Washington lawmakers have proposed requiring businesses to give their workers paid vacation time, and if the bill were to become law, it would make the state the first to do so.
The federal government doesn’t mandate paid vacation or holiday time for workers, unlike 20 other developed peers, including all European Union countries. And so far no states have taken it upon themselves to guarantee paid time off. While many American workers are offered paid vacation time through their employers, about a quarter don’t get that benefit, and their ranks have been growing over the past 20 years. By contrast, France guarantees its workers a whole month of paid time off, and five countries even require that employers give workers an extra bonus to cover their expenses when they take a vacation.
Washington’s bill would require employers with 25 or more workers to give vacation time to those who work 20 or more hours a week. An employee would start to accrue paid leave after she was at the job for six months, earning 40 hours in the first year, 60 hours in the second year, and 80 hours in the third. After five years, workers would get three weeks annually.
A bill was introduced in Congress to require certain employers to provide workers with at least a week of paid vacation, but it didn’t go anywhere. Washington’s bill still has to get a vote from the House Labor Committee, and even if it were to advance out of the chamber, it may have a tough road in the Senate, which is controlled by a mostly Republican coalition.
Washington also recently took a step toward making sure workers can take paid time off when they or their loved ones fall sick. As with paid vacation time, the U.S. doesn’t guarantee workers the ability to take a day off for illness without risking their pay or their jobs, despite the fact that most developed countries do. Just one state in the country ensures that its workers can access paid sick leave, although seven cities have passed similar bills. Still, 40 percent of workers can’t take a paid day off when they get sick.
The state also passed a paid family leave bill years ago, but it has been doomed by constant postponements due to budgetary constraints. The United States is even more lonely when it comes to family leave: it is one of just three countries of 178 that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, let alone paternity leave. Workers here are only guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid time off for a new child. Lawmakers introduced a national paid family leave bill in December. Until a bill is passed, however, workers in just three states can be sure of paid time off when a baby arrives.