Vacation: Who Gets It and For How Long?


For many of us the fall and winter months mean that the vacation season has come to an end.  For some employers, it means people are finally back in the office - ready to get some work done.  For some employees, it means a long wait until springtime and next year’s vacation.

The great American vacation is something most of us relish, and many of us have strong childhood memories of family vacations – good and bad.  Some families plan, anticipate, and save for vacation all year long.  It is hard to imagine life without a vacation, but not very many years ago the idea of a vacation was pretty novel and perhaps even something exclusive to the very rich.  I doubt that our ancestors working on the family farm hitched up the wagon and took off on a family vacation!  The concept of time away from work evolved as our economy moved from agricultural to industrial, and certainly organized labor played an influential role.

Of course, vacations are not exclusively an American phenomena.  In fact, many European countries are far more generous about vacations than we are.  The European Union actually requires employers to provide at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, and many countries provide significantly more.  Mandatory paid vacation is not required in the United States although 75% of employers do provide at least some paid vacation.  Regardless of your opinion on whether or not we should be more like Europe, suffice it to say that the relationship between worker productivity or worker satisfaction and the amount of vacation one receives is quite tenuous. 

Most people would agree that taking time off from work is a good idea.  Some say it helps “recharge the batteries”; others claim it reduces their stress.  These things may or may not be true, but either way, most employees truly value their time off.  In fact, unlike the baby boomers, the younger generation has embraced vacation as a substantial piece of their pursuit of “work/life balance”.  Good luck trying to convince a 25 year old that he or she needs to work three years before getting time off!

As employers, we have to draft vacation policies that are appropriate for our industry and our employees.  To be competitive we have to take into account industry norms and expectations.  There is no rule book though, so oftentimes employers struggle with making decisions around not only how much vacation time to provide but even who gets it.  For example, do part-time employees receive paid vacation or just full-time employees?  What about PTO instead? Experienced Human Resources professionals can be very helpful in this regard.  Human Resource people will help you decide how much vacation should be provided, who receives it, and how it accrues.  For example some employers accrue vacation on a calendar year.  Others may accrue vacation on an employee’s anniversary year or on a per payroll period or hours worked basis.

Yes, you could probably figure out how to write a vacation policy yourself.  Asking an HR person to help you will make it a whole lot easier. Forté Human Resources can help you write or refine a vacation policy appropriate for your organization. If you need further assistance on this or any other Human Resource issue, call on Forté Human Resources.


Forté is the leader in outsourced Human Resources Management. Outsourcing the Human Resources function allows you to pay less for more expertise and lets you get back to managing your core business.  If you would like information on the resources Forté provides, contact


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