Vive les Vacances

Vive les Vacances

Deborah M. Figart, Ph.D.

It is May. With approaching Memorial Day signifying the unofficial start of summer, it means planning a summer vacation. Or does it?

I read with interest a recent column by my colleague, Joe Molineaux, Director of the Small Business Development Center at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey: “Business owners can profit from taking a vacation.”

Vacation is an English word derived from old French. But Americans are not acting like the French when it comes to vacations.

If we think that Americans even have much vacation time, the National Compensation Survey (NCS) – Benefits Program by the U.S. Department of Labor reveals otherwise. The NCS provides information on the availability, costs, and usage of employee benefits, including holidays and vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. The latest data from the 2012 indicates that 77% of workers in the broad survey of private and public employers had access to paid vacation. On average, workers with at least 1 year of service received 10 days of paid vacation in 2012.

Ten days of paid vacation (2 weeks) is low by European standards. The Working Time Directive of the Commission of the European Union (EU) guarantees twice as much—4 weeks or 20 days. Europeans are typically “on holiday” for the entire month of August. A 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research arrays the paid vacation days for employees across 21 developed industrial (OECD) countries (see Table 1). The United States and Japan are the “work horses” of the world with only 10 paid vacation days. At the other end of the spectrum, France has 30 days and the United Kingdom has 28.

Since Americans average only two weeks of paid vacation, you might think we are using it. Think again.’s 13th annual Vacation Deprivation study reveals that we are leaving 577,212,000 vacation days on the table unused, about 30% of our total days. Another Glassdoor survey from the first quarter of 2014 finds that Americans are only taking about half of their vacation or paid time off.

This get back to Joe Molineaux’s dispatch to entrepreneurs: take time to recharge those batteries. If workers are hanging around because their bosses are loath to leave the workplace, then it’s up to the bosses to set an example. This means small business entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers of medium- and large-size companies, non-profit organization directors, state and municipal leaders, and even the President of the United States. Psychologists agree: take your vacation.

Being at or near the top of the world’s list of workaholics is not an occasion to chant “We’re #1.” Instead, embrace your inner French: Vive les Vacances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *