Report: Nearly a quarter of American workers have no paid time off

The U.S. is the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time, a new report finds

By Katie McDonough

Published May 28, 2013 3:47PM (EDT)


According to a new review of international labor laws by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, nearly a quarter of all American workers lack paid vacation days or any paid holidays. The U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee workers paid time off, the report also notes.

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,” said John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report said in a statement. “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked.”

“It is striking that six years after we first looked at this topic absolutely nothing has changed. U.S. law and U.S. employer behavior still lags far behind the rest of the rich countries in the world,” Schmitt added.

The absence of paid time off hurts low-wage, part-time and small business employees most, according to the report:

The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the United States is particularly acute for low-wage workers, part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses. Employees of small businesses in the United States are less likely to have any paid vacation (69 percent) than those in medium and large establishments (86 percent). Only 49 percent of low-wage workers (the bottom fourth of workers) have paid vacation, compared to 90 percent of high-wage workers. Part-time workers in the United States are far less likely to have paid vacations (35 percent) than are full-time workers (91 percent).

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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