Unused vacation time is common. In 2004, the average U.S. employee forfeited three vacation days, up from two days in 2003, says an Expedia.com survey.
But the tide may be turning.
Nearly half of 571 employees polled by national staffing firm OfficeTeam say that the biggest mistake they made with their last vacation was taking too little time off.
Also, employers say they're now more likely to enforce "use it or lose it" vacation policies, prompted in part by a heightened focus on the year-to-year bottom line. Most states require employers to carry employees' unused vacation time on their books as a liability, and such vacation carryover from one year to the next can be expensive.
Remember, no law requires you to offer any amount of paid vacation time to employees; you're free to set your own policy. You can legally set vacation "blackout" dates during certain busy times.
Best bet: Try to match your policy to the special needs of your business, based on the industry and market you serve. For example, if yours is a seasonal business, say, a landscaping contractor that brings in most sales during summer, it's wise to reflect that in your vacation policy.