Too many Americans are letting their paid time off go to waste.
Whether they’re afraid of being replaced in their jobs or stressed by the sheer amount of work they have to do, nearly half of Americans don’t use up their allotted paid leave, according to a recent study. In a separate survey, 56 percent of Americans said they hadn’t taken a vacation at all in the past year.
Those are crazy numbers: They mean people are essentially giving up freebie days they’ve earned the right to take off! And what’s worse, many employers don’t allow workers to roll their paid time off over to the next year. It’s a “use them or lose them” situation that’s gotten WAY out of control.
As most of us have heard, vacation days aren’t the only type of paid time off. There are also personal days, sick days and holidays. With so many types of days off, employees often lose track of the kinds of breaks available to them.
All of these vary by company: Make sure to check with your company’s HR department if you need clarification about your particular policies. But in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the types of paid time off out there. Use ’em up!
Vacation days are typically an accrued benefit, which means that the longer you work at a company, the more days off you’ll earn. For full-time employees who have worked one year at a company, the mean number of vacation days is around 10, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number goes up to around 14 days after five years at the company. Employees usually need to notify their supervisors in advance when they’re going on vacation, so team members can work around their schedule.
Like the name implies, these are for when you need to take some time off for a personal reason. If there’s a child at home who’s sick, if there’s been a death in the family, or if you’re observing a religious holiday, you can use a personal day to take care of yourself or those around you. Just over one-third of all workers in the U.S. had access to paid personal leave, according to a 2013 report from the BLS.
Personal days usually number fewer than vacation days but are more flexible, since you can’t really plan them ahead of time.
In some cases, a company may offer “floating holidays,” which are essentially the same as personal days. For example, instead of making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and President’s Day company holidays, employees could get two floating holidays off in return, which they can use any time during the year. Some employees may opt to use floating holidays for religious observances.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but sick days cover you when you have anything from a cold to something more serious. You can also take a sick day if you have a doctor’s appointment or a surgery.
There is no federal law mandating companies to give paid sick leave, so it’s up to individual employers to decide how many to allot. The mean number for sick leave across the country is eight days.
If you take an extended period of time off when you’re sick, some employers may require you to provide a doctor’s note.
Company and Government Holidays
These are firm days off that all employees get, regardless of how long they’ve worked at a company. There isn’t a law that mandates private businesses to be closed or give employees time off during holidays (federal holidays apply only to federal employees and banks), but most companies usually give the big ones like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day off. It’s up to the company to decide whether to give other ones like President’s Day off as well.
We don’t know what you do for a living, but we do know you likely need a break. And, nearly halfway through the year, we’re challenging you (yes — busy, overworked, financially stretched you) to #TakeABreak.
During the month of June, we’ll help you nail down how many vacation days you have at your disposal, figure out where to go, and plan a trip you can actually afford. For 30 days of travel tips, cheap flight hacks, vacation ideas and wanderlust galore, sign up for our Take A Break action plan here!
Clarification: Language has been amended to reflect that while there is no federal law requiring paid sick days, some states and municipalities do legally require employers to provide them.