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Vacation days are hard-earned and shouldn’t be treated lightly. So why are so many US workers missing out on their vacation days and not taking what is theirs by law? 

Lack of Employer Support Leads to Less Vacation Use

Unlike workers in other developed countries where workers have better legal protection, the vast majority of American workers have very little protection from the whims of employers. Most Americans are at-will employees, which means that they can be fired without just cause. This creates pressure not to take the breaks that employees are legally entitled to, as well as pressure not to take holidays.

A Power Struggle for the American Workforce

This is a gross inequality in the power balance between workers and employers, and it is often abused by employers. While an employer shouldn’t be able to fire an employee for taking legally mandated vacation days, it does happen; indeed, it won’t necessarily be given as a reason even where this is the case.

So it seems that US workers may be rightfully scared of taking vacation days. This lack of vacation means you’re not paying for unproductive workers, which many employers see as a good thing. But is it?

What’s Wrong with NOT Taking Vacations?

The problem with this attitude is that regular paid time off (PTO) allows workers to relax and recharge, reducing stress levels and the likelihood of illness. It also gives workers a more satisfactory work-life balance, which increases the likelihood that they’ll stay with your company for longer. This cuts down on training time and ensures that experienced workers are retained, which is one of the goals of any effective HR department.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of sickness, and once workers go on sick leave, it’s difficult to fire them in many states. Most stress is preventable and can be significantly reduced during a long vacation. While you’re paying for a worker to take PTO, you’re likely reducing your long-term sickness costs. You’re also creating goodwill; an unhappy worker won’t recommend the company. If your business model involves selling goods to the public, this can potentially reduces the number of people you can sell to. A loyal employee is also generally a productive employee, whereas an unhappy employee won’t work nearly as hard.

How Much Vacation Time is Right?

It seems that ten days is the magic number for the ideal vacation. This lets you relax, travel, and really enjoy yourself. You don’t normally get such a relaxing time at work, and that’s the point of having vacation days.

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Benefits of Encouraging Paid Time Off

Vacation days are essential to the health of your workers, and the US has hopefully moved beyond the days of ubiquitous bad labor practices. Time off lets workers recharge and regenerate, so it’s vital that you encourage employees to take their vacation days. A couple of long vacations let them forget about work for a while and enjoy reconnecting with their friends, family, and significant others, leaving them feeling much better and ready to get back to work.

Guest Author: Nancy Anderson is the communities and article Editor for Beyond.com.  Nancy has 10 years’ experience in the online job search business with Beyond.  Nancy’s team produces dozens of articles every month for top internet sites.  Follow Nancy and the Beyond team on https://twitter.com/BeyondJobs.