I think it’s an absolute sin* the way American employers are with holiday (vacation) time! They should be ashamed!
I just asked M if he’d asked about holiday allocation during his interviews — can’t believe I’d forgotten to ask before, but it’s all been so busy and stressy around here that it completely slipped my mind. He said that every one was exactly the same: no holiday for the first year, then a week for years 2 and 3, rising to two weeks after the third year, and then three weeks after five years (ten years for one company).
Now, here in the UK we get four weeks as standard (and often five weeks if a company is generous), right from the get-go. Personally, I think four or five weeks is too much: there is always a rush at the end of the year for people to use up their remaining holiday, and I think that fact indicates that the balance is skewed. I think three weeks strikes a nice compromise — it’s enough for the employee, but not crippling to the employer.
That’s what it’s all about — striking a balance between the employer’s needs and the employee’s needs. Now, I understand that business is about increasing profit and keeping costs down, but NO holiday in the first year? Employers must recognise that their employees are people as well as workers. They don’t have to dole out the full holiday entitlement in the first year, but there is something bordering on the unethical and inhumane to expect an employee to slave away for an entire year without a single day off. If that somehow acceptable, I think employers need to have a hard look in the mirror and ask their reflection how they can square this policy with themselves.
For us, it means M will not be able to see his children for at least a year (unless his employer agrees to unpaid leave, which will be difficult to afford). And that we will not be able to have a single family holiday until year 4 because, when he eventually earns that one week in years 2 and 3, it will be used up going to see his kids in the UK. Although I knew that would be the case, it’s still hard to swallow.
I told M that I’d love to see him go self-employed at some point, and eventually take on his own employees and offer them three weeks from the start. He laughed, “They’d be flocking in!” But then said he’d rather offer 2 weeks for the first year, then rising to three weeks.
Fine. Either way, it is an improvement. It treats employees like human beings, worthy of basic respect, and would act as a very strong retention tool. I am amazed that American employers don’t see that themselves already. It is to their shame — and I am certain, to their longterm economic detriment — that they don’t.
*When I say “sin” I mean it in the true sense of the word. I think it is a sin to treat one’s employees that way, in the same way I think it is a sin to not give to the poor or to walk past an injured man in the street. I do honestly believe that to treat others so unkindly and inhumanely is truly sinful. And shameful.