54 percent of American workers don’t use all their vacation days

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Ninety-one percent of full-time U.S. workers receive paid vacation from their employers, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. That’s nice. What’s not nice is that, according to two new reports, the average worker only takes half of their vacation days earned a year – which means that they’re forfeiting hundreds of dollars annually back to their employer.

Is it because we work so hard? Not really. The main reason is…fear. That’s what Scott Dobroski, a career trends analyst at Glassdoor who authored one of the reports said in this Market Watch report. He called fear the “underscoring theme” of the study. Dealing with heavy workloads, more than one-third of the 2,200 workers surveyed said they’re afraid of falling behind and 30 percent of them believe that no one else can do their job when they’re out.

Basically, these workers are afraid of being replaced. “We have almost no job security in the U.S., no legal requirement for severance pay and, with very few exceptions, can be laid off without notice,” said John Schmitt, research director for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning think tank, told Market Watch. Although the president supports up to six weeks of paid leave for new parents, there is still no national requirement and the United States remains far behind its European counterparts, where mandated paid time off can be as many as 30 days a year.

Unfortunately, we employers aren’t helping matters very much. Another study found that 80 percent of employees would actually take more time if they got the right encouragement and support from their boss. Guess that’s not happening.

If it all sounds pretty grim it’s because it is pretty grim. But here’s something you can share with your employees: just remind them how lucky they are not to be working in China, where 72 percent of workers there admit to not having taken a paid vacation in the past three years.

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