No Vacation Americans….British and Europeans Ask If Americans Lose Their Health Insurance if Taking Unpaid Leave

British and Europeans are often shocked to find out how little vacation time Americans have. While Europeans have up to six weeks each year, Americans have generally one week, and a small percentage of people have two weeks. A very, very small percentage of executives have three weeks.

Americans can travel many places without passports: Puerto Rico, Guam, Bermuda, Mexico, Canada, and many different varied places and climates in the U.S.--Alaska, Hawaii, Northwest, Southwest, Gulf Coast, East Coast, Northeast, etc.

The American Resident blog has a fascinating post on why so few Americans have passports, and does the best job I have seen of explaining why so few Amercians actually need passports.  In the discussion following this post, a British poster asks if Americans risk losing their health care if they take an unpaid absence from a job in order to travel.  The answer is NO. However, what they DO risk is LOSING THE JOB…..and if they lose their job, yes, they do lose their group health insurance that goes with it (if they were lucky enough to have a job with that benefit these days).

When taking an unpaid absence longer than the standard vacation offered by that employer, the business usually would have to hire a temporary worker to fill in, or have  other resentful workers  fill in the slack.

I once took an unpaid leave to travel, but it was a special circumstance. I was hired for a job, but before the interview my husband and I had already paid for a foreign trip that was coming a couple of months after starting the job. I mentioned immediately when they offered me the job that we had already paid for this trip, and asked if they were willing to work with me to give me those ten or so days without pay.  They agreed. But very seldom would a business be willing to offer more that the one or two weeks of standard vacation offered in that business (there is no vacation time mandated by law in America; it is purely at the employer’s discretion).

CNN reports, “Some U.S. companies don’t like employees taking off more than one week at a time. Others expect them to be on call or check their e-mail even when they’re lounging on the beach or taking a hike in the mountains…..(Europeans)  kind of have this idea that Americans work like robots and if that’s the way they want to be, that’s up to them. But they don’t want to be like that.”

–Lynne Diligent

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6 Responses to “No Vacation Americans….British and Europeans Ask If Americans Lose Their Health Insurance if Taking Unpaid Leave”

  1. Paul Garrigan Says:

    Hi Lynne, it is so easy for me to form opinions about things based on half-truths so thanks for this post. I just assumed that most people in the US had no real interest in the outside world. I never realized that there are some good reasons for their reticence to travel. When I worked for the NHS I managed about 16 weeks off each year; I’ve no idea how people manage with just one week of paid leave.


  2. Lynne Diligent Says:

    I was once traveling in Kenya (1990) and had dinner with a Japanese stockbroker in his 20’s. He told me that in Japan, they only had three DAYS of vacation a year (I suppose you could look at an American one-week vacation as being the same as five days). It took him more than 24-hours to fly to Kenya and more than 24 hours to fly black, so he could only stay in Nairobi one day. He said he felt it was worth it anyway. Being American, and hearing his story, probably gave me just the same feeling as Europeans must have when they hear Americans’ stories.

    I have an American friend who is a traveling occupational therapist (a special type of nurse). She tells me that she gets to stay in different parts of the country for three months at a time, and then she takes a month off. So she takes three or more months of vacation a year, and manages to get paid well. Her vacation times are without pay, but it sounds like she can afford them. The down side is being away from her husband for each three-month work period.


  3. Judy Says:

    I really do wonder why this persists in North America. Canada is a bit better, in that the minimum vacation by law is 2 weeks and I see many companies now offer 3, however that is still far behind Europe. It certainly doesn’t make us any better off. Germany’s economy seems to perform very well and yet they typically get 4-6 weeks of vacation and leave work on time.


  4. Happy Elf Mom Says:

    Just had hernia surgery… husband is applying for family leave act time. but just really he will be using his vacation time at an unusual/unplanned time. Allegedly it keeps you from losing your job. In this time of layoffs, we just don’t know. Still, I couldn’t NOT have the surgery; one’s intestines are meant to be inside the abdominal wall and not outside it, you see…

    Our trip to Dallas for the USCF chess nationals is off now. Nevermind trying to get overseas. 😦


  5. cybermd Says:

    It is amazing how different the vacations schedules are, in different parts of the world. However, in America, among professionals (lawyers, doctors and teachers), more time off (~4 weeks) is usually the norm.


  6. Michelloui Says:

    I am always amazed every time I think about the American vacation time as compared to the rest of the world–except I didn’t realise Japan had only three days!!

    Thanks for the mention, really pleased you enjoyed my post–and thanks for your comments.


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