American Workers Left 658 Million Vacation Days Unused Last Year

June 21, 2016
Candyce H. Stapen

Americans aren't using all of their vacation days, and often times they receive no compensation for their un-used days off.

Who doesn’t take a vacation? A lot of us. According to a new report by Project: Time Off, 55% of American workers didn’t use all their vacation in 2015. The total of unused vacation amounted to 658 million days, 222 million of which were lost to workers—not rolled over, not compensated for in cash, just gone. Project: Time Off dubs these people “work martyrs.” 2015 marked the first time that more than half of American workers failed to take the free paid leave to which they were entitled.

For the State of American Vacation 2016 report, GfK, a research firm, surveyed 5,641, full-time American workers ages 18 and above who receive paid leave from their employers, as well as 1,184 managers. The report’s subtitle—“How Vacation Became a Casualty of Our Work Culture”—reveals the problem.

Key Findings

• Americans’ use of vacation time began declining in 2000. Before then, we took more than 20.3 days of vacation each year. Now, we give up nearly a full week of vacation each year.

• Vacation, as a forfeited benefit, means that hundreds of millions of workers are essentially doing free work for their employers. The benefits lost amount to $61.4 billion.

• Working instead of vacationing doesn’t necessarily translate into job recognition. Employees who took 10 days or less of vacation time were less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.

• Reasons workers don’t take vacation:

â—˜ 37% were concerned they would return to a mountain of work.

â—˜ 30% felt no one else could do the job.

â—˜ 80% felt that if their boss fully encouraged them they would likely take more time off.

• Solutions to the problem of missing vacations:

â—˜ Managers should talk about and encourage employees to take time off.

â—˜ Planning a vacation in advance is the “single-most important step workers can take” to actually using their vacation. Less than half—49%—of households actually set aside time to plan their vacation.

â—˜ Planning time off correlated with increased happiness with a worker’s job, family and friends, and overall mood and happiness.

Are you ready to plan your next trip? Have you ever left vacation time on the table? Share your comments with me on Twitter, @familyitrips. Check out an infographic on the Project: Time Off findings below:

For a larger version, click here.

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