Monday, July 08, 2013

American workers flunk vacation

Washington Post opinion writer Robert J. Samuelson, a little bit notorious for proposing “repeal” of the Internet last week  (that’s not as benign as repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”), has another stinging op-ed Monday, July 8, 2013, p A17, “America flunks vacation”, link (website url) here

In Europe, governments require paid vacations, and regulate them.  In Norway, workers over 60 get an extra week, but in Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, younger workers get more.  Plus, there is usually paid family leave and maternity/paternity leave (which might make sense because of falling birth rates).   Oh. In France it’s called “les vacances”. 

In the US, it’s up to employers, and sometimes unions.  The federal government is more generous than most private companies, but many offer an extra week of vacation with more years of service.  As I recall, I had four weeks during my last two years at ING-ReliaStar (2000-2001). 

But Samuelson points out that employers can’t offer much paid vacation without an effect on wages and the number of jobs.  The Europeans are finding that out the hard way, as do heavily unionized jobs in the US.
And it gets even harder for people to separate themselves from the office, given the Internet and connectivity.  One limiting factor that becoming increasingly important, though, is security.  It wouldn’t be cool (or legal) any more to let associates see customer data from their own remote connections. 

But in my own time, especially in the 1990s, I simply kept some printed listings (by then, usually laser on normal paper, rather than the clumsy greenbar)  “under the pillow” as proof that I had done my job and that things wouldn’t break when I was gone.  It wasn’t good to depend on such a crutch.  But the price of a misstep could be so great.  

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