Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The chart above accompanied a story on The Daily Kos about the amount of annual leave US workers DON’T get: It’s really bad in the US.

The chart compares the amount of time off that governments require employers to give to workers, and in the US, that would be nothing. Japan, the next-worst developed country for time off, has no mandated public holidays, but ten days of annual leave.

The chart has a significant error for New Zealand: Too few public holidays. There are actually 9½ national public holidays, plus an additional day for each region (called “Anniversary Day”)*. However, one and a half days—Waitangi Day and Anzac Day—didn't used to be “Mondayised”, so for workers who were normally off on a weekend, they missed out on that paid time off. This changes next year when both holidays will be Mondayised.

So, New Zealand workers have a total of 30½ paid days off a year, made up of 20 days of annual leave and 10½ public holidays (I should note that everyone I’ve ever known has had all of Anzac Day off, not just a half day).

There have been three significant changes to this since I moved to New Zealand. First, the former Labour Government extended the annual leave requirement from 15 to 20 days. Then, the current National/Act Government changed the law to allow workers and employers to transfer the paid time off from a public holiday to another mutually-agreeable day. The other change allows workers to “sell” up to a week (five days) of their annual leave back to their employer. I’m dubious about both moves, particularly because of how they may impact low-skilled and low-wage workers. Still, maybe they’ll work.

Another problem with the chart is that just because US workers don’t have any paid days off mandated by federal law, that doesn't mean states can't impose requirements. Most American workers still get at least some paid leave. According to the Daily Kos article, the average US worker gets nine days off per year and six paid holidays. It’s not enough, and because it’s not enshrined in law, some workers get no paid time off at all.

I think it’s interesting that there’s such wide discrepancy in how workers are treated in developed countries. It’s also interesting that the economic performance of the countries on the chart varies widely, so clearly paid time off alone doesn’t seem to help or a hinder (not that this stops partisans from either end of the spectrum arguing otherwise).

In any case, time off is good.

*New Zealand’s public holidays are: New Year’s Day and Day After, Waitangi Day (February 6), Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates vary), Anzac Day morning (April 25 – that’s the half day), Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June), Labour Day (fourth Monday in October, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 25-26). An additional Provincial Anniversary Day holiday varies by region.

The title of this post is taken from a lyric in the Go-Go’s song, “Vacation”.


rogerogreen said...

damn Go-Go's song doesn't play in US - BOO!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

REALLY?! I'm so used to seeing that on videos I tray and watch, that I completely forget that sometimes media conglomerate block content within the USA, too (and use the same stupid excuses for doing so).