Home News Holiday entitlements differ widely across the globe

Holiday entitlements differ widely across the globe

Published on 30/10/2009

London – Employees in Europe receive the most generous statutory holiday allowances in the world, according to data released by Mercer. Taking public holidays into account, however, employees in Lithuania and Brazil have the potential to access the most time off work. The data comes from Mercer’s '2009 Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines' which provides data into global working practices and regulations. The report analyses both the statutory minimum number of days’ holiday that companies must provide to staff, as well as the number of public holidays in over 40 countries.  The following comparison is based on statutory entitlements for an employee working five days a week, with 10 years’ service. Statutory holiday allowance is the term given to the amount of paid leave that companies must, by law, offer their staff.

Global overview

  • Employees in Finland, Brazil and France are entitled to the greatest amount of statutory annual leave and those in India, Canada and China, the least.
  • Employees in Japan and India have the highest number of public holidays while those in the UK, Netherlands and Australia, the least.
  • Lithuanian and Brazilian employees potentially have access to the most generous overall holiday entitlements.

Employees in Finland, Brazil and France are entitled to receive as many as 30 days’ statutory holiday a year, with those in Lithuania, Russia and the UK entitled to 28 days. Poland follows closely behind (26 days), with employees in Greece, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway entitled to 25 days’ statutory holiday.  
By comparison, Asia-Pacific countries fare poorly, with Australian, New Zealand and Japanese employees receiving the region’s highest levels of statutory holidays (20 days) followed by Taiwan (15), Hong Kong and Singapore (14), India (12) and China (10). Employees in Canada are amongst those with the lowest entitlement with only 10 days and while there is no statutory minimum in the US, employees typically receive 15 days a year.
Public holidays can markedly increase the amount of time employees have off work. Japan and India top the global list with 16 days’ public holiday a year, closely followed by Cyprus, Slovakia and South Korea with 15. Malta and Spain both have 14 while Portugal, Austria, Lithuania, Slovenia and Taiwan all have 13 days’ public holiday. The UK, Australia and the Netherlands have the lowest number of public holidays (eight) followed by Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada and Romania (nine).
According to Matthew Hunt, a principal in Mercer’s International team who advises multinationals on their employment practices, “There are wide variations in the local implementation of employment practices governing public holidays. Employers are often within their rights to ask employees to work on public holidays, or require that they be taken as part of their annual leave entitlements.

“For example, while it appears that employees in the UK have more total holidays than those in Malta, company contracts can create a different picture. While the UK statutory minimum is 28 days, companies are allowed to include the 8 public holidays as part of this entitlement, so some employees may only be given 20 days holiday a year and Maltese employees may, in fact, have a better deal.”
Assuming they receive the maximum statutory holidays in addition to public holidays, employees in Brazil and Lithuania would have the world’s most generous holiday regime with a potential 41 days off a year, while those in Finland, France and Russia could receive a total of 40 days. In contrast, Canadian employees receive only 19 days, Chinese employees 21 and those in the US and Singapore both 25.

Europe holiday overview
Finland and France make provision for a statutory minimum of 30 days’ holiday a year for employees, closely followed by Lithuania and Russia (28 days), the UK (28), Poland (26) and Greece (25). The vast majority of countries have a statutory minimum of 20 days including Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands.

Cyprus and Slovakia (15 days) have the most bank holidays in Europe followed by Malta and Spain (14) and then Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia (13). France, Poland, Finland, Germany and Belgium have 10, while Denmark, Romania and Ireland have nine. With eight bank holidays a year, the UK and Netherlands have the fewest in Europe. However, in some European states such as Norway and Switzerland, public holidays can be nullified if they fall on a weekend.   
Overall, including the statutory minimum and public holidays, employees in Lithuania are potentially entitled to the greatest amount of paid leave in Europe with 41 days’ holiday per year. France, Finland and Russia rank second with 40 days, followed by Austria and Malta (38), Greece (37) and Sweden, Spain and the UK (36). Employees in Italy have 31 while those in Germany, Romania and Belgium have 30. Employees in Ireland and the Netherlands have the least amount of holiday at 29 and 28 days, respectively. If employers provide eight bank holidays on top of the statutory minimum, UK employees would receive 36 days’ paid holiday a year, one of the most generous in Europe.
The Americas holiday overview
The United States offers employees no statutory minimum holiday allowance but the typical average is 15 days compared to Canada which offers a statutory minimum of 10 days. Contrary to popular European belief, low levels of statutory holiday in the United States and Canada are not comparative to European standards when taking public holidays into account.
Employees in the United States and Brazil have an additional 10 and 11 days public holiday respectively, while workers in Canada are entitled to nine days’ public holiday. In total, employees in Brazil who can take the full entitlement and the full number of public holidays would receive 41 days off, those in the United States typically 25 days and those in Canada 19 days.
Asia holiday overview
Australia, Japan and New Zealand have the most generous statutory holiday regime, offering employees 20 days’ statutory holiday. South Korea (19 days), Taiwan (15), Hong Kong and Singapore (14), India (12) and China (10) have less generous entitlements. In addition, Japanese and Indian employees receive 16 public holidays a year followed by South Korea (15), Taiwan (13), Hong Kong (12) and New Zealand, Singapore and China all have 11 days. With eight days, workers in Australia are entitled to the fewest public holidays in Asia.
In theory, employees in Japan are entitled, in total, to the most generous holiday allowances with 36 days followed by South Korea (34 days) and New Zealand (31). Employees in Australia, Taiwan and India would potentially get 28 days followed by Hong Kong (26), Singapore (25) and China (21).
In addition to annual leave and public holidays, employers in some states are required by law to give special leave for getting married or for the death of a spouse or close relative, for example. Even when there is no requirement, many larger employers provide additional leave for special circumstances.
“Employers trying to co-ordinate business operations across the world are caught in a maze of legislation when it comes to holidays,” commented Matthew Hunt. “Public holidays tend to be rooted in local tradition or religious beliefs, so it can be difficult to change practices. But with the increasing cultural diversity of the global workforce there is pressure for greater flexibility around public holidays.”  

Expatica/ AR