Teachable Instant: No Vacation Nation?

June 19, 2015

In this brief activity, students take a quick quiz about vacation policies and practices in the U.S. and other countries, analyze a chart comparing vacation policies, and discuss what they think about U.S. vacation policies.  

Begin by asking students to share one thing they would like to do while on vacation, either this summer or someday in the future.


A pre-summer quiz

Have students take this quick quiz on vacation policies and habits here and around the world.

1.  How many days of paid vacation are American employers required to provide to all full-time employees?

a. At least 3
b. At least 5
c. At least 10
d. None

Answer:  D, none.

2.  How many days of paid vacation are British employers required to provide?

a. At least 5
b. At least 11
c. At least 28
d. None

Answer:  C, at least 28.

3.  Since U.S. employers are not required to provide vacation, about one-quarter of American workers get no paid vacation at all. But most workers do get some. How many days of vacation do U.S. workers get, on average?

a.   5
b. 10
c. 15

Answer: B, 10.

4.  True or false:  Some European employers pay workers extra during vacation.

Answer: True.  Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, and Sweden all require employers to pay a premium to workers during vacation. In Austria, workers get an entire "13th month" of pay during their month-long vacation.


5.  True or false:  Many American workers don’t take all their vacation time.

Answer: True.  In one survey, 41 percent of workers said they would not take some of their paid vacation days because they feel they’re too busy at work to take the time off.  And yet research consistently shows that taking time off from work actually increases workers’ productivity overall.

6.  What percentage of Americans say they work while they are on vacation?

a. 12 percent
b. 48 percent
c. 77 percent

Answer:  C, 77 percent.  Responding to email was the most common task.

What does this chart mean?

Break students into small groups, and give each group a copy of the chart below. 



Ask each group to discuss:

  • What does this chart tell you about how much paid vacation and holidays Americans get, compared to other industrialized nations? 
  • Does anything in the chart surprise you?  Why?

Reconvene the group and discuss:

  • Why do you think the U.S. is one of the few industrialized countries that doesn't require paid vacation time?
  • There are bills pending in Congress that would require employers to provide at least 10 days of paid vacation for workers.  Do you support this legislation? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think so many Americans don't take the vacation days they do have - or work while they are on vacation?
  • Do you think this is a problem?  If so, what can we do about it?