07/18/2014 10:45 pm ET Updated Sep 17, 2014

The Case for Guaranteed Minimum Vacation for US Workers

The United States, for all of its advancements, is out of step with the rest of the world on paid vacation. The U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee paid vacation time to workers. So, while many Americans are just returning from a mid-summer holiday, or are about to leave town for an August break, one in four working Americans aren't so fortunate according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. That's 28 million people without a single paid vacation day to spend with their families or loved ones, not one day at the beach, not one day to visit a national park or historic site, not even a day to volunteer in their communities.

Ironically, the majority of the public does not even know that the U.S. has this dubious distinction according to a recent national poll of registered voters conducted by GfK. However, there is support for a minimum amount of guaranteed paid vacation time. The poll also found that the majority of Americans support guaranteed paid vacation for working Americans, and a majority would also support legislation to ensure that working Americans receive paid vacation.

Vacation Is Good for America

Paid vacation benefits employees, businesses and the economy alike, but the biggest benefactor is the American worker. Seventy-seven percent of Americans polled believe that vacation time positively affects their health and well-being. The majority of Americans also believe that the benefits of paid vacation lead to improved quality of life and bring families together.

Studies have shown that businesses also benefit when they provide employees paid vacation. According to the Small Business Monitor report by American Express OPEN, paid vacation leads to increased productivity in the workplace and results in more creative and innovative work. More than a third of small business owners say their best ideas - the ones that lead to business growth -- come not at work but during their downtime. That's why forward-looking companies are instituting pro-innovation policies like sabbaticals and vacation reimbursement.

And guaranteed paid vacation time could be a boon to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that encouraging workers to use one extra day of earned leave each year could bring an additional $73 billion to our economy annually.

Working Overtime

There are real hidden costs to no vacation time. Job-related stress contributes to absenteeism, lost productivity and health issues, and these factors cost businesses approximately $344 billion annually according to a Middle Tennessee State study.

And about those health issues -- research shows that men who do not take regular vacations have a 32 percent higher chance of heart disease than those who do. Women have a 50 percent higher chance of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Time for Vacation Equality

This is an important moment in the national conversation on the workplace. Last month, business leaders and working Americans came together at The White House Summit on Working Families to discuss workplace policies that give American families the best chance to succeed at work and at home. As we continue to come together in dialogue about the future of the American workplace, the issue of paid vacation deserves a seat at the table -- or on the picnic bench, or on a beach chair.

So, it's time that the U.S. catch up with Canada, Germany and Japan and every other advanced nation in the world, and it's time to bring vacation equality to those 28 million working Americans. Paid vacation for workers in the 21st Century workplace is a policy whose time has come.