Skip to main content

Back in 1910, President William Howard Taft proposed that American workers should have three months of paid vacation every year to give them a chance to rest so they could continue their work the following year. Well, obviously that proposal didn’t come to fruition – nice as it might have been for employees.  

Paid time off however had been catching on in countries outside the United States. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I in 1919, called for nations to regulate the working time and rest periods. However, in the United States employers vehemently fought against interference from the government in their business affairs.  

Over 120 years later and all proposed national laws mandating American businesses to give employees paid leave have been unsuccessful. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave, or federal or other holidays. Instead, these benefits are matters of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative). 

Chart: Paid Vacation and Paid Holidays, OECD Nations, in Working Days

Paid Vacation and Paid Holidays, OECD Nations, in Working Days Chart

Less than 5 days


5 to 9 days


10 to 14 days


15 to 19 days


20 to 24 days


More than 24 days


In our earlier table, we can see that, except for Canada, all countries received at least 24 days of paid leave when you add vacation and holiday leave – only 2% of workers in the United States receive this amount after one year of service. 

About one in four workers in the United States don’t get any paid vacation time or holidays at all. This particularly affects lower-income workers, part-time employees, and small business workers who can least afford to be without paid vacation.

total unused vacation days

days completely forfeited

$ 65.5 BILLION
in lost benefits


We know that the pandemic had a huge effect on how, when, and where we work and it is looking like taking a vacation is finally becoming a higher priority for American workers who are sometimes referred to as workaholics. According to Allianz Partners USA’s 14th Annual Vacation Confidence Index, now more than ever, Americans are claiming their vacation days and making time to travel a priority. The survey revealed that 57% of Americans took a vacation in 2022. Up from 44% in 2021. 2022 marks the highest percentage of Americans who reported travelling since 2009 when the survey was first conducted. 

Taking a vacation is essential to an employee’s health and well-being. Time off from work is integral to good mental and physical health, sustained productivity, and high performance. While it is unlikely any of us will ever get the three months off paid leave that President William Howard Taft proposed, I think we will see more American workers demanding more time off whether that is from negotiating contracts with employers or lobbying government representatives. Interesting times lie ahead. 

Request a free Demo!

Take the first step towards a complete workforce management solution. Talk to us today!

About Tomislav Rucevic

Tomislav Rucevic, an SEO Specialist at Softworks, stands out as more than just a marketer. He’s a fervent writer and influential thinker passionate about Workforce Management, HR, and work-life dynamics. Holding an MBA in Marketing, Tomislav excels in creating content that delves into the complexities of the modern workplace.

His dedication to writing on these topics is highlighted in his MBA thesis, which examined the link between Employee Motivation and Quality Improvement. At Softworks, he expertly merges his SEO skills with his writing prowess, contributing to the company’s digital success and advancing discussions on enhancing work environments and achieving work-life balance.

>> More blog posts by Tomislav Rucevic