Employee Vacation Time - What is the Industry Average

Paid time off is provided in several forms: vacation days, holidays, personal leave, and sick leave. Employers may allow a fixed number of days in each category, or may provide a single pool of off days, to be used as needed or desired. The latter type, sometimes called a "Paid time off bank" (PTO bank), is the more flexible. Paid time off in the US typically ranges from 14 days for a first-year employee to four weeks and up for an employee with at least fifteen years of service.

The United States is the only nation in the world with no mandatory paid holidays. Employers are required by law to allow employees to observe holidays that are part of their religion, but are not required to pay employees for these off-days. There are ten federal holidays, but not all employers observe all of them. Employees receive, on average, nine paid holidays per year. State and local holidays are observed in some locations.

Organizations are not required to give employees paid sick days or vacation days, but that does not mean that there is no incentive to offer them. Paid time off is seen as an important tool for attracting the talent necessary to compete, and is used to entice potential hires. Paid holidays are granted to professional and technical employees at a higher rate than to blue-collar and service employees. This may suggest that companies place a greater value on professional and technical workers, but it may also reflect that service workers are often employed in establishments that tend to remain open on holidays, such as hotels and restaurants.

The past decade has seen a marked shift away from traditional systems that offer vacation days, sick days, and personal days, and toward PTO bank systems. On average, employees under traditional systems receive more paid days off than do participants in PTO bank plans, but are more likely to forfeit unused leave time at the end of the year. Unused time off may roll over to the next year, either wholly or in part, or it may be forfeited or paid out in cash. There is often a cap on the number of unused hours that can be accrued.

Full-time employees in the US with one year of service average eight paid vacation days per year. The average rises as length of service increases, to three weeks or more for employees with at least 20 years of service. Professional and technical employees receive slightly more off days, service employees somewhat fewer. These benefits are not available to all employees: nearly three out of four civilian workers received paid vacation last year, but among state and local government workers, that number dropped to 59%. Employees of large establishments are much more likely to receive sick days and vacation days than are employees of small establishments. The recession has had little impact on the amount of paid vacation time offered.

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