Taking Holidays in the USA
By avalon on Jun 11, 2007
I'll preface this by saying prior to 2006 I have been an employee in Australia where 4 weeks holiday leave per year is standard, with some places allowing it to acrue to be "some number of months worth." Sick leave is also generally available on top of that.
As a starting employee at Sun here in the USA, I'm entitled to a meagre 10 days of holiday each year for the first n years, after which it increases to 3 weeks and after more time again, it raises to 4 and thereafter it remains. As a company, Sun is struggling to find a way in which to post a profit and reducing the number of holidays for which they are liable for is one of the goals in which they can play accounting tricks to get there.
But with so few days of holiday available, there is absolutely no incentive to take them because they just don't amount to enough to take a holiday with and so when we're all told to "take a day or two off" to bring back the liability, there is absolutely no motivation for me to do so. Until relatively recently, Sun also liked to tell people in the USA when they would take two weeks of holiday: July 4 week and between Christmas and New Year. This is no longer the case and for that we owe Jonathan a big thank you!
How could things improve? Well clearly Sun wants to limit its liability, so having a cap on the amount of time off a person can take is quite desirable. Giving people n days of holiday to use up, at the start of some "year", rather than have them accrue, would change the nature of the accounting game as the liability would start high at the beginning of each year and reduce over time. However it would enable people to plan for a holiday over the boundary of that "year" that was actually longer than their total holiday allotment for an entire calendar year (good for employees!) Raising the number of days you get as holiday when you start at Sun from 2 weeks to 3 weeks would also be very welcome but if the company sees a high turnover of staff not staying around long then it supposedly doesn't lose as much - if I could make a casual observation about this, it is that it is the people who have been around Sun for longer that seem more inclined to leave, not those who have been around for a short period of time. But the general meme here is that while you have few, you're less inclined to use any until you have too many.
What should Sun do? Personally, I'd like to see everyone entitled to at least 4 weeks holiday per year, whether they're allowed to acrue or not, I don't mind so much. Is it in the best interest of Sun? Well, I'm not sure that any change could make things any worse (except to regress to the previous situation where they told us when we could take holidays.)
End note: It's not clear to me if this (so few days of holiday per year) is normal behaviour for companies in the USA - if it is, I'm shocked that American employees put up with it and don't demand more holiday time off from their employers.
p.s. For all the good that is said about Google, I'm curious about what their policy is, from an academic viewpoint, and if it is skewed to make the employee happy as are many of their other perks.