Americans tend to work longer hours than in European countries and take very little time off — earning the country the nickname “no-vacation nation.” In fact, the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid vacation or holidays. By contrast, France requires employers to provide 30 days of vacation, and China guarantees workers five days paid leave annually, a perk which improves over the course of one’s career.
Due in part to the absence of paid leave legislation, about one quarter of the U.S. workforce receives no paid vacation or paid holiday leave whatsoever. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed seven large companies with significant presences in the U.S. where workers are granted as much vacation as desired.
The already relatively small amount of paid leave available is also underutilized by American workers. According to a recent analysis conducted by economic research organization Project Time Off, the average American allows around one-quarter of paid leave to expire at the end of the year. Further, according to another survey, even if offered unlimited vacation days, most American workers say they would not take any additional time off.
The long work week has become more common over the past several decades, although, the habit is more popular among particular classes of workers. According to the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, the percentage of workers usually working more than 50 hours per week increased from 14.7% in 1980 to 18.5% in 2001. The tendency grew more among highly educated, salaried, older men, and declined among the lowest earners.
The trend of working longer hours and taking short vacations is now changing once more as more workers are granted a greater degree of choice. For some of these companies the shift is part of a broad re-evaluation of corporate priorities. At GE (NYSE: GE), for example, management has recognized that that trusting employees rather than imposing rigid demands is empowering, leading to greater success.
Susan Peters, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at GE wrote in a letter to her employees explaining the change: “A 135+ year old company can only survive if it is constantly re-engineering not just its product portfolio, but its culture as well.” She added “The permissive approach … empowers employees to take the time they need when they need it, including time to relax and refresh.”
Most important perhaps is that employees granted this freedom tend to take around the same amount of vacation they would normally. And while the risk of workers taking advantage of the policy is still present, the benefit of unlimited vacation in most cases is available only to a portion of the company’s workforce. At General Electric, for example, only around 43% of the company’s salaried workforce is able to take advantage of the new program.
These are the companies offering unlimited vacation.