- The US federal government has fewer legal work protections compared to other industrialized nations.
- The US is the only country without guaranteed paid family leave or vacation leave. It also does not require that companies give breaks for lunch or coffee. Italy and China, meanwhile, offer two hours of lunch break.
- Here are seven ways the US lags behind the rest of the developed world in providing worker protections.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US federal government offers surprisingly few worker protections – especially when compared to other developed nations.
Not only is the US the only industrialized country without paid parental leave, it also does not require companies give paid vacation.
Individual states have their own protections, including higher minimum wages and paid leave, but on a federal level, the US lags behind the rest of the developed world.
As a result, Americans work longer hours than people in Europe and Japan, and suffer from high rates of burnout. Minimum-wage workers cannot afford rent for a two-bedroom apartment in much of the US, and the increasing number of gig-economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers have even fewer protections than their full-time counterparts.
Here are seven mind-blowing facts that depict how few worker protections the US provides.
The US does not guarantee paid time off for vacation or holidays.
France, Germany, Spain, and the UK offer more than 20 days of vacation time to employees.
The US does not give employers vacation time, and its 10 public holidays are also not guaranteed to be paid out, according to the US Department of Labour.
As a result, three in four private companies gave out paid vacation, and the average private industry worker received 10 paid vacation days after 1 year of service, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Even if they get vacation from their company, Americans are notoriously bad at actually going on them. A recent survey by pollster Gallup found three in 10 workers had not gone on a vacation in 2017. The average American worker takes less time off for vacation than medieval peasants, according to economist Juliet Shor.
The US also doesn’t mandate employers give workers breaks during the day.
Federal law does not require companies provide breaks for lunch or coffee.
US law surrounding lunch breaks is starkly different from other countries. Italy and China go so far as to give workers two-hour lunch breaks.
The US is the only developed country that does not guarantee some form of paid parental leave. It is just one of eight of the UN’s 193-member states without guaranteed paid time off for new mums.
Italy offers new parents 21 weeks of paid leave to mums after giving birth. The UK offers 39 weeks. Greece offers 43 weeks.
The US, meanwhile, offers zero.
The policy is also restricted to full-time employees who have been with the company for more than a year, which comprises just 60% of workers countrywide.
Other UN states that don’t guarantee paid leave for new parents include Papua New Guinea and the South American nation Suriname,NPR reports.
The Department of Labour does not provide any guidelines for flexible work schedules.
The US does not have guidelines for companies on how to provide flexible work hours. Perhaps consequently, a 2018 survey of employers found only 23% of companies offer flexible or remote working options.
European countries give employees the right to more flexible work hours, Kent University social policy professor Heejung Chung told Slate. UK workers, for instance, have the right to request flexible work, so long as they worked for at least 26 weeks. The Netherlands, too, allows employees to request flexible hours.
The US minimum wage is lower compared to other countries, especially when you compare it to the average full-time salary.
Low-wage workers in the US earn just a fraction of the average salary for all full-time workers. If you make the federal minimum wage of $US7.25, that’s just 34% of what the average American employee makes, according to data from the OECD.
Other developed countries have a much higher wage for the lowest earners relative to full-time worker pay. In France, for instance, minimum-wage workers make 62% of what average full-time workers make. In the UK, low-wage workers make 54% of the average full-time pay.
When taking buying power into account, however, the US does have a slightly better wage compared to countries with higher costs of living, such as Australia and France.
Many states have higher minimum wages than the average. Earlier this year, 21 states increased minimum wages, some to as high as $US15. Some economists say increasing the minimum wage to $US15 across the board would reduce jobs, yet also bring more Americans out of poverty.
There’s no guaranteed extra pay for working overnight.
The US does not require companies pay extra for night work. In turn, Americans work night and weekend shifts more often than Europeans, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research published in 2014.
One in four Americans works a graveyard shift – between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. – compared to just one in 14 in France and Holland.
The US doesn’t guarantee pay after getting laid off.
Unlike European countries, employment in the US is “at will,” meaning companies can let go of their workers at any time, so long as it’s not discriminatory.
Because of this at-will relationship between employers and employees, the US does not mandate companies to give compensatory pay.
“There is no requirement in the Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) for severance pay,” the US Department of Labour website states. “Severance pay is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee’s representative).”
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