The Dilemma of Paid Vacation Time for Small Businesses
Every highly developed nation (Germany, England, Japan, etc.) in the world today, save one, has a law
on the books that mandates a minimum amount of paid vacation days for employees. Low-paid or high-paid, full-time or part-time, brand-new employee or experienced veteran, every person that works in these mature, sophisticated, complex economies is guaranteed a paid vacation of some sort. Senior employees and employees with many years under their belts get as much as six weeks vacation in many European companies. And everyone, even a new employee in an entry-level job gets at least two weeks.
Except for in that one country, that is. The outlier is the United States. Paid vacation time is left up to the discretion of the employer in the U.S. And many employers don’t provide paid vacations (and some don’t even provide paid sick days of any kind as well, but that’s a different subject for a different day).
Large companies almost always provide paid vacation time to their full-time employees, and the time usually increases per years of service to the company, until it reaches a cap of whatever the company sets.
With small firms, like the ones that are our clients here at Sareen and Associates, it’s a much different story. Money is generally tight, and staffing is at a minimum. Not only can the small business owner not pay his or her employees for time off, they have no way to replace them even if the time off is unpaid. The only solution for many small companies is to pick the slowest month of the year out of their schedule, and give everyone (including the owner of the business) one, two, three or four weeks off during that month while the business is closed. We have companies that do this, but for many small companies, there is no slow month, and they are loath to shut down the whole business for weeks at a time.
What to do? This isn’t Europe, with free government healthcare, guaranteed paid vacations and a whole host of other benefits for employees built into the construct that is “work”. This is America, where people, including small business owners, have to work really, really hard and go without some things in the early years of starting a viable business. It is almost always a struggle.
If you can’t afford to give your employees paid time off, you can’t afford it. All you can do is try to make it up to them in other ways, small though those ways may be. All you can do is be the best employer you can be in other ways, and hope your employees stick around until you can give them more of the things they want. There is no other solution except to stick it out. We know what you’re going through – just keep plugging away.