Why Employees Don’t Use Vacation Days

Across the global there is an increasing trend in the number of untaken vacation days. In 2016 Project: Time Off conducted comprehensive research examining the vacation habits of American employees. The study found that more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused. Over a twelve-month period that resulted in a whopping 658 million unused vacation days.

In support of these findings Expedia.com, one of the world’s largest full service online travel sites, also found that US employees were among the worst in the world for taking their valuable vacation days. The Expedia Vacation Deprivation report identified that 9% of Americans said they worried that taking their full allotment of days off “will be perceived negatively” by their employer.

Two years previous Glassdoor conducted a similar study which found that UK employees were also taking a mere 77% of their allocated vacation days. Employees the world over say they both want and put high value on having more vacation time. In fact, almost a quarter of American employees reported that the prospect of additional vacation days would motivate them to change jobs.

Increasingly we are also made aware of the value vacations have for both the company and the individual, notably the importance in avoiding employee burnout. So why are people not using the vacation days they have?

Studies have identified multiple factors influencing whether employees do or do not take their allocated leave, these include;

  1. Returning to a mountain of work
  2. Feeling that no one else can do their job
  3. Can’t afford to go away
  4. Feeling they will be “on the clock” when they are on holidays
  5. Worried they will appear like a slacker to colleague and managers
  6. Their manager doesn’t take holidays
  7. Unable to get the same dates as their partner
  8. Leave is not talked about as a part of work-life or spoken of as a negative

It is a common belief that employees who take leave will be less likely to be promoted or receive a pay rise. In contrast to this perception employees who take 10 or fewer days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more.

While some of these factors may be more difficult for employer organisations to influence, every business should encourage and normalise vacation time. Taking time to recharge and unwind is essential for the individual and the organisation. Communicate internally the benefits of taking time off and of course ensure your senior management are leading by example.


Author – Sara Glynn, Marketing Executive, Wrkit