The international law you probably don’t know if you’re breaking

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More than 60 years after the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some state politicians in Washington are looking to enforce one article which the US has never legislated to protect: paid vacation.

Democrat Gael Tarleton has introduced a bill requiring that will force employers to offer vacation leave, calling workplace stress “the new tobacco” in society. The bill, which would apply to public and private employers, entails the following:
  • Those with 25 or more employees who work an average of 20 or more hours per week must offer leave
  • Employees would begin accruing leave after six months at the company
  • In the 12 months that follow, they are entitled to accrue 40 hours’ leave per year
  • In the 12 months after that, they are entitled to accrue 60 hours’ leave  per year
  • In the 12 months after that, they are entitled to accrue 80 hours’ leave per year
  • After five years at a company, they are entitled to accrue 120 hours’ leave per year
If House Bill 2238 is passed, it would make Washington the first state to guarantee paid vacation time. Last year, a proposed amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring some companies to provide one week of paid vacation did not pass Congress.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost to an employer for paid vacation in September 2013 was $1.06 per employee hour, while sick leave cost $0.33 cents an hour.

Currently, the US is the only developed nation that does not comply on a legislative level with Article 24 of the Declaration, which states “Everyone has the right to … periodic holidays with pay.” According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, nearly one in four American workers does not have access to any paid vacation.

Amongst those that did have access to paid time off in 2013, the average American squandered more than three days of it, a new Oxford Economics study shows. Four in ten workers said although their employers supported time off, their heavy workload prevented them from actually using it. And 17% of managers said they considered employees who took all of their leave to be less dedicated.

Americans are also working longer hours than previous generations: BLS figures show the average employee works 160 hours more each year than they were three decades ago.

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