to mention sick days, jury leave etc. Man, you already have more than 1/3 of your time off in a year! If you feel that’s not enough, why not quit your job and start a blog like Ben, you can enjoy travelling around the world 365 days a year? Why not work part time or as a hourly paid contractor? If you don’t love your job, just quit it and let somebody else do it.

  78. Feel free to keep it to points stuff. No one wants to read all the “I’m enlightened because I’ve travelled and so I can comment on other countries’ leave policies” comments. If you don’t like it, shut up and go somewhere else, that’s what people from other countries do when they move here.

  79. I’m self employed, so I don’t get paid time off. But, as long as it’s not my busy season I can go on trips pretty much whenever I want as long as I have internet access on the trip. My wife is a teacher and only gets 2 leave days per semester and 2 semesters per school year. And due to my schedule we can only travel over the summer for 1 months, so we make the best of it, usually with some ATW trip. I don’t know many people in Denver since I have no work relationships here, but I wouldn’t be against meeting up with people for trips if it meant I wouldn’t have to travel alone which I hate.

  80. Ooohhh Dave C has spoken for all of us… Utter tosh that is. Others have opinions – imagine that!

    @Mike: good on you for this interesting post and perspective.

    Finally a discussion worth having. Mike, the situation is tough, in the US and many other places and especially for families. The boundary between work and personal time is fading. Being self employed doesn’t make it easier, only worse since the business is like a baby. See comments by professionals who run their businesses above. I can say the same for my husband who runs his own airline company. I’m sure many of the self employed here would agree.

    I do find that negotiating flexible time off or negotiating working from home is one way to get some more time off or atleast spend more time with the family. It is of course easier to negotiate such things when you are experienced in your field rather than a newcomer.

    Some have the luxury of travel and work combined, such as travel journalists. However, knowing a few of these individuals, they have similar difficulties since differentiating work from leisure becomes difficult and there is anyways the deadline.

  81. The Europeans and their socialist entitlements, like seemingly endless paid time off, crack me up. Perhaps it’s why their economic growth rate is pathetically low historically compared to the US.

  82. I used to work for a high tech company as an engineer. Received the standard 4 weeks paid vacation a year. All was good until the dot.com bust in 2001, at which time I was laid off. Luckily I found employment right away and went into teaching technology at the local community college. It was only 3/5 of my previous salary which hurt. But the huge upside is that I get a total of 18 weeks off per year. Not paid, but well worth the sacrifice. For the past 15 years I have been able to move up the salary scale and also do consulting work outside of the college. My wife also teaches at the community college. Our combined salaries are 3X the median household salary in our mid sized midwestern town, which coincidentally has relatively cheap living expenses. Most of our school breaks also coincide with our daughter’s school breaks. As a result we are able to travel and do things together as a family. I realize how blessed we are and neither my wife nor I plan on leaving our teaching jobs until retirement.

  83. If there is one thing I love about living in Germany is the paid leave & bank holiday situation. So its 30 days off for me, around 14 public holidays (not always during the week) and the plus of an overtime account….and the many days I could leave Friday afternoon for a weekend trip around Europe.

    But then one can’t compare it with the US

  84. In the work places I’ve been in, the irony of time off work, paid or unpaid, is that it often increases workplace stress rather than reducing it. Most jobs cannot simply go undone for one, two, three or four weeks at a time. If so, the employer should question if the employee is really needed. Therefore, in most cases someone else must do the work for the absent employee either by working harder during normal working hours and/or working additional hours to get the work done. Either option increases stress (not to mention costs to the employer of backfilling with overtime) on the employees who remain at work and the latter reduces the amount of time the employee working additional hours can spend with family or pursuing other personal objectives. It also increase stress on management which must select the employees to be burdened with additional work or overtime assignments. The more time off people take, the greater these problems become.

    Professionals and executives have additional problems with taking time off. They must prepare to take time off which usually involves working longer hours before taking time off and the stress of anticipating and preparing for events that might happen while they are gone. When they return there is usually a mountain of work they must catch up on further increasing stress and extending normal workhours. The sad fact is that for many of these people, they wind up working on vacation and even sick days. The email disclaimer stating “I will be out of the office until blah blah blah and unable to respond to voicemail and email” doesn’t fly in a lot of cases. Ask Oscar Munoz, the newly appointed United President who just had heart attack and a heart transplant, about that.

    If the folks in Australia and the EU have solved these problems, please let us Americans in on the secret.

  85. I have been following the blog for a year now, first time posting. Fortunately I have 25 PTOs, 7 national holidays and some extra days depending on the year. The thing is, with my skillset, I can probably earn 20 to 30% more in another company with 10 PTOs. Similar to the law of conservation of energy, more PTOs in eary careers equal to lower pay.

    I understand that some people don’t agree with Mike. The problem is the tone. There are some people with unnecessary aggresive behaviour just because they writing it on the internet. Be more gentle.

    Also, people need to stop comparing different situations. Human kind always thrive for more, whether it is good or not. One of the fallacies is the baseline of needs. Once you get used to something, it is no longer a luxury to you. So couple of days of extra PTO might be Mike’s problem while getting fired because of the oil industry is somebody elses. Unfortunately you can’t compare the two.

    One more thing. Research suggests that after $80k/annual salary in the US, more money doesn’t bring extra happiness. Think about that.

  86. I’m wondering why you would leave your daughters home for your wife to take care of?!? Do they not like going away on trips? Or does only your wife know how to take care of your daughters? Maybe your wife needs to work for a European firm. They seem to give plenty of holiday time, especially compared to corporate american businesses.

  87. I get no paid time off and wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to choose to forgo the paid time off some employees elect and get a proportionate increase in my pay rate. If I choose to take 3 months off, I get paid for the time that I work. If I choose to take no time off, I earn more money. Paid time off is for people who are incapable of budgeting. These are the same people who don’t pay their credit card balances in full each month. Every employee has a certain worth to their employer, and paid time off reduces the employee’s pay rate.

  88. Aaahghhhh. You cannot travel when you want it? Have to work? ‘They’ dont allow you to go when you want? Poor guy. The other 3 billion people with a job in this world surely will feel very bad for you.
    Grow up man, u sound like a whining child.

  89. I still cannot believe the US doesn’t have a higher minimum annual leave period. In New Zealand we have a minimum of 20 days annual leave plus 11 paid public holidays (not as generous as some European countries, but still great). Unfortunately, working shift work in healthcare I only get guaranteed 7 paid public holidays, but get close to 40 days annual leave, so it works out for the better.
    On the other side of the coin though, we have no access to good credit card rewards programs and miniscule sign up bonuses. Expensive airfares with few good sale fares and horrible FF programs compared to the USA….

  90. The main issue w/ PTO in America is a result of the general ethos of the majority of Americans. Most Americans are driven by greed (I’m not saying this is necessarily their fault or a bad thing, it’s just inherently part of being an American), whereas Europeans are more interested in making a little bit less if it means they get to spend more time with their families / friends / traveling. So, the American PTO system is built around that greed … why would a country that values (or even glorifies) making the most amount of money possible / “working as hard as possible” have an adequate PTO system?

    Studies have shown that you don’t need to work 40 (or even 50 – 70) hours per week to be the most productive that you can be. As an American living in France, I’ve realized that there are much more important things in life than work, and it’s a shame that America doesn’t foster that idea more properly. Of course, some people love working well into the grave, and that is their choice, but personally, that life isn’t for me.

  91. A very interesting topic Mike. I’ve always loved visiting the US and dreamed of living in California but when it came to looking for jobs and two weeks PTO was advertised as a bonus I knew it wouldn’t be realistic. Other than the obvious quality of life issues I would want to travel home to visit family meaning my traveling would be limited to wherever I was to move and the place I had moved from.

    Chances are that I could build up a reasonable amount of PTO fairly quickly but I now don’t feel comfortable living in a country in which a persons value is based on their annual salary. Saying ‘get a better job/education’ is such a misinformed, naive opinion.

    The fact that Berny Sanders is considered socialist says it all.

  92. I used to work in Canada where I had 0 paid days off, then moved to Sweden where as a matter of law you get 31 days paid leave (for someone over 30 – it goes up as you get older and is slightly lower if you’re under 30). There are also 16 public holidays, plus ‘bridging days’ meaning if a holiday is on a Thursday, your employer will usually give you the Friday too. People also have a better work life balance and no one will frown on someone working 8 hours a day and leaving on time to pick up their kids. Employers are also required to let employees take a 3 week chunk during the summer and my employer actively encourages it. All that being said and you’d expect Sweden to have a lower GDP per capita. They do, but not that much lower than the US. And personally I think if you asked people if they’d rather have better home lives and time to themselves, but make slightly less money, most would say yes.

  93. Always shocks me to hear about paid leave in the US. In the UK I have 30 days, plus our 8 days bank holidays so I get a minimum of 38 days a year. And I can accrue up to another 12 days as time-in-lieu as part of our flexi time arrangements so working an extra 20/30 mins a day counts towards extra time off. Last year I had 50 days off. I couldn’t imagine anything different. I love my job, but I work to live, I don’t live to work. My companies leave policies are generous, but you are still guaranteed a minimum of 28 days off in the UK if you work full time.

  94. I like the point about connection to longevity. These policies are out of sync with the times. Offering me at my age the perk of obtaining 25 days vacation after I work at the same job for 6 years is not a perk at all because I can tell you right now I will not be working here in 6 years…probably not in 2. So I am stuck with 13 days and creative use of my 10 sick days.

  95. This is a real issue to me right now but I accept that it is part of the labor market and compensation package that I have to factor into my career decision. My job was cut in December – I like to joke that I am a full time blogger now! 🙂 – and I think I am close to a few offers. The unknown is the vacation since there are several titles among these offers. My previous employers gave me by virtue of my title/position three weeks of vacation, several days of PTO (forget the exact number) and sick leave that did not have an explicit balance or come from vacation or PTO. Effectively, I had 4-5 weeks of time off. I don’t do a lot of foreign trips like some of you, but I have done two 9-14 day trips to Europe each of the last two years. I also have a two week trip to Europe planed for August for the first Georgia Tech football game in Ireland. Since i have been to 106 straight games – that’s where a lot of my travels come…weekend trips to road games – I really want to make it over there (and for the trip as well). I certainly plan to ask for those weeks off as part of my offer but I don’t know that I will get it. I also don’t know how much vacation I will get going forward. But at the end of the day, I will have the information on this and I will have to make a decision as to which position I accept or whether I roll the dice for something better and decline any possible offers. At the end of the day, I look at this as a consideration of my total compensation – and that’s a factor of a free labor market. If I don’t like the time off policy, I am free to look elsewhere.

    I will take exception with Keith who characterized the American ethos as “greed.” I see it as more the American work ethic and culture. That’s not a good or bad thing, it just is what it is and its rooted in our history just as the culture of European countries is rooted in their history. I do agree that there is more to life than work. I believe in working to live not the other way around. However, I have a desire to grow in my company and move up. Those are two values that I have to weight and bring into balance as I make career decisions. If I never make it too high in a company because I don’t want to work 80 hours a week, I can live with that. But while I would enjoy the compensation (well as much as you can working that much), I would get as much if not more satisfaction from the sense of accomplishment and success. And that is not born of greed.

  96. It is an interesting topic (evidenced by the volume of comments). I actually work for a company with great PTO, (I currently have 25 days a year) and I can carry over 50% of that. Unfortunately, as is the case for many, just because I am not there, doesn’t mean the work stops coming. I find it very difficult to ever take more than a week off and even taking a week involves me working a ton leading up to that time and when I return as well as normally taking a couple of calls while I am away. The result is I am usually carrying the max days over to the next year.

    And for those suggesting the wife take unpaid leave, I don’t know where you work, but at any job I have been in if I take all of my paid leave, they are not going to be cool with me taking more time off, paid or unpaid.

  97. “Trips with just the kids are definitely part of my plan in the future.”

    Make sure you understand your school districts policy on unexcused/excused absences. We had a jerk principal who almost turned me into the school district for too many unexcused days while we took a vacation. You think taking last minute flights are hard now, just wait until you are grounded for the school year.

  98. My PT0 accrues based on the number of hours I work. It ends up being a double edged sword because I have to work more to get more time off. I spend as much time calculating future PTO balances as I do planning award redemption’s. Once my student loans are paid off I’d gladly take a pay cut for more PTO.

  99. I work for a company in the US, and I have about five weeks vacation time. I’m also fortunate that my boss loves to travel, as does the majority of my team, so it’s expected that people will be taking time off throughout the year.

    That said, Mike, I think if you work a 8-5 type job (as I do, and it sounds like your wife does) that it can be very difficult to take advantage of cheap/mistake fares and rare award opportunities, regardless of how many days of vacation you have, unless you’re okay with not maximizing your vacation days. Personally, no matter how many vacation days I have, I’m not about to waste them by doing something like flying out on a Wednesday afternoon and returning on a Tuesday evening, just so I can take advantage of a cheap fare. It’s the same with award tickets – I’m single, and usually go on vacations alone, and I still have trouble finding award tickets sometimes on the dates I’m willing to go. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for a family.

  100. Being from and having only ever worked in the UK I don’t understand this “sick days” concept….?

    If you’re ill, you’re ill. You don’t choose to be ill nor can you deliberately limit the duration of your illness. If you stop getting paid after X days that’s only going to add to the stress and inhibit your recovery.

    Yes my company monitors absence and you need a doctor’s note if you’re off more than 7 days and long term you rely on an insurance policy to continue to get paid, but I don’t understand how you can have a set number of sick days, surely this drives the wrong behaviour and people coming into work infecting the whole office with flu etc.

    Oh, and everyone at my company gets 25 days leave to take as they want, increasing to 26 after 3 years and 27 after 5 years. And you can “purchase” up to 10 more, and they go mental if you don’t take them, we’re actively encouraged!

  101. Bitch, bitch, bitch. You may not like the vacation policies in the US but I have lived in France for the past 30 years and I hear the exact same complaints. Considering the France has a 35-hour workweek, there are 5 weeks of paid vacation, and unbelievable number of holidays, people find going to work to make a living to be inconvenient because they cannot have “their” vacation when they want it. But that is life. There are things that you have to do like making sure that your children attend school like everyone else. Sorry for your vacation. Learn to enjoy being with your family anywhere and all of the time. There is more value in that than anything that you can save by getting a great deal on flights and hotels.

  102. Maybe the notion of PTO is outdated. Perhaps businesses should only pay for days worked, but pay enough that employees with different economic circumstances can take unpaid time off at a rate that they are comfortable with whether it’s for sickness, holidays or just vacations.
    So instead of a convoluted compensation package, you get paid more for the hours/days you do work and nothing for those you don’t. This new paradigm can be based off of historical averages at the business, and then you’re just negotiating for more pay for your work at interviews and reviews.
    Then if your family has extra income and you can “afford” to take a longer vacation at your leisure, go ahead. But if you aren’t well off you can take an average or fewer days off and get paid more. This can obviously fluctuate either way over the long run. You can invest that extra money wisely to get you through personal crises etc.
    I imagine some caps would have to be instituted since employers would hate to let their employees take sabbatical years and so forth.
    Just an idea that will never happen, but an interesting thought exercise.

    At any rate, I identify with the OP. My wife used to have a crappy leave situation, and I had extra time off. Now it’s the reverse. We deal with it fine, though, and temper our expectations when the great deals come around.

  103. I work for a consulting company with “unlimited” vacation time.

    Culture is reasonably supportive provided you can fit the time into your schedule. For some people that’s easy, depending on the time of year. For others, they have to plan far more carefully. You definitely *can* work remotely for some stints, though, and that seems like a fair trade off.

    I think the big complaint is about the lack of flexibility in many US companies’ policies. I wanted to negotiate on paid time when I took the position, but they were fairly clear that’s not how things worked. I spoke with the hiring manager and I’ll be working remotely on most trips, which I don’t mind. I don’t particularly care for the “touristy” activities in foreign countries and am happy simply to be able to spend a few weekends eating foreign foods with my spouse.

  104. When you leave a job and go to a new job don’t give up on vacation time. If your not good at salary and vacation negotiation hire a headhunter. Never give up vacation time.

  105. I am somewhat bewildered after reading these posts. What kinds of businesses do most of you work for? I am a (retired) small employer (lawyer) and had at most 1 partner and 4 employees (most long term). Our business was busy and non-seasonal and subject to the demands/whims of clients and courts/judges. We all got 2 weeks vacation. Which had to be planned well in advance to accommodate busy schedules. We didn’t have a policy on sick days. If you were sick – you were sick. Don’t recall ever having an employee who was out for more than a week or two with an illness. But – if someone was going to be out for months – we would have had to replace that employee.

    My husband was in a similar work situation – and it was hard for us to find 2 weeks a year when we could both get away. But we managed (with a lot of planning). Note that it was impossible to work remotely back then. But – even if it was possible – it would have been impossible for us (we were in court a lot of the time – and you can’t try a case remotely).

    My husband and I both traveled a fair amount on business. But – even when one of us had an attractive business travel destination (not often) – it was usually impossible for the other of us to tag along due to scheduling conflicts. It wasn’t unusual for my husband to do a RT from Florida to California with a 1 night stay. With a court reporter for company (not me). I had similar trips (overnights to New York or Phoenix with a court reporter).

    If we had had children – we would have been even more limited. Because I wouldn’t take a child out of school except for the very occasional day here or there just to take a discretionary trip.

    We didn’t travel a lot together until we retired. Early. Which we were able to do in part because we worked hard – had some luck – and made a decent amount of money. FWIW – frequent flyer programs didn’t really hit their stride until after we retired. When we could and did take advantage of them.

    Overall – as a consumer of goods and services these days – I really don’t want to pay for goods and services that are produced by employees who are more interested in getting trips on points and miles and taking time off than doing their jobs. Also – I don’t want to pay more for those goods and services – because a company isn’t operating “lean and mean”. Which is why I’m curious what kinds of companies people here work for.

    Note that different policies outside the US are often the result of things other than benevolence/concerns about employee welfare/happiness. For example – many countries in Europe have been fighting high unemployment – especially youth unemployment – for years. And some countries think by limiting work hours – mandating long vacation periods – whatever – they will reduce unemployment. These policies have met with limited success IMO. Also – they don’t seem to generate a large amount of flexibility in terms of when people take their vacations. If they did – more than half of France wouldn’t be on vacation in August.

    In any event – it is impossible to generalize about many different countries with different economies and cultures. I do know that in planning an upcoming trip to Spain – I was talking about getting together with a friend in the UK. He’s an IT consultant and has great flexibility in terms of his travel. His wife is a doctor who works for the NHS – and she wouldn’t be able to join him because her vacation schedule is a lot more limited than his. My friend in the UK often winds up traveling alone because of his wife’s work schedule (to work on his food blog). My husband and I don’t care to travel alone – but I suppose that is an option for people who don’t mind traveling alone. Robyn

  106. Robyn makes a lot of sense. If a business can do without an employee’s services for extended periods of time, then in most cases the business can do without that employee. When times get tough, the first employees to be let go are those who have demonstrated by long absences that the business can operate fine without them.

  107. Robyn’s meandering essay of a response represents a failure of imagination. What sort of person is more interested in his job than in living life itself? I hope I never become one.

    There are entire countries where every working citizen is guaranteed multiple weeks of vacation time every year. Perhaps unbelievably, these countries haven’t collapsed. Instead, they represent the most advanced economies in the world with the highest quality of living scores. Just because Joe the Plumber’s small business would sputter out and die if it lost a wage slave for a few weeks doesn’t mean that a robust, truly successful business would suffer the same fate.

    Besides, in most companies, if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

  108. I’m moving from the UK to the US this month and the one thing I’m dreading is saying goodbye to my six weeks of paid annual leave and possibly facing starting with only 5 days a year!!! I think it’s atrocious that such a powerful and free nation can’t afford their employees with a minimum right to paid time off. Like someone else said earlier, I hope something changes soon.

  109. @Tanya – You’re moving to a country with the highest corporate tax rate in the world. And also, Americans are workaholics. The vast majority of people don’t even use up their paltry vacation days as it is, so it’s a moot point.

    but I agree with you, 6 weeks of paid time off would be wonderful. Luckily I work from home and my wife is a teacher so she gets 5 weeks off in the summer (unpaid).

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