Our Vacation Awareness Campaign, supported by a generous donation from Diamond Resorts International®, aims to help both employers and workers understand the need for more vacation time in our society, both in terms of time offered by employers and that actually used by workers. Americans receive and take less vacation time than people in any other rich country, and most poor countries as well. The reasons for this are often complex: companies may not provide adequate vacation leave, or workers may hesitate to take it for a variety of reasons, sometimes valid but often imagined. A move to greater vacation time will require attitude changes among employers and employees alike.
Such changes are imperative. Workers who don't regularly vacation are far more likely to suffer from heart disease, depression and higher overall mortality rates than those who do. A study conducted by the Nielsen organization for Diamond Resorts International® shows that Americans are nearly twice as likely to say they are happy and satisfied at work if they vacation regularly. Many studies have found that vacations also improve worker productivity and creativity. Vacations can also help improve family bonds and educational outcomes for children, and psychologists have found that experiences – like vacations – provide longer-lasting satisfaction than consumer goods.
To improve the quantity and quality of vacation time, and to encourage employers and employees to understand its value, we are working with Human Resource professionals and others in building awareness of the value of vacation time. We will be promoting Vacation Commitment Day on March 17, 2015 with a presentation at the Future of Work Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as activities in other communities and workplaces. We will also convene the first Vacation Commitment Summit in New York City on June 15, 2015, to bring together business people, academics, media professionals and others to consider strategies for increasing vacation time and quality. Finally, we will be developing a certification system to award a Vacation Seal of Excellence to companies that demonstrate a clear commitment to providing adequate vacation time for their employees and encouraging employees to use all their vacation days.
We advocate for broader cultural change regarding greater time affluence and less time stress. Our primary goal is to catalyze changes in workplace and family life that can reduce stress and burnout and improve health and happiness. Americans work longer hours each year than people in almost any other rich country. We established Take Back Your Time Day on October 24, nine weeks before the end of the year, to recognize that Americans work from about four to nine more weeks in annual hours than several of our European competitors. In the words of cardiologist Sara Speck, long working hours and workplace stress constitute "the new tobacco" in terms of their impact on health. Despite spending more per capita on medical care than any other country, the U.S. ranks at the bottom among rich countries for life expectancy.
We believe much of this can be changed with greater cultural awareness. Employees and employers can understand that sufficient rest and leisure result in more creative, productive and satisfied employees, greater worker retention and lower health costs. We encourage voluntary employer provision of benefits as vacation time, holidays, paid leave for family and medical reasons, and flexible scheduling, and we salute the enlightened employers who offer such benefits.
Another concern is the stress of over-scheduling, particularly for children. Children today spend less than half as much unstructured time outdoors as their parents did, pulling parents into a rat race of chauffeuring from activity to activity. Leisure time spent in unhurried pursuits and time is even more necessary today in our culture of information-overload and more demanding work schedules. We seek a rethinking of the concept of work-life balance in our society making more time for leisure and putting the brakes on the relentless acceleration of work and life.
We're committed to the establishment of policy changes that can help achieve a shift to a less harried, more time-affluent life. While we have global support and connections as an organization, we are primarily focused on making changes in the United States and Canada. We have developed some broad policy ideas – all taken for granted in many other countries – that speak to the dire need for time poverty relief. They are not intended as political bills. Rather, we encourage legislators to take these ideas and design specific legislation around them. These are ideas for action, a comprehensive program to win more free time for Americans. Our Time to Care policy agenda includes:
Guaranteeing paid leave for all parents for the birth or adoption of a child. Today, only 40% of Americans are able to take advantage of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Canada offers parents the opportunity to share one year of paid family leave at 55 percent of salary.
Guaranteeing at least one week of paid sick leave for all workers. Many Americans work while sick, lowering productivity and endangering others. Only Connecticut and selected U.S. cities now guarantee this.
Guaranteeing paid annual vacation leave for all workers. Studies show that 28% of all female employees and 37% of women earning less than $40,000 a year receive no paid vacation at all.
Limiting the amount of compulsory overtime work that an employer can impose, our goal being to give employees the right to accept or refuse overtime work. Europe limits the required work week to 48 hours, and several countries prohibit compulsory overtime work.
Making Election Day a holiday, understanding that Americans need time for civic and political participation.
Making it easier for Americans to choose part-time work by promoting hourly wage parity and protection of promotions and pro-rated benefits for part-time workers.
Let's bring the United States up to the standards already in place in all other industrial countries, thereby creating more jobs and improving our health, relationships, community life and environment.