Burnout Nation: A Startling Look at How America’s Leave Policies Compare to the Rest of the World

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When it comes to paid time off, America lags behind many other countries. According to a recent analysis conducted by Resume-Now, America is the only advanced economy nation that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days, holidays or sick leave, and does not offer a federal paid family medical leave program. And while the exact paid time off available to workers varies from company to company, in general, Americans get less than their counterparts abroad.

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Resume-Now surveyed over 950 Americans about their paid and unpaid time off, and their findings were pretty startling.

Many Americans Don’t Have Access To Paid Parental Leave

The U.S. is the only economically developed country without any federally mandated paid maternity, paternity or parental leave. Many other developed countries offer between 12 and 58 weeks of maternity leave and in Europe as a whole, the average number of weeks of maternity leave is 26.

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In the U.S., most women take five to six weeks of maternity leave, and many return to work early when maternity leave is available to them, the survey found. And nearly one-third ended their leave early out of necessity — 29% said they returned to work early because they did not have enough vacation or sick days and needed the money.

The U.S. does not guarantee pay during maternity leave, while some countries mandate that mothers receive 100% pay during their entire leave, including Algeria, Denmark, Germany, India, Mexico, Niger, Poland and Ukraine.

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Millions Have To Choose Between Going To Work Sick and Not Getting Paid

According to Resume-Now, more than 32 million Americans working in the private sector have no access to paid sick days. While the U.S. does not mandate paid sick days, there are 179 countries that do.

Those American workers who do have access to paid sick days may not get enough — the majority (26%) get two to five sick days per year.

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Americans Also Lag in Paid Vacation Time

The average number of vacation days for those working in the private sector for at least a year is 10 days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the United States does not federally mandate any PTO for employees. How does that stack up to the number of paid vacation days required by law in other countries?

  • Algeria mandates 30 vacation days
  • Bulgaria mandates 20 vacation days
  • Finland mandates 25 vacation days
  • France mandates 25 vacation days
  • Germany mandates 20 vacation days
  • Greece mandates 20 vacation days
  • The U.K. mandates 20 vacation days
  • Ukraine mandates 24 vacation days

Thanks to the generous PTO policies in many countries, it’s not uncommon for employees to take off a two-week stretch of vacation — which is a rarity here in the U.S. The Resume-Now survey found that 26% of Americans have never taken off two weeks straight.

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The Implications of a Lack of Paid Leave

While it’s common practice in the U.S. to take short parental leaves, work through sickness and skimp on vacation time, this lack of time off could be hurting us in the long run.

“Lack of time off can lead to job burnout,” said Kyle Elliott, a career coach and founder of Caffeinated Kyle. “With longer working hours and excessive workloads, burnout is rampant in corporate America. Less time off in the U.S. exacerbates the mental health challenges that many workers already face.”

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Burnout can affect not only the individual worker, but also the company they work for and the economy at large.

“Worker mental health is critical to company productivity, economic vitality and a healthy society,” Elliott said.

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Last updated: July 22, 2021

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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