SURVEY SAYS: Leaving Vacation on the Table

November 25, 2013 ( – We recently covered a survey in which employers said taking vacation improves workers’ wellness, morale, performance and productivity.

So, last week I asked NewsDash readers, do you use your vacation or leave some on the table?

The majority of responding NewsDash readers are rewarded with a good amount of vacation, PTO time. Half get more than 20 days and nearly four in ten (38.4%) get 15 to 20 days. Nearly 6% are allotted 10 to 15 days, 4.7% have five to 10 days and 1.2% get five days or less.

More than four in ten respondents (44.2%) will use all of their vacation days, while 21% each indicated they will leave five days or less or five to 10 days unused. Eight percent reported 10 to 15 days will be unused, 2.3% said 15 to 20 days will go unused and 3.5% will leave more than 20 days unused.

However, for the majority of responding NewsDash readers (80%), these days will not be lost forever. Nearly one-quarter indicated their employers allow them to roll over up to five days of unused vacation/PTO days. While nearly 20% reported they can’t roll over any days, nearly 20% said they can roll over all their unused days. Sixteen percent can roll over 15 to 20 days, 5.8% can roll over 10 to 15 days, and 14% can roll over five to 10 days.

Among commenters, some folks have accrued so much vacation they could never take it all. However, most readers have a healthy view about vacation and try not to roll over any days. Several noted how it is helpful to bank some time in case of a major medical issue or a special vacation, and some said leaving time unused only makes sense if one is paid for them later. A good point was made that many times the time off is not used for vacation at all, so use of PTO instead makes sense. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “For years I didn’t use all my vacation days. Not only does nobody care, those who do think you are an idiot for not taking them. Would you leave a paycheck uncashed? I think not.”


We allow the rollover of vacation days until the employee accrues a maximum of 30 days. Not PTOs can be rolled over.


Employer pays out vacation time over 240 hours at year end.


Usually I take all of them in the current year. If there's a big trip coming up, I'll roll over a few days. This year cancer treatment caused me to use all of my PTO and then some.


I take all my days, because I need all my days.


I work for my vacation days. I consider it my most important benefit. Unfortunately with all the cut backs I don't always get to take them all.


We accrue vacation each month and can carryover 2 or 3 weeks depending on how long you have been with the company. I do use enough so I don't lose any time. It is easy to use up with days off with my 3 boys.


relatively flexible work hours and the blurring of work leisure activities makes vacation less criticel


I take vacation one day at a time because there is too much work when I return from an extended vacation.


nice to allow roll over, but who can take them when we are all downsizing?


Our time is doled out in hours instead of days at the beginning of the year. I prefer having a few hours in December just in case I need sick leave....

Verbatim (cont.) 

I will NEVER give up vacation days (leave them on the table). Life's too short not to take it.


Given the price of COBRA and health insurance in general, I always keep a stash of days to cover this if I ever get laid off... Sort of like a bank account, just 'in case'....


My goal is to use all of my vacation time and frankly I do not understand those people that carry over more than 5 days.


Taking vacation days/time off is essential and I totally agree with the study findings. No matter how much you have to do and your perceived value to the company, you can be replaced. It does no one any good for you to be at work but tired, cranky and (a big pet peeve) possibly sick. That said, I do think it is a great idea to have the option of rolling over days if you are planning a special vacation.


Considering unlimited vacation for top management levels. Results in no accruals and therefore saves money with no balance due for terminations.


I'm shocked that anyone would leave vacation time on the table! If it's going to expire, take a week off - or two!


I’ve worked for a bank and a school (very different work environments) that both had a "use it or lose it" vacation policy. In both places, people had a much more positive view of time away from the office for themselves and their coworkers. All other jobs have had vacation that could be rolled over, which seems to translate into the idea that it never has to be taken, since you can always take it later, “when it’s not so crazy” (really, that never happens). The only good a rollover vacation policy is for is when you get to cash out that big bank of untaken leave when you quit!


Use them or lose unless the employer asks you to work and you are unable to use them. We then either pay for the time or allow the days to be used in the next six months.


I would love to use all my vacation time, but with a shortage in the department, just not possible this year. Maybe next year...


Several years ago our CFO and senior management paid out all accrued vacation and we now have "professional time off". No more accrued time on the books for financial reasons. Our time off is whatever we can negotiate with managers. Needless to say, many of our engineers are not comfortable and have challenges with the concept. Administratively some of us think this could lead to other problems such as favoritism etc.

Verbatim (cont.)

I earn 27 days of PTO each year and carryover up to 60 days. It seems I am always right at the 60 accrual limit and while I try to take a lot of my vacation, I lose about a week each year. All that said, I am sure I take much more vacation than most people answering this survey.


I feel like my Employer allots generous vacation time, however, the demands of the job and volume of work prevent me from being able to utilize it.


I usually leave one or two days in case I'm actually sick, but not this year.


What is use or lose? Every time I build up my leave to more than two or three weeks, along comes another surgery, illness or death that brings it back down. Visiting family is not a vacation. While nice to see family, a vacation is a Disney Cruise or a visit to Walt Disney World with my Wife and Son.


I used to leave them on the table but no more since management no longer rewards hard work. Unfortunately conscience will have me working from home while on vacation for time critical deadlines I can't trust to others (i.e. 401(k) timely submissions each payroll).


Vacation days/PTO is like the 401(k) match: a fool leaves it on the table. Nobody is too important to take a vacation and recharge.


I get 25 days a year. After 33 years with the company it is not enough!


We operate with a PTO system so it's always best to leave some on the table for illness. That said, I have a huge balance from past years of not using any and I'm trying to change my ways and get regular vacations in. Everyone is happier when I do.


I do appreciate that the company refers to them as PTO days rather than vacation days since the majority of the time out of the office is spent taking care of car repairs, running errands, children's activities, and house maintenance. Vacation days imply a luxury that doesn't exist.


I use all of them but leave 120 hours, as permitted by law, in my bank just in case since we only have PTO and not separate vacation and sick leave. Even if I'm not going away, I need those mental health days away from the office.

Verbatim (cont.)

I work for a state which gives us sick leave, comp leave, personal leave and annual leave. Not counting sick leave, which we can roll over year over year, I typically have anywhere from four to six weeks of leave and because I work long hours I keep earning more. I can't use it all because then I couldn't get my work done!


Working for a workaholic is no fun.


The vacation / PTO days are there for a reason; it seems foolish not to fully utilize them.


At the moment I have a total of 246 days in my time bank. I only wish I could take them all!!!


Just because I am away from the office on vacation doesn't mean I don't work.


I never have a problem using my 5 weeks of accrued vacation time (I've been with my employer a long time) but there are only 2 "real" vacations out of those 5 weeks. The remaining 3 weeks are used for days I need to take off to be at home for service people or take the kids to doctor appts or take days off when they have no school due to teacher professional days.


Vacations are the main reason to work.....


I have in the past left vacation days on the table b/c the nature of the business did not allow for the PTO.


We can rollover up to 200 hrs at any given month - it amazes me how many people are bumping up against that limit every month and can't stop talking about how they need to use up some days or lose them, blah, blah, blah. I WISH I WERE IN THAT SITUATION!!!!


Since we can only roll over 5 days that must be used by the following April 1, I use them all each year. The first three months of the year are our busiest time and no one can take off anyhow. I take all I can, it is much needed.

Verbatim (cont.)

Vacation days are like gold. I wish our employer allowed us to buy additional vacation days.


My family and I usually take one real vacation during the year. That vacation is usually a week and a half to two weeks long. The rest of my vacation is for attending kids school activities, sick days, or for working around the house.


I use every single hour and am grateful for every one. I try to take a week off every quarter. Helps to keep my life in balance. Plus, as a holdover from my long-ago days as a banker (when we were required to take at least 5 consecutive days off) it lets my employer know I have nothing to hide!


I'd much rather have the time off than just get the pay for it. At a previous employer, we could roll over vacation days and I like to keep 5 days in the bank in case of emergency.


I leave a few on the table, my boss rarely takes vacation, guess who's cranky?


Yes, I have a rare condition called vacationphobemiaitislexiaomarhea, VPLEER. Will you help us find a cure.


We can only roll over one time our vacation benefit (at any one time, we can only have our current year vacation time plus one year; it does not endlessly accumulate)


Every year, I am in a situation where towards the end of the year, I still have vacation days that I have to take or lose them. However, it is so hard to take any time off - even just a day or two at a time. I "make up" that time off either the week before or after trying to catch up for the missed time. Isn't that considered a flexible work schedule, rather than vacation?


for years I didn't use all my vacation days. not only does nobody care, those who do think you are an idiot for not taking them. Would you leave a paycheck uncashed? I think not.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.