55 Million U.S. Workers Have No Vacation, Sick Time

Need a vacation? You may want to move to another country.

The world’s most economically developed countries all have public policies ensuring that employees get paid time off from their employers for sick leave and vacation—except the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

A new Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that 40 percent of American workers—55 million people—don’t get paid for sick time or vacation.

There’s several differences between the 60 percent with paid time off and the 40 percent without. According to the BLS report, full time workers in the U.S. are three times as likely to get paid time off as part time workers, and college graduates were more than twice as likely as high school dropouts.

There is a disparity in pay scale as well. Almost 83 percent of those making more than $1231 per month had paid time off.

For those without sick leave, the consequences of an illness can be compounded by the lack of security. As Bloomberg reports:

Celina Alvarez, a 48-year-old native of Michoacan, Mexico, said she discovered the danger of going without sick leave last February, when she developed a rapid heartbeat. [….] Alvarez, who worked as a food preparer at a Mexican restaurant in Corona, Queens, was sent by her doctor to a hospital for two weeks of monitoring, she said in a telephone interview through an interpreter. When she returned, Alvarez was told she had lost her job. She’s currently unemployed.

John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, noted that national policies mandating paid time off for employees don’t have to hamper that country’s economy. Schmitt points to German—one of the strongest economies in Europe—as a country no worse for its employee-friendly time off laws. In fact, a lack of security could hurt the U.S. economy.


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