Vacation policies in the United States are an interesting issue. The U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t mandate paid vacation time. In comparison, the United Kingdom mandates 26 paid vacation days for employees. This is a significant issue because study after study shows that employees who utilize paid time off tend to be more productive.
Our recent unscientific salary survey showed that about 50% of the respondents were allowed between 10 and 19 vacation days per year. That isn’t a bad place to start, but perhaps we can look at some ways in which we can do better. The fact of the matter is that well-rested employees do a better job for the nonprofits they serve. Ensuring that employees have and take time off can help our productivity, our bottom line, and our ability to have a real impact.
So what if we increased vacation time? What would that mean? A healthier nonprofit sector? Well, maybe not. The same salary survey showed that 50% of the respondents said they are able to roll over vacation time or cash it out for money. Well, doing either of these things can lead to employees stockpiling vacation time rather than using it, which means that even if we did increase the number of days off we grant to our employees, they still wouldn’t necessarily take those important breaks. Additionally, the stockpiling of vacation time can impose financial liabilities on an organization.
So... what do we do? We want vacation time to be a benefit that is seen as such. We want our employees refreshed and refocused throughout the year. But putting limits on time and not allowing it to be rolled over or cashed out might seem like we are thinking more about the organization than the employee.
- Increase the number of vacation days you give to your employees. Nonprofits are already hamstrung enough in providing competitive compensation. This is an area we should be willing to give a little bit.
- Do not allow significant rollover and explain to staff that they are expected to use their vacation time. Tell them that you do not want them to lose time and they need to help you manage their schedules so they get the breaks they need throughout the year. This will require some oversight by supervisors, but again, our goal isn’t to punish but to reinvigorate our staff.
- Allow staff to donate vacation time to one another. If some staff are getting enough time off to live a healthy life, give them the opportunity to donate a few days’ time to others. This will empower them, make them feel good about each other, and help assert a feeling of flexibility that’s good for morale.
The bottom line is that we can manage benefits like vacation time in a way that accomplishes what it should (healthier employees = increased productivity) while not imposing significant liabilities on the organization. This is one area where nonprofits can, and should, take the lead.
Read more about the 2018 NWPA Nonprofit Salary survey by accessing reports here.
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