Need a break? Here’s how to get more vacation time
August 14, 2008 ·
When family rights advocate John De Graff started doing some historical research, he came across a shocking discovery — that medieval European peasants had more vacation time than modern American office workers.
De Graff, the national coordinator of Take Back Your Time Day, based his figures on the number of religious holidays peasants took off to eat, drink, and spend time with their families, and found it was about two weeks extra. He even printed up T-shirts saying: “Medieval Peasants Had More Vacation Than You.”
As the economy falters and fewer employers give raises, it might be a good time for some American workers to negotiate more time off instead.
But that’s not to say it will be easy. According to Rebecca Ray, Research Assistant at the Center for Economic Policy Research and co-author of “No-Vacation Nation,” there is no federal or state protection to stop employers from firing employees just for asking for vacation time.
“The employer might not explain the reason for the firing, so its difficult to get accurate statistics on how often it happens,” says Ray, who would like to see federal protection for employees.
Ray advises “talks about talks” in advance, to be sure the employer understands that any discussions on vacation should not be viewed negatively.
Employers should also know that a rested employee is a productive employee. Joe Robinson, founder of the Work to Live Movement, tells employers who hire him to improve employee motivation that research shows productivity goes up after a vacation.
“In the U.S., we have moved into a knowledge economy and the main tool is your brain. The best possible aid to that tool is a vacation,” Robinson said.
There are a number of steps that workers can take to push for more time off without being asked to clear out their desk:
Under vacation pools, employees trade time off. One employee may take no vacation one year but double his time the next year by trading with a workmate.
Other vacation pools allow employees to lump their vacation, holiday and personal time in one, so that they are given a set amount of days off.
Edgar S. Cahn, the founder of TimeBanks USA, which promotes better quality of life, says that office pooling is an idea way for people to enjoy their allotted time off.
“It’s a very creative idea,” he said. “The company doesn’t have to give the employees any extra time off and it allows office workers much more flexibility.”
Suggesting it to a boss at an office meeting could give employees much more time off.