Paid Vacation Day Basics

You can negotiate for more time off in your salary negotiation

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Average paid vacation days by years of service: 1 year = 7-8 days, 3-4 years = 12 days, 5 years = 14 days, 10 years = 17 days, 15+ years = 21 days.

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Paid vacation days are days for which an employee is paid when he or she takes time off from work. Most organizations voluntarily provide paid time off to employees as a benefit. Increasingly, the best employees, the candidates that you most want to hire, demand paid vacation days as part of their comprehensive employee compensation packages.

The chart below shows that the number of vacation days you get correlates with how many years of service you have under your belt.

How Employees Aquire Paid Vacation Days

The number of paid vacation days generally accrues to employees based on their years of service to the organization and the level of their position. For example, employees accrue 3.0769 hours per pay period worked in the case where they are eligible for 10 days or two workweeks of vacation. (This calculation assumes that there are 26 pay periods for the employee.)


For most jobs, paid vacation days are standard across jobs and employee longevity. Employees start their jobs with one-two weeks off. As the years of their employment pass, they become eligible for more weeks of paid vacation time off. From experience, paid vacation days most frequently reach their limit in accrual amounts at four-six weeks of paid vacation time off.

You Can Negotiate Paid Vacation Days

Individual employees can also negotiate for paid vacation days. Extra days are more frequently granted to senior managers and executive-level employees. But, if you're a potential employee who is leaving your current organization with five weeks of vacation accrued, it pays to negotiate rather than to accept two weeks of paid vacation as a part of a standard employment offer. In fact, without additional paid time off, you might be better off turning down the employment offer.

For example, in your current organization, you have accrued five weeks of vacation annually because of your longevity and level. An employer who is interested in your experience and skills is usually willing to stray from their standard practice of starting new employees with two or even one week's paid vacation days.

Employers recognize that managers and senior employees won't take that kind of a step backward in their compensation plans. You may not get as much as you negotiate for because of employer past practices, and fairness to current employees, but it's worth a try. You can then make decisions about a job offer with the whole compensation package in mind.


The same advice applies to prospective employees with hard-to-replicate skills or with scarce degrees. Employers are willing to negotiate higher levels of compensation and benefits such as more days of paid vacation with difficult-to-hire employees.

Paid vacation days are also negotiated as a part of a standard union contract in a workplace that is represented by a union. In such a represented workplace, individual employees are unable to negotiate the number of their paid vacation days. What the union-negotiated is standard practice across the board.

Paid Vacation Days Employers Offer

While there are no Federal laws in the United States that require an employer to offer paid vacation days as a benefit, employers of choice offer employees paid vacation days.

In fact, paid vacation days as a benefit are so common that potential employees expect paid vacation days as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Most organizations use a formula that assigns a certain number of hours accrued during each pay period based on time with the company.

Paid vacation days in the United States range from five to 30. In Europe and other parts of the world, paid vacation days are more liberal.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vacation paid time off varies by years of service in an organization.

  • One year of service receive an average of 8.1 paid vacation days
  • Three years of service receive an average of 10.2 paid vacation days
  • Five years of service receive an average of 11.9 paid vacation days
  • 10 years of service receive an average of 13.9 paid vacation days
  • 15 years of service receive an average of 14.8 paid vacation days
  • 20 years of service receive an average of 15.4 paid vacation days
  • 25 years of service receive an average of 15.7 paid vacation days

Additionally, professional, technical, and related employees receive higher than average paid vacation days. For example, they receive 10 days after one year and 17.8 after 25. On average blue-collar and service positions receive less with 6.8 paid vacation days after one year and 14.1 after 25 years.

Candidates for executive positions can and do negotiate more time as do people with highly-in-demand skills and experience. 

If you're a job searcher, you know that when an employer makes you a written job offer that the employer wants to hire you. You have nothing to lose by attempting to negotiate a higher salary and more benefits such as higher-paid vacation days. 


Watch for words such as this is a non-negotiable offer or this is our final offer when you are negotiating. The employer will let you know when you have moved beyond his limit and then you must make your decision about the offer on the table. Don't lose your dream job for a few bucks or benefits more than the employer is comfortable offering to you.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Table 5. Average paid holidays and days of vacation and sick leave for full-time employees." Accessed January 30, 2021.

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