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It's Official: Lower Earners Lose Out on Paid Vacation Time

By Maurie Backman - May 9, 2018 at 7:47AM

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Data shows that the less money you make, the less time off you're bound to be entitled to.

Higher earners often get a host of workplace benefits that lower earners aren't privy to, and vacation time is just one of them. In 2017, nearly half of employees within the country's top 25% of earners received at least 10 days of paid vacation. By contrast, only about one-tenth of the country's bottom 25% of earners received that much paid time off.

On a surface level, vacation time is something that's clearly nice to have, but many people don't realize the importance of getting an actual break from the grind. Given the demands of the workforce today, millions of employees risk falling victim to burnout, a condition defined by the Mayo Clinic as a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about one's competence and the value of one's work. Workers who aren't granted much or any time off, therefore, increase their risk of burnout and having their productivity suffer as a result.

Vacation request form with an approved stamp


If your company is stingy with vacation time, you should know you have every right to rally your fellow employees and ask for more days off. Here are some of the ways you might broach that topic.

1. Make the case for your sanity

An overwhelming 70% of U.S. employees today are unhappy with their work-life balance. And it makes sense. We're all expected to stay late as needed, check our email after hours, and come in on weekends when emergencies arise. And the less time away we get, the more our sanity is likely to suffer. Therefore, if you're looking at just a few days off each year, it pays to appeal to your employer and explain that if you and your fellow colleagues don't get a real break at some point or another, you're going to have a hard time keeping up with the demands of your respective roles.

2. Do some research

Maybe you work for a company whose competitors all give their employees 10 days of paid time off each year to your five, or so say your friends who work there. It never hurts to do a little digging and see how other companies approach their time off policies. If you come up with a long enough list of examples, your employer might start to reconsider its stance.

3. Show that you can take time off responsibly

A big reason companies don't like to give a lot of paid time off is that they can't afford a slowdown in employee output. So, if you work with your colleagues to set up a system where you're covering one another to allow for more vacation time, your employer might agree to be a bit more generous. You might, for example, proactively create an on-call schedule of sorts where each member of your team takes a turn serving as a backup for someone else who might be out sick or away. This way, your company knows that if one person takes vacation, there will be someone else immediately designated to jump in, and the company won't have to scramble to get that coverage in place.

Just because you're a lower earner doesn't mean you should be forced to go without paid vacation time. In fact, the less you earn, the more of a financial hit you'll take if you wind up needing an extra day off and your company docks your pay. While you can't snap your fingers and get your employer to see the error of its ways, you can fight for the paid time off you deserve. If anything, it might get your company to rethink the way it treats its workers and implement changes down the line.

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