Feel like you need — nay, deserve — a vacation? A lot of your fellow Americans share the sentiment. In a time when many people are financially stressed, under or overworked, and ultimately in need of desperate reprieve, something as simple as a vacation can be incredibly difficult to pull off. It requires planning, coordination with coworkers, dogsitters, housesitters, flights, rental cars, and perhaps most importantly, it requires that you forego your earnings for the time you are gone, in many situations.
Well, things may be changing soon.
According to new poll numbers from Huffpost/YouGov, conducted just before Labor Day of this year, Americans overwhelmingly think a paid vacation mandate should be instituted by the government. A full 78% of respondents replied “yes” to the question, “Do you think that large U.S. employers should be required to provide paid vacation time to their employees?”. Only 13% replied “no”.
As for how much time respondents felt was appropriate, the most popular amount was two weeks, with 38% of those polled choosing that option — 18% chose four weeks. It’s also important to note a full 58% of respondents who work at least part time said that their employers do receive paid vacation time to begin with, without such a mandate in place.
Even so, poll results show 54% of respondents did not take a vacation within the past year, even though 58% of those people were offered paid time off. So, it seems that people still won’t go on vacation, even if it means they do not have to give up any of their pay. There can be numerous reasons for that, but it’s also something that social scientists and economists have been studying for several years.
There are numerous upsides to giving people time off, and paying them for it. For one, there is a healthy amount of evidence that vacations actually increase productivity, rather than drag it down. And not only that, but not working employees into the ground also has a positive net effect on health, meaning lower healthcare costs, more productivity, and at the end of the day, more output from workers.
And that is why the government may have an incentive to get involved. While many people would prefer if their local and federal government left any regulatory measures up to individual employers themselves, by mandating vacation time to ensure that people do get some time off, there should be some overall positive effects to the economy. Of course, those who disagree say that the government interfering with the affairs of private businesses doesn’t do anything to help — and in many cases, they may be right.
But if instituted, a paid vacation mandate would likely be absorbed and accounted for like many other workplace regulations that currently exist, like certain taxes, healthcare mandates, etc. There would be an adjustment period, which would be painful for some business.
There have been attempts to put such laws into place. But as we recently witnessed with the Obama administration’s healthcare mandate, a paid vacation mandate would likely lead to long, expensive political battles. Even so, it appears people want to see it happen, if the Huffpost/YouGov poll is any indication.
The issue here is that paid vacation mandates are just another example of how the U.S. seems to lag behind nearly every other advanced economy in the world in terms of social and labor initiatives. Paid maternity leave is another one of these issues that frequently pops up, and you could also wrangle hot-button topics like the minimum wage, single-payer healthcare, and higher education into the mix.
These are all seemingly ubiquitous in most other western and industrialized nations — yet, they still remain highly-contested issues in the U.S.
As for vacation itself, even those who do get paid time off have a hard time taking it. That means on average, most of us leave vacation days on the table, every year. That doesn’t really help anyone, and actually hurts the overall economy in the long-run.
“Despite the myriad benefits of taking time off, American workers succumb to various pressures-some self-imposed and some from management-to not take the time off to which they are entitled,” said Adam Sacks, president of the Tourism Economics division of Oxford Economics, which completed a study looking into this very topic.
“Leaving earned days on the table harms, not helps, employers by creating a less productive and less loyal employee.”
It’s unclear if public support for vacation mandates will lead to legislative changes, but it does seem obvious that people need to take more time off. We’re only hurting ourselves when we don’t.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger