Americans are taking more paid vacation days

Americans took an average of 16.8 paid days off in 2016 to go on vacations.
Americans took an average of 16.8 paid days off in 2016 to go on vacations.PHOTO: CTC TRAVEL

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Americans are notoriously bad at taking what little paid time off they get from their jobs. But there is one way to get people to take more paid vacation: Give them more of it.

As the economy recovers, companies are offering employees better benefits of all sorts, including more vacation days. Last year, full-time workers who get paid time off from their jobs earned, on average, 22.6 paid vacation days, up 0.7 days from the year before, according to an annual survey by Project: Time Off, a travel industry-funded initiative to get more people to take vacation.

They're using more days, too, the survey found. Last year, they took an average of 16.8 days off, up more than half a day from the year before and almost a full day from 2013. "Half a day is a big deal," said Katie Denis, the senior director at Project: Time Off.

The survey of 7,331 workers didn't include the quarter of non-government American workers, including part-time ones, who get no paid vacation at all. (The lowest-paid workers tend to get the least paid time off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

As workers feel more comfortable in their jobs, they feel more comfortable taking days off, said Evren Esen, the director of survey programs at the Society of Human Resource Management. "During the recession and post-recession, there may have been more of a sense of, 'I need to be there, I need to make sure my job is secure,' and not go off and take vacations multiple times a year," she said.

Those attitudes haven't vanished completely. Over half of the workers surveyed are leaving some vacation time on the table, Project: Time Off found. Even as they take more vacation days, the gap between the number of days they're offered and the number of days they actually take isn't narrowing.

Asked what was keeping them from taking more time off, a quarter of respondents said they don't take vacation for fear they'll be seen as less dedicated to their work, or as replaceable; about a fifth said they fear they'll lose out on a raise or promotion if they take all their vacation. "More than anything else, it's this fear that I could be seen as replaceable," said Desin. "We have these post-recession fears that still linger."