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The United States Department of Labor does not require private employers to offer vacation time to employees. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, vacation time is a benefit decided by the employer and not subject to federal regulation. However, both the McNamara O'Hara Service Contract Act and the Davis-Bacon Act may require vacation pay for covered government contracts.
As with any employee benefit, it is wise to consult with your organization's attorney to determine whether your vacation policy is fair and equitable for all employees.
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Full-Time Vacation Statistics
According to the 2008 National Compensation Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78 percent of all workers in private companies received paid vacation in some form. For full-time workers, the average vacation time for years of service for private, non-union employees was as follows:
- One year of service: 9 days of paid vacation
- Five years of service: 14 days of paid vacation
- 10 years of service: 17 days of paid vacation
- 20 years of service: 19 days of paid vacation
The survery indicated that employees who worked for organizations with less than 100 employees initially received less vacation days at both the one and five year mark, then received vacation more quickly after year five. Employees working with companies with more than 100 employees received two more days vacation at year one than the employees with smaller organizations. At year five, employees with larger organizations received 15 days of vacation, and 18 days at year 10.
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Part-Time Vacation Averages
Part-time vacation is less common than full-time vacation, and the average vacation time for years of service reflects the difference in hours worked as compared to full-time employees. The average vacation awarded to part-time employees was:
- One year of service: 5 days of paid vacation
- Five years of service: 11 days of paid vacation
- 10 years of service: 14 days of paid vacation
- 20 years of service: 15 days of paid vacation
Part-time employees in large organizations receive more vacation time than those in small organizations.
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When deciding how much vacation time you should award your employees, take several factors into account. Determine how often you will increase the number of vacation days you offer for years of service, and whether to offer benefits to part-time employees based on an average of hours worked per year, or on a straight per-year basis.
Call other human resources professionals in your area to ask for their standard practices. Offering too little vacation time may be a deterrent in the recruitment process, particularly if your organization frequently competes with other companies in your region for qualified candidates. When setting your policy for the average vacation time for years of service, communicate the policy clearly both in new-hire packets and in your organization's benefits handbook. Clear communication may help avoid misunderstandings concerning the vacation policy.
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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: February 2009: Program Perspectives
United States Department of Labor: Leave Benefits
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