November 07, 2023

Surprising Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Using Their Vacation Time

Understanding Vacation Time

A recent study by the Pew Research Center concludes that 46 percent of American workers left vacation time on the table last year. Many European workers, particularly those in France, Scandinavia, and Germany, routinely take off six weeks of vacation time per year. Americans, on the other hand, leave an estimated 429 million vacation days on the table each year, according to Fortune.  If you are a business owner or manager, this may be surprising to you.

Workaholic Culture

Company culture can be one reason fewer workers take vacation time. Many employees may feel like they are seen as less committed because they use their vacation time. They may also feel their job is at risk if their coworkers show they can complete the work in their absence.  It is important to create a culture that can fill in for the employee while he or she is out, to avoid chaos.

Here’s what you can do

Supervisors can help employees manage their workload by advising on what things are a priority and the order they come in. Also, adjusting or moving deadlines as necessary alleviates much of the stress. Vacationing employees should provide a summary of their project before leaving. This offers necessary resources and tools to those taking over. This will help the company deal with issues that may arise while the employee is on vacation.

Misunderstood Policies

Another reason your employees may not be taking as much vacation time as they can is that time-off policies are confusing. Many companies provide vacation time, sick time, parental time and more. This may cause confusion, leading an employee to choose the wrong option or to not take time at all. Many companies have now switched to a “personal time” option. This option can be used for any reason, from being sick to needing a day off. It is a broader term which makes it easier for employees to understand and feel comfortable using.  Employers would just need to make sure their paid time off policy satisfies certain state laws, such as the Healthy Families Act. This law provides employees a certain amount of paid sick leave at specific rates.

Other options

Some companies choose to make vacation time unlimited. An open vacation policy may cut down on paperwork and accounting headaches. Research shows that around 39 percent of employees interviewed believed that productivity would increase if they were able to take time off when they wanted to. However, just because you offer unlimited vacation time does not mean that all employees will use it.

Keep in mind that this type of policy will make employees more accountable for their time off. The companies that typically offer this form of vacation policy hire a certain type of employee who is less likely to take vacation time due to work habits. While unlimited vacation time may frighten some employers, it is important to know that it is not for every company.


Another option is to offer a minimum vacation time policy. This means that employees are strongly encouraged or even required to take a minimum number of vacation days per year. This option allows the team to feel comfortable taking vacation time. Vacation time means more relaxed and happy employees, thus increasing their attitude towards the workplace. By offering a minimum time policy, you are ensuring that your team takes time to recharge.


Need help improving your paid time off policies or working with your managers to ensure employees feel comfortable enough to take time off? The team at Optimum Employer Solutions is here to help. Feel free to reach out to us if you think a little support could go a long way!

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