World’s hardest workers? Holiday time and hiring in the USA
Americans take less holiday time than anyone else in the developed world. It’s part of a working culture that’s worth taking into account when employing a worker in the USA.
In 1910, US President Howard Taft was taken seriously when he suggested that all Americans should have a three-month holiday each year. And yet today, the US is the only developed country in the world where workers are not guaranteed paid vacation time. While people in France are likely to take at least five weeks off, most American employees spend little more than a week on holiday from work each year.
A culture of work
The lack of statutory holiday provision is no accident. It’s part of a deep-seated working culture that has helped make America pre-eminent during the century since President Taft’s generous proposal. Many workers in the USA choose not to take even the limited holiday time on offer, and Americans work considerably longer hours than Europeans overall. In 2014 Americans averaged 1,789 working hours, compared with 1,677 for British workers and only 1,371 for Germans. Globally, American white-collar workers still tend to be among the most professionally ambitious, business-focused and conscientious about their jobs, often at the expense of a healthy work-life balance. Meanwhile, unions in the USA have a relatively weak influence.
In practice: still time for play
Although American companies are not legally required to give employees paid vacation time, the majority of them do. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2015 shows that 77% of all US workers get some kind of paid vacation, and 90% of fulltime contracted employees are offered vacation time and holidays, receiving an average of 14 vacation days and eight public holidays. In practice:
- If you’ve been working in the USA for a year you’re likely to get around 10 paid vacation days.
- If you’re on a fulltime contract or have been working more than five years you can expect around 14 paid vacation days, plus eight public holidays.
- The pattern varies between industries, while more senior roles and more unionised jobs tend to secure more holiday time.
Practical implications for hiring workers in the USA
In many ways this working culture favours employers. It also enables you to incentivise employees with attractive vacation arrangements as part of a benefits package. But there are expectations to meet too. In the absence of a legal requirement, you’ll need to decide your position on vacation allowance and create an appropriate policy. Many companies require employees to accrue vacation time over the course of the year, earning hours based on the number of days worked. Find out how US employment law differs from UK employment here.
Foothold America can advise you on competitive benefits for your employees in the US and help you decide how many vacation days to offer your employees.