The USA at a Glance
Working in the USA
Working in the USA may be different from what you are used to in your home country. Working conditions might seem harsh compared to some European nations, and the general attitudes and values of employees in the USA might be dissimilar to those prevailing in other cultures.
The average workplace in the USA can be highly competitive, with decisions being made at executive level without much consultation of the workforce. On the other hand, the old cliché about working in the USA still rings true to a certain extent. Employees can indeed work their way up the career ladder by performing well, showing initiative and motivation.
In the USA, it is common for people, even in low-paid and simple jobs, to take pride in their work. Mobility is also an important aspect of working in the USA, especially for people who want to get ahead. Employees and business people are expected to jump at a career opportunity, even if it means that they have to relocate with their entire family.
A considerable number of companies and business people also take on certain social responsibilities towards the community: Voluntary work, charity donations, philanthropic foundations, and fundraising activities are both common and highly regarded practices. Given the permeable social safety net, US society relies very much on these values.
General Employment Guidelines
People in the USA are often employed at will, meaning they are not protected from dismissal by a clause in their work contract. There may either be no written contract at all, or one that doesn´t specify the need for a valid reason for letting an employee ago.
Employees who aren’t trade union members should consult an official employee manual to find out more about their rights and duties. These manuals are either distributed by the employer or can be purchased individually.
There is, however, a variety of anti-discrimination laws, which are taken very seriously to ensure equal opportunities for all people, regardless of age, race, religion, gender or disabilities.
There are a few general guidelines valid for most employees in the USA. An average working week has 40 hours, although in the US working overtime is common and often expected. The minimum number of paid holidays amounts to ten days per year, paid sick leave to seven days. There is no maternity or paternity leave, but the parents of a newborn child are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
Below, we have listed a couple of points which might be interesting for expats working in the USA. They should be discussed with the employer:
- Is the employer prepared to provide relocation assistance, i.e. financial and/or practical support?
- Does the employer provide a benefits package, e.g. health insurance, pension plan, spending account (see below)?
- Is there a sign-on bonus for new employees?
Many employers hire immigration lawyers to handle the visa application process for overseas employees. As this costs them several thousand dollars, international employees might be required to cover the cost if they decide to resign or leave before their specified period of working in the USA has come to an end.
If possible, expats who have been sent to the US on an assignment by their employer should always try to secure a deal granting them the same working conditions as they used to have at home.
Looking for more information on business values in the US? After reading our articles on US Business Culture and Working Conditions in the US, you'll be sure to make a good impression when you start your new job.