They say that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. It not only makes him dull, but also prevents him from taking a vacation to trek in Nepal or raft rivers in Africa, and this greatly concerns the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
In November, the ATTA endorsed proposed legislation to guarantee and protect vacation time for U.S. workers. Currently, the United States is the only industrial nation with no laws governing minimum paid leave, but the legislation backed by ATTA and others would amend the Fair Labor Standards and allow three weeks of paid annual vacation for anyone who has worked in a job for a year.
The ATTA said in a statement: "Without statutory protection in the U.S., vacations are vanishing … At a time of dwindling employee benefits, vacations are going the way of pensions and health care. One-third of American women don't have any paid-leave anymore; one quarter of men, according to an AFL-CIO survey."
The vacation legislation is being pushed by Work to Live, an organization in Santa Monica, Calif., and Take Back Your Time (www.timeday.org), an organization in Seattle, both of which encourage people to more effectively balance their work and leisure time.
"The Take Back Your Time campaign (to push the legislation) really caught fire with us because it was personally interesting to everyone on the team, but also because our industry is buoyed by people taking vacations and getting into the outdoors," ATTA President Shannon Stowell told SNEWS®. According to Stowell, government involvement in vacation standards would not only ensure time off for those who don't receive it yet, but also underscore the importance of the whole concept of people taking time off to refuel.
While some Americans have jobs that do not offer vacation time, others simply do not take the time they're provided. According to the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit organization in New York City, only 14 percent of Americans take two weeks or more for vacation. John de Graaf, national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, told SNEWS®, "This year, 40 percent of Americans weren't even going to take one week off. That's a stunning statistic."
Workaholics will always be workaholics, and the legislation is not a "silver bullet," Stowell said. But he noted that corporate America can do more to encourage workers to take vacations.
Companies need to require people to take vacation time, de Graaf said, but they also need to place more emphasis on the importance of vacation time, and do more planning to accommodate it, so workers will have more incentive to take time off. He said American companies could take cues from European companies, which offer four or five weeks of paid vacation. "The European companies do fine with it because they plan," he said.
While congress has not yet taken up the proposed legislation, de Graaf said the issue is starting to gain some traction. He's hopeful because it's attractive on many levels. "It's kind of a health bill because we know people who don't take vacations are more likely to have heart disease, hypertension, that type of thing," he said. "We see it as a family bill, because there are a lot of studies that show the importance of the family vacation in keeping families together. And we see it as a social justice bill, because people who don't get any vacation at all are at the bottom of the totem pole."