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Ladies, it’s Time to Talk About Time Off

Ladies, this one is for you! 💃

Let’s talk about women and time off. Do you ever feel a little guilty when you take time away from the office? Do you fear to return to a mountain of work or that you’re the only one who can do the job? If this sounds anything at all like you, then we’re here to let you know that you’re not alone! These are just a few of the reasons why only 44% of women take all their vacation time compared to 48% of men.

I too have found myself falling into this statistic. I’m still pretty early on in my career having just started my internship with PurelyHR a few weeks ago. But from the student and summer jobs I’ve had in the past, for whatever reason, I had this guilt in reference to taking my hard earned vacation time. It wasn’t until researching time off statistics I discovered that while this is a general issue in North America, us ladies are more privy to the work martyr syndrome.

For me, when I thought about time off in those past jobs it meant “giving a bad impression” or that I wasn’t “fully committed to my job”. Looking back now, I wonder if this is just something I made up in my own head? Has anyone else felt this way?

OK Ladies, Now Let’s Get Information 🤓

According to the research, women have sited stress, anxiety, nervousness and even guilt as some of the reasons why we’re shying away from taking our well deserved time off.

Take a look at some of these stats from a study found by Fortune Magazine:

women and time off

So we know that women are definitely feeling more stressed than men at work AND at home which just goes to show you that the vacation time is not only our right, we need it!

Nevertheless, Millennial women are turning into “work martyrs” as Project: Time-Off refers to us as. We’re fearful that if we take our well deserved time off we may be perceived as “lazy” or undedicated in our career to our bosses and be left out of discussions for advancement later down the line. The data here is heartbreaking.

A person who believes it is more important to work long hours over true productivity. The work martyr often won’t take breaks or use vacation time out of fear he or she may be seen as replaceable or undedicated to the job.”

There is a misinterpretation out there that ‘work ethic’ is equal to work martyrdom and we need to put an end to it.

And, Here’s The Funny Part

(I’m being sarcastic).  

According to a survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics and FirstCare, women are more likely to take a sick day than men. Interesting right? We aren’t taking our hard earned vacation time but a sick day? Piece of cake.

Wanna know how much more likely? Fifty.

That’s right, ladies.

We’re 50% more likely to take a sick day than our male colleagues. 😯

Now, a few theories behind this contrast in data have popped up over the years.

    • Women usually are the primary caretaker of the children
  • Women also usually tend to be the one caring for elderly relatives

Both of which could have us calling in for more sick days than men do. However, both of which are also pretty outdated opinions. I mean women haven’t “belonged at home with the children” since the 50’s (or, you know, never). We at PurelyHR have another thought.

We already know that high stress, guilt, and workload concerns may be keeping us from using our vacation time, so isn’t it plausible that we are working ourselves to the point where the only time off we allow ourselves comes with a doctors note?

So, as an HR Decision Maker What can you do to Encourage the Women in Your Office to Take a Break?

Turns out, a lot of employees (and not just female employees) site that they aren’t exactly 100% clear on what their time off benefits even are – even though 80% of employers say they think time off is imperative to their bottom line.

So, we encourage our clients to communicate their time off policies clearly to each employee and often reference how important it is to not just the company, but the employees own personal well being. Looking back on my past experiences if someone had told me that they would appreciate it if I had taken some time for myself, I may have looked at time off and vacation a little differently.

We also encourage our clients to go beyond the “bare minimum”. It’s very common for businesses to seek out the requirements for time off in their state, province, territory or country and offer that to their teams. But in reality, time off is one of the only benefits that the employee actually wants to use. Things like disability and dental are great, but no one really “looks forward” to using them. So by all means, get creative with your time off policies!

Here at PurelyHR, we looked at our own team and took into consideration what they would see valuable in a time off policy and now offer things like paid days off on your birthday and paid adventure days to go enjoy your favourite outdoor activity! Making the space for policies like these in your benefits packages is just one of the ways you can clearly communicate to your team, both male and female, that their personal time is valued to you as an employer/HR Decision Maker.

But since we’re talking about women specifically in this post let’s talk about some very important female-centered time off types we’ve seen added to PurelyHR in the past:

Domestic Violence LeaveA painful reality for women in the workplace was finally taken into consideration in Ontario is paid domestic violence leave was boosted in the 2018 federal budget and now includes 5 paid days and ten unpaid days.

Mammogram LeaveIn the state of New York employers are now offering four hours of paid leave for great (and prostate) cancer screenings. Offering something like this to your team is another great way to showcase your dedication to their overall health and well being.

Family Sick DaysI think every parent reading this post can relate to this. A recent study found by Hello Magazine reports that two out of five parents are being “”penalized” after asking for flexible work arrangements when their child is sick. Yuck. Let your team know, especially the mothers, that it is OKAY to do what they need to do for their child when in need.

A company in India has gone so far as to even offer menstrual leave policy offering paid time off for women during their periods without dipping into vacation or sick time. Cause I mean let’s face it, when that eighteen wheeler trucked of cramps stops by, we can’t exactly just turn it off.

Of course, for privacy concerns, these requested time off policies can be set that only the administrator and/or managers can see them. Time off policies like these can work to push toward a more open communication line surrounding women in the workplace and the issues with time off the aforementioned data presents.

For every HR Decision Maker, it’s important to assure that your employees understand the time-off policies that you have in your company and state the importance of taking time off when they need it most. Either they are feeling extremely stressed or they just need a day to relax from staying up all night — because their child ate too much sugar before going to bed … who knows? 💁

Our Maternity Leave Role Models 💖

One last thing before I sign off! Ready for a #NotSoFunFact? The United States is currently the only developed country in the world to not guarantee any type of maternity leave. While we’re pretty far from agreeing on how to best approach this policy so that it’s all-encompassing and works for mothers AND fathers, it’s still refreshing to see some companies we look up rocking their maternal policies for their employees. 

Check out some of these very cool policies implemented by rockstar companies in the US we found in this article by Verily:

women and time off

Have any questions about custom leave types? Tweet us at @purelyHRSoft and let us know what you’re doing to eliminate the guilty feeling your female employees may have and how you’re changing your company culture!

Jolene Cormier

As a marketing intern at PurelyHR, Jolene is here to lend a hand with marketing projects. As someone who cherishes traveling, she understands the importance of taking time off and the positive impact it can bring to a person or an organization.

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