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Do Companies Punish Workers Who Take Vacations? 948

Hugh Pickens writes "Chad Brooks reports that a steady stream of research over the past year reveals that Americans aren't taking vacations and it's because they are afraid to take time off from work for fear of appearing less than dedicated to their employer with one survey showing that 70 percent of employees said they weren't using all their earned vacation days in 2011. 'You have this kind of fear of not wanting to be seen as a slacker,' says John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Time, an organization focused on challenging the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine facing society. De Graaf adds that while some companies are good about encouraging employees to use earned time off, there also are some that aren't worried about the potential repercussions that may come from that nose-to-the-grindstone approach. 'They think, "If I burn someone out, I can always find someone else,"' says de Graaf. 'They think [employees] are expendable.' Even when they do take vacation, research shows many employees aren't leaving their work behind. In one study, 66 percent of surveyed employees said they would check and respond to email during their time off, and 29 percent expect to attend meetings virtually while on vacation. De Graaf is not optimistic anything will ever get done to free employees of their fear of taking time off. 'This is the only wealthy country in the world that does not guarantee any paid vacation time,' says de Graaf. 'Every other country understands that this makes people healthier and creates a better workforce.'"
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Do Companies Punish Workers Who Take Vacations?

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  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:11PM (#38679350) Journal

    Everyone was excited about how the economy is screaming and moving forward with 3x more postings than last year! ... the jobs were all insurance selling door to door, hotel maids, cocktail waitressing, etc. This was a professional job fair too and only one of the 40 employers had anything over 30k a year!

    In that environment would you want to risk your job? Hell no! If I were making 50k a year I would feel fucking rich and be greatful to work 12 hours a day. In that environment where these poor saps would do anything to take your job to feed your kids you have to suck it up. This isn't 1999 anymore.

    I remember 12 years ago when I was young, that many people called in sick once a month or took a vacation Friday etc. These folks got laid off in 2001 as soon as the shit hit hte fan. Until the economy improves and there are more jobs than applicants this will continue. In addition with Europe at risk of going into a full great depression if the banking system collapses I would say there is considerable risk right now. Even if the US economy is adding more low wage jobs now than before this will sharply reverse if citigroup, chase, and BOA all go out of business once every bank in Europe also collapses too. It is very serious until governments learn to live within their means.

  • by Brannon ( 221550 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:14PM (#38679384)

    Different cultures have different attitudes about work/life balance. I get the shakes if I'm away from work for more than a couple days.

  • good to break (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:24PM (#38679496)

    It's unhealthy to work non-stop and it can't be good for your work. I always come back feeling recharged. Occasionally a colleague has had significant holiday remaining at the year-end and our bosses certainly weren't applauding, they told them to take it ASAP.

    Employees not taking holidays is also a known fraud risk. Employees committing fraud commonly do not take holidays because they need to keep covering their tracks. The story can be similar for incompetent employees. If they're not at work for a week complaints are more likely to make it to someone who might start asking questions.

    In high-risk jobs it's not unusual for week-long holiday breaks to be absolutely mandatory (one of the findings from the Bearings Bank collapse).

  • by shurikt ( 734896 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:26PM (#38679528)
    Hi. I'm an employer. I have 85 employees. I *want* them to take their time off. We converted from Sick/Vacation to "Paid time off" to give healthy employees even more vacation days than they would otherwise get. At the end of the year, some of that PTO expires, and for several of my employees -- some of it always does. So it might not be a big-bad-corporation-problem, but more of a employee-work-ethic-problem. Should I *force* my over-dedicated employees to go home at 5 or to take vacations without bringing the iPhone?
  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) <(saintium) (at) (> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:28PM (#38679552)

    It is the new U.S.A: a government by the people who have money for maintaining ownership of the people who dont have money. Figure out a way to become the highest campain donor or support a candidate that works cheaper. [/snark]

  • by geek ( 5680 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#38679606)

    I used my vacation time this year. First time in 13 years I've actually taken a full vacation. Two weeks later I was let go. Luckily I have a new job already but this is a very real problem.

    As for the reason I was let go? It was trumped up BS. I was a model employee, multiple promotions, commendations etc. Never had I been under any disciplinary action.

  • Vacation. Right.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by confused one ( 671304 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#38679608)
    I've been with the company and (its successors in interest -- yes it's been bought three times) long enough that I supposedly get 5 weeks of vacation per year. However, there is a clear expectation that I will check email while on vacation (or holiday). I also have been called in for insignificant issues while I was on vacation -- told I had to come back in. If I go out of town, I'm expected to take a laptop with me so I can remote in to handle issues that come up. Vacation... I wish.
  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#38679614)

    I don't think its the corporations this time, its the MBA "executives" and the general attitude that the populace falls into 2 broad categories: "them and their mates", and "the little people".

    In essence, it means they think they do so much, are so under-rewarded, exceptionally talented, and deserve everything the world has for them, and also that the little people (ie you n me) are just replaceable peasants they can grind into the ground if they haven't already started to replace us with outsourced 'resources'.

    The whole western world needs to shrink the difference in equity between the tiers of the workforce. Someone getting a million dollar bonus didn't do anything to deserve that more than the baker who made his sandwiches did that day. Until we start to solve that, all the abuses and failed economics will continue to thrive.

  • Not Just Vacation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoomHamster ( 1918204 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:35PM (#38679630)
    In the U.S. you are also punished for taking time off for being sick. I actually had a co-worker told that she had to keep her accrued vacation time above 20 hours (vacation time and sick time are the same pool) because the company felt that she was taking too much time off even though she was only taking what she had accrued. So if she was hovering around 20 hours accrued and got the Flu, tough...better come to work and infect your co-workers. It's stupid. Corporate policy is based around what makes for the best quarterly report. Never mind that those decisions will cost the company in the long run as long as the numbers have been maximized for the quarterly report. The hubris of the corporate overlords is bolstered by the support of the state which says that we are "at will" employees that can be let go at any time without prior notice or reason. This is the result of runaway capitalism. We are returning to the robber barons of the turn of the last century.
  • I did that once (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:39PM (#38679662)

    There are those who are afraid, and there are those who think their job is just short term. I've found that by giving a 90 day notice of an upcoming vacation tends to make the more nervous bosses less so. I follow up every 30 days stating in my email, that on such and such a date I'll be taking some time off.

    I even reminded the Management that they'd need to assign someone to cover for me early enough for me to bring my stand-in up to speed. No action.

    As we got down to the last few weeks before I was scheduled to leave, my immediate manager started dropping hints that this wasn't a good time to be out of the office. I replied that that was why it was important to have someone cover for me.

    About a week before I'm scheduled for time off, I get called into a meeting with every suit above me right up to the senior VP. They go on at great length about how important the work I'm doing is, how critical etc. to the Company, and what a poor time it will be for me to be gone. I make understanding noises. Finally they ask me if I'm going to reschedule my time off. I tell them that we have travel booked, hotels, all that.

    They then dial up the "we really, really, really need you here" stuff. So I fold: "Well, if that's how it is we'll just have to tell the wedding guests they're on their own and call off the wedding." Silence.

    I'm reliably informed that the partying at the reception went on nearly till dawn. We weren't there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:41PM (#38679682)

    They exchanged it for a program where you "ask your manager for time off". Fine if you are a confident employee with a good manager and a good relationship with them. Not fine if you are timid or have a bad manager and bad relationship with them. Fine for the company because they win either way.

  • Re:the answer is yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:52PM (#38679788)

    A company I was working for was bought by Vivendi, a French company. They had an interesting way of making sure that local management didn't try to discourage the workers from taking their time off. The team budget for salaries was minus vacation time. When an employee took time off Vivendi 'paid' us instead of the company. If you didn't take time off the team went over budget and the management felt the heat. This made management encourage people to use their full vacation time. It worked pretty well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:00PM (#38679870)

    A very important lesson I have learned from consulting: unless you are dead certain it is otherwise - attendance is KING - productivity is very close to irrelevant. You have to be SEEN to be doing something about anything and THAT'S IT.

    And yes, the blame falls squarely on upstairs management.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:04PM (#38679924)

    If companies were prevented from overworking their employees, unemployment would immediately drop steeply.

    That is the original reason for time and a half. To generate higher employment.

    If you required straight time pay for every hour worked by exempt employees over 50 hours, it would cut unemployment immediately.

    Likewise, if you required that exempt employees must supervise at least 3 other employees, you would end the abuse to the "exempt" status which has grown over the last few decades. There was a time when exempt employees were all mostly management.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:06PM (#38679948)
    Funny, something like 1/3 of the current debt was accumulated *solely* due to due to the Bush tax cuts. Of that roughly a quarter was due to the uber rich. That's right around a trillion dollars.

    Call it 1/15th of the debt. That's hardly 'not a dent'. And that's just ONE friggin bill that we let expire and poof a trillion dollars is now not added to the deficit. Over and over and over.

    While we can't cut/tax our way out of this mess, you have to have people with money paying their fair share too. GE paying ZERO in taxes.

    Here's a radical suggestion. Increase the taxes on corporations and they will start reducing their tax burden by 'investing' in their equipment, factories and other deductible expenses. Right now, these corporations are simply sitting on the money not doing anything with it. Call their bluff and tax it so they start spending it to offset the taxes.
  • by datavirtue ( 1104259 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:06PM (#38679954)

    There is an old saying: "Work sucks." I like my job most of the time, but it is nothing like working for myself. Shedding politics, politics, and....peoples' shitty attitudes (a result of politics) is priceless. I feel sorry for the people who are stuck in jobs. I enjoy the ability to at least move around and enjoy the new job until I learn about the political dynamic. Then it is time to go again. When you are new it is great, but after you settle in it seemsto go down hill quick. Three years is about the most time bearable in a job. I did have one job once that was not at all stressful--working for the Red Cross. They didn't pay very much, but the environment was very laid back. Non-profits don't contain all the ladder climbers of the corporate world, and none of the bureaucrats found in government work--a win win except for the low pay.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:14PM (#38680046) Homepage

    There have been countless stories on the subject and they all point to the same thing -- insane work hours primarily to present an image of someone who works hard. The cost to their health and their humanity all be damned. The government officially encourages a return to sane work habits and schedules, but the government workers aren't setting a great example. An ex-girlfriend I know works for the Japanese government, works insane hours despite her current bad health and says her boss works until 3am and comes in to work at 10am.

    Why is there a decline in birth rates? Why are there more old people than young people? What is the long term cost and prognosis of this? Yeah... just look to the Japanese to see what we're in for if this keeps going on.

  • by __Paul__ ( 1570 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:32PM (#38680262) Homepage

    The vast, vast majority of work isn't Important.

    Oh god, this this this this this.

    Its no wonder the world economy is in the state it's in, with all the pointless busy-work being done that is allegedly necessary to the functioning of business.

  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) * <dw@pl[ ]net ['ay.' in gap]> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:01PM (#38680626) Homepage

    Yes, I was being hyperbolic to make a point and get attention.... :D

    We did away with formal vacation time, sick time, etc.

    You have unlimited amounts of it.

    ROWE is a system where an employeer treats their employees like competent adults who know how to manage their time.

    Does everyone know how to do that? No. And those people fail to get good results under ROWE and get fired.

    Is measuring results hard? It's as easy or as hard as you want to make it. You can do 360 Reviews and all that BS if you want. Or you can keep it more informal, like we do.

    ROWE increases productivity and employee's become amazingly loyal.

    The biggest difficulty with it is for the boss(es) who feel like they are somehow losing control. Who fear that the day after they start ROWE no one will come into the office anymore. Know what really happens? People come into the office, they get work done, and they feel far, far less stress.

    It is amazing. Its simple. It works. And of all the BS systems that have come and gone, this is the one that just flat out does what it says.

    We'd never consider going back. Ever.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:01PM (#38680634)
    I hear that all the time, but it's the most common complaint I actually hear (the "I wish I had more time with my family" is never said). But it's always worded "I wish I left more money behind for my family."

    So yes, in my experience, if people could go back and do it all over again, they would spend more time/effort on work and less on their family, backwards as that sounds. When you are on your death bed, if you wonder if you left enough behind for your family, you either needed to work more or buy more insurance.
  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:07PM (#38680680) Homepage Journal

        I enjoy my job. I work 18 hours a day, because if I don't, the others will screw up any tasks I let them do. I spend 16 hours a day fixing their mistakes so the customers don't find them. I took a vacation. 3 days in the hospital with high blood pressure and a TIA. Within 5 minutes of walking out of the hospital, my phone was ringing off the hook. Everything was falling apart, no one could figure out how to fix it. Simple instructions were answered with blank stares (well, the telephonic equivalent). Within 10 minutes of getting out of the hospital, I was on my laptop trying to fix the problem, and fielding back to back phone calls.

        If I take 2 weeks off, that means I finally got someone else who could manage my job for 2 weeks. Then I am redundant. Even if it takes 2 people with less than half my skill, at 30% of my pay each, most companies would jump at the opportunity, and brag about the "savings". Well, savings, until things fall apart for them.

        Modern businesses have absolutely no dedication to their employees. When there's money to be saved, they will be very happy to throw you to the curb, and hire someone who can talk shit for half your pay. I was out of any real work for 3 years because of exactly that. I'm not willing to take another 3 year vacation, wondering where I'll sleep or how I'll eat every day until I find another job.

        That's the sad truth of modern business.

  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:17PM (#38680774) Homepage Journal

        Making porn is easy. Putting it up on your own web site is easy. Making DVD's is easy.

        Driving traffic to your web site is hard. It's you, versus tens of thousands (a conservative estimate) of other "porn stars".

        So you make DVDs. Get a distribution deal. Find out how to get distribution web sites, and physical stores, to carry your DVD. What makes your DVD special? Is it any different than the thousands of DVDs they already have in stock?

        And for those who have followed me on here, they already know that I was in the industry for years. For every "porn star" that I met who actually got distributed, I probably met thousands of others who never even recovered the cost of the tape/SD card that they recorded it on.

        If you're serious, you'll spend thousands on good equipment, and pay some experienced people to work it. If you're lucky, you'll make hundreds. If you're that one in tens of thousands, you may recover your costs. ... and ... you'd be amazed at the "talent" that's out there. I've seen so many aspiring porn stars who I'd pay money to put their clothes back on.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:44PM (#38681032)

    >Yes, I was being hyperbolic to make a point and get attention.... :D

    And furthermore, if you like ROWE so much, why don't you go fill in the ROWE article on Wikipedia with some actual facts or state some actual facts here instead of shouting complete utter nonsense?

    1. How does it keep managers from being abusive?
    2. How does "no paid time off" not translate into no time off?
    3. How is management expected to come up with metrics to measure productivity when every way of measuring productivity I've seen come down the pike consist of 1 part actual measurement and 99 parts BS?
    4. If informal metrics (like you say you use) are used, how are YOY comparisons made? How does that combat favoritism and backstabbing?
    5. Like other people have asked, how does this not mean unrealistic expectations over time? You can only pile on geometric rates of improvement for so long.

    But I suspect that you will answer none of these.


  • Re:the answer is yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:57PM (#38682224)

    Wow. I must be lucky in my last two jobs. At both places (both multinationals), we were encouraged to not only take our allotted time, but we were told you're on vacation you will not be called or expected to work. Most of us bring at least our phones "just in case", but I can honestly say I've never been called when taking scheduled time off.

    This is how it works in Australia, too much accrued annual leave (20 days standard) is considered a liability for companies. Most would rather you took it in small lots rather then saving up 3 months of leave and then taking off on a holiday. Also if you leave or are terminated all remaining annual leave must be paid out. To a small company this could send them into the red for that month.

    This is why it's standard on contracts in Oz to have a clause that does not permit more then 8 weeks (40 days or 2 years of accrual) of annual leave to be accrued. Here the company has the option of paying out the leave (if the employee does not wish to take leave).

  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:57PM (#38682226)

    It's not uncommon for people to show up 30-45 minutes early and a lot of times we forget to leave until the cleaning crew comes in to remind us.

    Anyone in your office have a spouse? Kids? Close friends, even? (And if they do have kids my question is "why?")

  • Yes, they do. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:07AM (#38682314)
    Absolutely, companies punish employees who dare to take the vacation time they have earned.

    I was once told by my manager that I could take vacation when, and only when, the project I was working on was finished. It was a two-year project that was dreamed up by my non-technical manager (the CIO, believe it or not) without my input (or the technical input from any other technology people in the company) and was doomed to failure because it would never work. My manager was looking for a scapegoat to assign blame to, as he finally realized his pet project was the fiasco I told him it would be.

    Meanwhile, I am getting emails from Human Resources telling me that I have to take my vacation time or lose it.

    It is a no win situation for technical people.

    Netflix has the right solution on this topic......

  • Re:Not enough (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kaemi ( 2268146 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @12:22AM (#38682402)
    4 Weeks is standard in Australia, 6 If you are in certain government jobs. Other government departments offer the ability to take a small weekly pay cut and give you 6weeks off, while other departments let you take the 4weeks off as 8weeks at half pay. When I was offered a transfer to the US branch of a company I was previously working for it was going to be part of my contract that I was not allowed to discuss my holidays.
  • by RubberDogBone ( 851604 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:06AM (#38682654)

    My company makes it clear they don't like granting vacation. New hires get a few days off, if they survive the probation period -and the company is fast to fire and drag in fresh meat.

    A fair number of us, however, were employees acquired through the purchase of another company. Even though we are grandfathered in, we lose because we've been with the acquisition for a decade or more in many cases, and the company maxes out vacations for people at this level.

    We get a max of about 28 days. If you take it, you are liable to find they've hired somebody to replace you while you were gone, or that the position was eliminated. Or find that projects got assigned while you are away and deliberately set to violate the due date before you got back. It is very common for other teams to find out someone is out and dump projects on them hours or minutes before the SLA timer runs out, so the SLA failure violation goes to the unaware recipient and not the person who actually dragged feet. They come in later and pull the projects back but the "failure" stays with the person who had the project at the time it went past due. This is a shitty system and is sanctioned by management. Survival of the fittest is how it was described to me. They have 3000 resumes on file. If somebody gets fired, they can hire several immigrant workers (they only hire such) to replace that person and even if two thirds of the new hires flop, they still get out ahead and probably for less money.

    In light of these games, few dare take the time off. On the other hand, if you don't take it, the days to not rollover to the following year so you lose them. This is because you cannot have more than the 28 base days in a year and extras would be more than that, so you lose them automatically.

    There is no option to bank vacation days, sell them to other employees, cash them out, or anything. You just lose them.

    In the old days, before we were bought out, the relationship between management and workers was completely different. The company urged everyone to take time, pestered them to do so, protected their backs while they were out, and if something went wrong and you had to come in or work on a holiday, you'd get paid double time for the day and granted a flex day to use later. I miss that, but heck I would settle for an employer who just didn't begrudge the hell out of the workers and what they promise to give to the workers.

    And every day I pass a bridge with dozens of homeless sleeping underneath and am reminded how lucky I am to just have a job at all. Shrug.

  • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:12AM (#38683632)

    Yep. I work for an American company (big evil Oracle, if you must know), in Australia. Contract is a 38 hour week, and of course the statutory 20 days (4 weeks) leave. 37.5 to 40 hour weeks are absolutely entrenched in Australia and you won't find many contracts for more than this out there (except in some particular industries like mining and retail which have on-and-off working periods or other oddities).

    Being an dual US and Australian citizen and having worked in both countries, I can safely say working life in Australia is considerably better. The pay is generally higher (or at least equivalent, once you compare the cost of living in the two countries), and vacation and sick leave entitlements are better. On top of all that, Australia has long service leave [], which is an additional 2-3 months paid time off earned after you've been with one employer for a long time (ranges from 7 to 15 years, depending on which State you're in).

    And the GDP/capita figure are misleading. The typical Aussie is way better off than the average American (in terms of disposable income and quality of life). It's just that America has most of the world's super-rich, which drags them up a bit when you look at averages. Australia has less super-rich, but also fewer poor. Most are in the "comfortably middle class" range (not to say life is good for everyone, but as a proportion of the population, far fewer are struggling in AU than the US these days).

  • by metacell ( 523607 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @08:03AM (#38684326)

    You're welcome to try your luck in Sweden. As long as you have a job here, you can get a work visa indefinitely, and after five to ten yours, you become naturalised (meaning, you can choose to change your citizenship).

    Just be aware that there are ups and downs to every country. I've never been to the USA, but I suspect the political correctness is much worse here. You're expected to fit in, be polite and avoid open conflicts, and that includes the workplace.

    Swedish leadership culture may take some time to get used to; often, the boss and the staff sits around and talks until they find a solution everyone is reasonably happy with. For an outsider, it may seem like nothing has been decided at all, because the group slowly converges to the decision during the discussion.

  • by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Friday January 13, 2012 @08:43AM (#38684502) Homepage
    Great post. I look at my dad who worked at the same company for 38 years. It wasn't his first job but it was his last, he was "forced" to retire a few years back. He will tell anyone that he loved what he did and would work there for free if he could, he even went back as a consultant for a few small projects after he retired. (the company is now closed)

    I started the engineering career game in 97, and from all the changes in the world, the economy, and unsatisfying jobs or corporate BS I just haven't found that right job or company, or maybe it's just life. I've yet found a company where I could even imagine myself there for 38 years. In a way I wish I could.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian