Friday is the Fourth of July, a national holiday to celebrate the nation’s independence from Britain when the post office, banks, and the stock market all close. Many workers get the day off with pay.
But that doesn’t mean all Americans get a break. In fact, many likely had to show up to work today. That’s because unlike 13 other developed countries, we don’t guarantee that workers get any paid holidays. Those other countries offer an average of about 9 holidays, ranging from 13 in Austria and Portugal to two in Norway and one in France.
This is part of why many workers had to report to their jobs on Thanksgiving last year. Although it’s a national holiday, no one is guaranteed the ability to take it off, and more than a dozen retail stores decided to start Black Friday early by opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. That meant millions of workers had to be apart from their families and at work on the holiday.
If you took the week before the Fourth off or even extended the long weekend with a few paid vacation days, you are also lucky. Nearly a quarter of American workers don’t get any paid vacation time, and that figure has actually grown over the past two decades. And low-wage workers are even less likely to get the benefit, as just under half of them receive it, compared to 90 percent of high-wage workers. In fact, the United States is the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t require companies to offer paid vacation days.
In 20 other developed countries, however, that’s the norm. Norway and France may require few paid holidays, but employers have to offer at least 25 and 30 days, respectively, of paid vacation. All European Union countries have to require at least 20 days a year. Even our neighbors to the north require nine paid holidays and ten paid vacation days.
There is one small sign of potential change: Washington state lawmakers have proposed requiring businesses to give employees paid vacation time. Time off would accrue as a worker stayed at her job, eventually hitting three weeks after five years. If the bill were to become law, it would be the very first state to do so. A bill was introduced in Congress to require certain employers to provide at least a week of vacation time, but it didn’t go anywhere.