Paid vacation should be a mandatory benefit for all US workers. When a company offers paid employee vacation, it means you get to take time off work while still earning money. As such, American workers are perfectly entitled to wonder if they are receiving enough vacation pay.
Some business owners will be a bit sneaky when assigning paid vacation days to employees, as many are unaware of how vacation policies and employee benefits work across industries. So, how amount of PTO per year is normal for the average worker? We’ll answer this question, along with many more relating to company policies, in this post.
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How many PTO days is normal?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than one-third of private industry workers received 10-14 days of paid vacation after one year of employment.
The average number of PTO increases after 10 years of service to 15-19 days, and seems to cap off at the highest number of vacation days (20+) being provided after 20 years of service in the private sector.
Personal days are also included for private sector employees, which tend to be one or two days a year for someone to take off. These days give you time away from work for personal reasons (something other than illness, a vacation, or a national holiday) and can be helpful for maintaining a work-life balance.
PTO stands for paid time off, so it relates to various different ways that you might be given paid leave. For instance, it looks at your paid vacation days, but also the paid holidays that full-time employees are allocated. Furthermore, it takes sick days into account too.
When all of these different elements are added up, most employees will get around 12 days of paid leave, which equates to a little over 2 working weeks – assuming you only work Monday-Friday.
Remember, these are averages, and there is no overarching federal law that determines PTO policies or leave days required. So, you could receive more or less in each category depending on who you work for or what state you work in. Thankfully, since businesses have to compete with each other for high-quality talent, they offer a decent amount of paid leave (and a wide range of PTO such as maternity leave) in order to improve employee retention and protect workers’ mental health.
Some businesses even offer unlimited PTO and unlimited vacation days, though there’s an interesting phenomenon where U.S. employees tend to use even less paid vacation in these circumstances. This is due to them feeling guilty about taking advantage of the offer and not wanting to overreach.
As a good rule of thumb, you should expect 10 days of leave as the bare minimum from your employer. Any less, and they may be taking advantage of you and not giving you the quality benefits package that you deserve.
How many vacation days per year is normal?
Typically, US employers will allocate 10 days of paid vacation time per year to each employee, increasing the number of days provided based on the amount of time an employee stays with their company. Some companies look at the number of years spent at a company, while others base the allotment on the number of hours worked.
While this average 10 day allotment doesn’t sound great, consider that most employees only work for five days a week.
How many weeks of vacation is normal?
Two full weeks of vacation is usually considered normal when you look at the labor statistics. The 10 days of average vacation time will cover two full working weeks for the average employee.
Strangely enough, a good amount of Americans don’t even make use of this. A study by Sorbet (who specialize in businesses managing PTO) revealed that 55% of PTO went unused in 2022. That’s a lot of unused vacation days.
A deeper look revealed that men tend to take 10% more of their allotted PTO days compared to women, while women are more likely to make use of their sick time.
What do we mean by vacation days?
Some people get paid vacation days and holiday days mixed up. They may seem similar, but holiday days are allocated to national or state holidays that everyone in the organization takes off. Vacation days are optional days you can take off to go on vacation or take a break from their work schedule.
How much PTO per year is normal?
On average, people with less than a year of experience will only take 13 days of paid leave per year. Comparatively, employees with over 20 years of experience are likely to take around 20+ days of paid leave each year.
Employees that sit in the middle of these two experience levels – between 5-9 years of work experience at a job – take an average of 15 days of paid leave each year.
The number of days spent getting vacation pay per year can vary across different industries. As mentioned earlier, for private industry workers, paid vacation time is handed out based on experience. The more time someone spends with a company, the more vacation time they’re given.
Moreover, we need to start looking at PTO from the perspective of time off that’s actually used. If the average PTO per year is 30 days, how many people will actually use all of it?
What happens to unused paid leave at the end of the year?
If you don’t use all of your PTO, you end up with unused vacation time at the end of the year. It’s important to note that only your vacation time can be unused. Paid holidays are automatically taken off by you and everyone at the organization. Any sick leave is optional, so you can’t ‘unuse’ it.
But, for whatever reason, you may have unused vacation time when the year is up. Now, does this mean that your unused vacation time carries over to next year?
Sadly, it does not. Most states have a use-it-or-lose-it policy in place. Essentially, if you don’t use all of your paid leave by the end of the year, you forfeit it. So, your employer is not entitled to pay it to you as a bonus. This is why it makes sense to take advantage of any time off you get!
PTO in Different Locations
20 states in America require mandatory PTO payouts for unused PTO days: California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
European countries have to offer a minimum of at least 20 days of paid leave annually, and France offers the most of any country with 31 days of paid leave. This is a sharp contrast to the USA, which has no paid leave annual requirement. Instead, America has a culture that encourages business owners to provide paid leave in order to remain competitive while recruiting talent.
Are you getting enough PTO per year?
What constitutes a good amount of paid leave for an employee? As we’ve covered already, you should be looking at around 30 days in total – covering sick pay, holidays, vacations, and personal days off.
15 days of PTO per year is not good at all. You are being sold short when you could be getting way more paid time off. However, it is crucial to understand what an employer means when they assign you your PTO. Do they just mean vacation days, or are they talking about all of your paid time off?
If they’re talking specifically about vacation days, then 10-20 days of paid vacation is very good. You’ll be getting anywhere between two and four weeks off work per year, all of which is paid – and it doesn’t include sickness or holidays!
In conclusion, it is normal to receive around 10 vacation days per year. However, the average PTO is rather underutilized, and more employees would benefit themselves and their work-life balance by taking advantage of the days allotted to recharge themselves physically and mentally.
If you or your employer are looking for a way to better handle PTO, check out Buddy Punch’s powerful features such as Automatic Paid Time Off Tracking or PTO Accruals, or click here to view a demo video of our employee management software in action.