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Workers get less time off at holidays

On this Christmas Day, very few of us are required to show up for work. And because the holiday falls on a Monday, many are enjoying the third day of a three-day weekend.

Better yet, history will repeat itself next week, when the New Year starts on a Monday.

In addition to the gift of time, 43 percent of U.S. employers are giving workers three or more paid days off. As generous as that sounds, that's a decline from recent years when the major December holidays were celebrated on Mondays.

According to an annual study by the Bureau of National Affairs and Kronos Inc., 49 percent of companies ponied up three or more paid days off in 2000. That compares with 47 percent in 1995 and 60 percent in 1989.

The tradition of holiday pay remains strong for the actual days of observance, according to the review of company practices. The BNA/Kronos "Year-End Holiday Practices Survey" found the vast majority of employers still give two paid holidays at year's end: Christmas Day (98 percent) and New Year's Day (94 percent.)

Manufacturing companies are among the most generous in granting paid holiday leave. More than eight in 10 manufacturing firms (82 percent) will provide at least three paid days off during the Christmas/New Year's period. That far exceeds figures reported by the nonmanufacturing/services industries (33 percent), and nonbusiness entities, such as schools, hospitals, government offices and not-for-profit agencies (28 percent).

Kronos Senior Executive Stuart Itkin said the paid time off leads to "peace in the workplace and good will toward the boss."

"No one wants to work for Ebenezer Scrooge," he said. "The holidays are an important time for organizations to show their employees they are appreciated."

He suggested paid time off, parties and bonuses are ideal tokens of appreciation. "Even more, it's just good business. A happy employee is a more productive employee, and that is priceless," Itkin added.

Tuesday, as the work world attempts to wrap up the calendar year, a good number of workplaces will be operating with skeleton crews as employees "burn off" their final 2006 vacation days.

Last-minute vacation days and "December flu" -- a mysterious disease caused by a combination of holiday stress, errands and a sense of entitlement to previously unused sick days -- are annual productivity sappers that impact every type and size of business as the year draws to a close.

Despite 11th hour efforts to "use or lose" vacation days before 2007 arrives, millions of American workers will leave earned time off on the table. Expedia.com's annual "Vacation Deprivation Survey" estimates 574 million days off will go untaken this year -- an average of four days per worker.

> New Year's career resolutions

Along with your 2007 strategy to eat less, exercise more and be a better spouse, parent and friend, this is a good time to make a few career resolutions.

Right Management, a national outplacement firm, offers some career topics to contemplate in the New Year:

Your company's future: Perhaps you and your company are a great match. But if the company is flailing, future opportunities for career growth could be limited.

Your resume: If your skills aren't in demand or your professional knowledge isn't up to date, try doing some fine-tuning in the new year.

Your development: If your boss keeps challenging you with new responsibilities or often asks for your input, you may want to stay put and grow within the company. If not, look around.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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