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For US workers, a vacation deprivation

About one-third of American workers won't use all of their vacation time this year. Among the reasons: They're too busy, and they can't afford to travel.

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Ah, summer, glorious summer. It's the season to loosen your collar, lighten your steps, pack your bags, and head off on vacation.

Or is it? Ask Stefanie Stadler, an account supervisor for a communications firm in McLean, Va., if she uses all her vacation every year and she replies with a quick No. "I do lose hours," she says.

But don't think Ms. Stadler's boss, Lisa Throckmorton, is playing Simon Legree and blocking the door. As Ms. Throckmorton explains, "Every week when I meet with her, I remind her of her paid-time-off balance."

It's a reminder Throckmorton, a senior vice president, could use herself. "I have 100 hours of vacation already this year," she says.

As both women forgo time they could be spending at the beach or in a European cafe, they have plenty of company. This year an estimated 51 million Americans – more than one-third of the workforce – will not use all their vacation days, according to a survey by In what the company calls "vacation deprivation," each worker will pass up an average of three days off.

Other workers face a different challenge. Almost 1 in 4 Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. In a new report, "No-Vacation Nation," the group notes that the US remains the only advanced country that does not guarantee workers a paid vacation. By law, Europeans have the right to at least 20 days of paid time off per year. Some countries guarantee 25 or 30 days.

Americans offer many reasons for not taking vacations. "For some workers, it is a show of loyalty to be at work all the time," says Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif. "It shows your commitment and what a wonderful employee you are."


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