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water's edge, ocean beach
Not much time on the beach for most Americans.
A few U.S. employers are giving workers the opportunity to buy added vacation time, which is quite a nifty benefit in the American context:
A soon-to-be released survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 9 percent of employers allowed workers to cash out unused vacation time. Five percent let employees purchase additional vacation days through a payroll deduction. An additional 7 percent allowed employees to donate vacation time to a general pool that can be used by other workers.

The approach is even more popular with employers that have "paid time off" or PTO plans that combine vacation time, sick leave and personal days into one comprehensive plan. About 52 percent of employers reported offering such plans. Of those, 19 percent offered a cash-out option and 15 percent offered a donation program. One percent give their workers unlimited time off.

The "in the American context" part of my opening sentence was crucial here, though. Because while this is a rare and exciting thing in the U.S.—not least because it implies that these employers are okay with workers taking the full amount of their base vacation time, something that can't be taken for granted—it provides another reminder of just how bad leave policies are in the United States. By law, American employers don't have to give any time off (PDF):
Graph showing paid holidays and paid annual leave policies in various nations. U.S. has none, Japan has 10, Canada has 18, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have 20, etc.
To be sure, most American workers do get some kind of paid leave:
According to U.S. government survey data, the average worker in the U.S. private sector receives only about nine days of paid leave and about six paid public holidays per year, substantially less than the minimum legal standard set in
the rest of world's rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid-leave days and requires no paid public holidays).
But it's another area of serious inequality, with low-wage workers substantially less likely to get paid leave. And again, this is something where American workers are reliant on the good will and generosity of the boss, not on a policy that says we all deserve a minimum amount of time off. Pair that with how the U.S. lags the rest of the world on sick leave and parental leave and you have a pretty sad picture of how much control businesses have over the lives of American workers. But hey, maybe if you get lucky you can buy an extra week of vacation.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jun 10, 2013 at 07:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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