In a typical year, New York employees of the magazine publisher Condé Nast must use their vacation days before late December or lose them — a common policy across corporate America.
But early in December, the company sent employees an email saying they could carry up to five vacation days into next year, an apparent acknowledgment that many scrimped on days off amid the long hours and travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Condé Nast was not alone in scrambling to make end-of-year arrangements for vacation-deprived workers. Some employers, however, have been less accommodating.
Many companies that already allow employees to carry vacation days into the next year — including Goldman Sachs (generally up to 10) and Spotify (generally up to 10) — have not felt the need to change their policies.
The same is true for some companies that pay workers for their unused vacation days. Neither General Motors nor Ford Motor, whose hourly workers can cash out unused vacation days at the end of the year, is making changes.
A union official at the news organization Reuters said the company cited accounting concerns in sticking with its use-it-or-lose-it policy. The union had pleaded for leniency, noting that its contract allows management to roll over vacation days in “exceptional circumstances.”
A Reuters spokeswoman said that “our policy for U.S. employees for some years has not allowed for unused vacation days to be rolled over” and that “employees have been regularly reminded since the first half of this year.”
Several experts said a philosophical question loomed over vacation benefits: Is the point to ensure that workers take time off? Or are vacation days simply an alternative form of compensation that workers can use as they see fit, whether to relax, to supplement their income or to drag around with them as a monument to their productivity?
In the spring, the software company GitLab responded to a significant rise in hours put in by its more than 1,000 workers with so-called family-and-friends days, in which the company shuts down to discourage people from logging in. Google, Slack and the software company Cloudera have started similar policies.
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