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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 bonch ( 38532 ) * on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:05PM (#38679288)

    It's very important to me to be able to fuck off from my job. I skip out early, I take days off, I ignore phone calls after hours. As long as I get the job done during the day, I don't care what people think. I am a slacker, and I enjoy it. Life's too short to fret over the grindstone. Don't take life too seriously!

    • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:13PM (#38679364) Homepage
      My personal view is that when I'm on my death bed, I don't think I'll be wondering, "I wish I had more time, to work."
      • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:40PM (#38679680)
        Which is borne out by the experiences of this palliative care nurse; I can't say for certain that "I should have spent more time at the office", "I wish I'd been a better employee" or "I wanted to be company president" didn't make the list but none are in the top 5.
      • 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 NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:28PM (#38679566)

      What's more, even corporations who think that employee happiness doesn't matter because they can just hire someone else are just hurting themselves. Conservatively, it costs about 100k in upfront cost to hire someone. That can quickly balloon to one million if we're talking about skilled workers with specialized in-house knowledge. Heck, even a burger flipper or a maid costs money to hire - all that HR paperwork for terminating people and hiring people doesn't happen on its own.

      All I can see when people are arguing that it's ok for companies to do this is people who don't know how to run efficient operations. Quite frankly, if the company has that attitude, please do fire me, because the company is one disaster or efficient competitor away from oblivion..

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:03PM (#38679904) Homepage Journal

      You clearly don't work at any company which is trying to get anywhere. Lucky you.

      I have worked for people who don't only expect the worker to work extra hours for no additional compensation, but expect it. It's how management can pat itself on the back for meeting goals (their goals, not yours.)

      While mental health is affected by having time off to rest and rejuvenate, it can also give you some break from the stresses of getting things done to consider better ways to do it. Not all employers value this, many who are frequently mentioned in /. articles are near slave drivers - which is OK with some young employees as this gets them their first experience and paycheck - while they don't recognize the value of their own time or are eager to sacrifice now. The problem is, where do you go when you leave, if you've only been one more ant?

      I have a few friends who have left high pressure work to spend more time with families - they are very happy and don't miss being threatened over their bread and butter with termination for not working 16 hour days.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @09:15PM (#38680746) Homepage

      AMEN! I abandoned the corporations for small business. we are encouraged to take our vacation, and at the end of the year we are allowed to take sick days as vacation. I burned 4 sick days for the day before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas as did everyone else in the company.

      I also am allowed to shift my work day to 7:30-4:30 so that I have a zero traffic commute, etc...

      I strongly suggest to corperate slaves to start looking to the smaller companies where the owners are honest men and treat people with respect.

      Life is too short to waste it working for an asshole.

  • the answer is yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:10PM (#38679348)

    having worked for a company that did punish employees who took vacations I can say the answer to this is yes..

    • by alcourt ( 198386 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:21PM (#38679466)

      Similar situation here, though maybe not so obvious.

      Officially, we are ordered to take all scheduled vacation days, required to schedule them early in the year.

      In reality, we are expected to attend meetings, check email, and do work while on vacation, despite official policy prohibiting such. Anyone who doesn't work at least five to ten hours of overtime per week is "not being a team player" and "not understanding the significance of the priority of the project." Supervising managers are expected to frequently work twelve hour days or more, and a vacation day means that they might only work eight hours that day, attending meetings, responding to email, etc.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:22PM (#38679480)

        Find a new job. Conspire with your coworkers to make sure as many people as possible leave at once. If you make the lesson painful enough they will learn it.

        • by flosofl ( 626809 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:34PM (#38679620) Homepage
          Exactly. Any company or department or group that actually needs any one person to actually get stuff done is one that will eventually crater and crater hard. It shows they lack focus and have no defined processes or perhaps even lack documentation and definitions of roles and responsibilities. Good companies have some level of redundancy built in so the absence of any one person does not bring things to a screeching halt.
    • Re:the answer is yes (Score:4, Informative)

      by flosofl ( 626809 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:30PM (#38679582) Homepage
      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.

      Of course it helps if your group or department has a well defined processes and documentation. We have redundancy and some overlap in responsibility built in so that the absence of one person will not bring the show to a screeching halt. This is even at the management level. Team leads will usually act as proxy for the vacationing manager and are empowered to make decisions in his or her absence (or course they have to justify those decisions when the manager returns...)

      So I guess at a poorly run company or department, yes you can get punished. But a well run company that has a clear strategy and well defined processes and workflows, not so much.
      • 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.

      • 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 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 tbf ( 462972 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:18PM (#38679428) Homepage

      > Until the economy improves and there are more jobs than applicants this will continue

      Ever considered U.S. economy is in deep shit because of its workers being overworked, exhausted, because they learned to keep low profile.
      ever considered insufficient loyalty from employers results in insufficient loyalty from employees?

      • by ryanov ( 193048 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:26PM (#38679534)

        And because people are working two jobs worth, meaning other people are out of work and there's less demand for everything as a result.

      • 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 syousef ( 465911 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:37PM (#38679646) Journal

      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.

      Congratulations, you're well on the way to becoming a citizen of the 3rd world. Someone else will be greatful to take 40k a year to work 14 hours a day. Someone else will beat them to the job as 30k to live on site and do 16hr shifts 7 days a week would be a huge step up for them. And someone else will be fine taking 20k to do that work.

      This is why guaranteed working conditions are necessary. Without minimums competition doesn't drive wealth, it drives a race to the bottom. Booms are the exception, not the rule.

      • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:02PM (#38679894)
        What we need now is three $40k jobs, not two $60k jobs. Wages aren't a problem. Employment is.
  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:12PM (#38679358)
    Oh FFS - can we please stop diluting the important words in our language? It kind of skews people's perspective of actual famine. #getoffmylawn
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:13PM (#38679366)

    'Every other country understands that this makes people healthier and creates a better workforce.'"

    No, every other country isn't ruled by supersized multinational corporations who can co-opt every government process, override any legal review, and sidestep any political controversy, if they pay enough. America's government can be properly classified now as "Dollar." That, right there, is what is causing the problem -- it's not that the government doesn't understand, it's that the government doesn't care.

    • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) <saintium@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> 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 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.

  • 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.

  • Not enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:16PM (#38679414)

    It's not that I feel like I can't take vacation, but with only 2 weeks/year, I feel like I need to save it for something special. If I had 4 weeks (or more), I'd be more likely to take more little trips here and there or even use vacation as a personal day to stay home, but as it is, I try to save up my vacation for a big trip.

    I'd rather that my company moved to a paid time off pool for both sick and vacation days since I so rarely use sick days.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:17PM (#38679422) Homepage Journal
    Remember the office sitcom '9 to 5' ? yes, 9.00 in the morning to 05.00 in the evening. it depicted an office and the funny situations that happened in between the workers in the office. a privately owned office. it was a popular sitcom, due to depicting a lot of people's daily lives.

    the catch here, is in the name of the sitcom - '9 to 5'. you see, back 20-25 years ago, the situation in america was so that you worked in private corporations in between those hours in general. actually not only in america - it was so in many other parts of the world (maybe except japan).

    but look at it now - 7 in the evening is the normal time when work stops in almost entire private sector. in the last 25 years, somewhere in between, the hour we got out of work has gone from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and this did not happen only in america - almost any part of the world. wages ? they did not increase in proportion to inflation.

    so we are working more, (25% more on average at least), but getting paid less. and everything is ship shape, as far as the current economic system and corporations are concerned.

    would you expect paid vacations to be something that corporations would smile at, in such an environment ?
    • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:42PM (#38679700)

      hmm. isn't Corporate America is much more like this [] nowadays:

      Bob Slydell: You see, what we're actually trying to do here is, we're trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work... so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?
      Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
      Bob Slydell: Great.
      Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can't see me, heh heh - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.
      Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?
      Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:26PM (#38679530)

    I worked for the Australian branch of a multinational, when we got put under the management of the US branches.
    Now this was done because we were putting our releases on time, on budget, while the US branches were constantly missing deadlines and getting hit by penalty payments. So we were basically moved to make their departments figures look better.
    The US managers kept coming out, looking at what we were doing and how hard we were working, and immediately deciding that if they could take our 4 weeks annual leave off us, we'd be even more productive! They could not get their heads around the idea that we were able to put in that much effort because we knew that when crunch finished we'd be able to take a couple of weeks to rest and recover before the next sprint. If you don't get time off, then you've got to pace yourself.
    We never got it through their heads, and eventually we were written off as culturally lazy, and sold off. Even though we were the ones hitting deadlines, and they were always running late.

  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) * <> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @07:32PM (#38679598) Homepage

    At my company, we did away with vacations. You get no vacation time. At. All.

    But that was just for starters, we also did away with sick time. None.

    Personal days? Don't make me laugh.

    I am proud to say that was my initiative.

    One might think this could have some impact on moral. But when asked during on camera interviews, how much would people have to pay you to leave? Some said at least double, and most said they couldn't even think of a number.

    If you want to know how that's possible, then Google ROWE. Results Only Work Environment. And you'll understand why.

    I give talks about our transition to ROWE, and it's been nothing but phenomenal.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:21PM (#38680142) Homepage

    California law treats vacation as accrued wages. [] If you don't take your vacation days, the employer must pay you for them at the end of employment.

    Still, many employers prefer to pay than let their employees take time off.

  • by terber ( 599156 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:36PM (#38680346)

    Most comments seem to origin in the US. Some contributors may be interested in the situation in Europe. Here the data for the three biggest European economies.


    Paid Leave

    European Union requires all its member states to guarantee by law minimally four weeks of paid leave for all employees.

    Average paid holiday days per year for full-time employees in 2008:

    - Germany 30 days, plus 10.5 days public holidays

    - France 25 days, plus 11 days public holidays

    - United Kingdom 24.7 days, plus 8 days public holidays


    Working hours

    Actual average weekly work hours for full-time employees in Europe

    - United Kingdom 40,9 hours (2008)

    - Germany 38.8 hours (2010)

    - France 38,4 hours (2008)


    And no, my experience in four European countries (UK, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic) suggests that workers are not punished in any way if they take their vacations.

  • 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......

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!