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Americans have the
shortest
vacation in the developed world

Average number
 of vacation days  
France                38 Netherlands             25
Brazil                34 Portugal                 25
Sweden           32 S.Korea               25
Italy                31 Belgium               24
Denmark        30 New Zealand     21
Spain             30 Norway            21
Ireland          28 Switzerland      20
Austria         27 Australia         19
Germany     27 Canada         19
Britain        26 Japan           15
Iceland    25.5 USA           13†

Source articles below - Latest: Expedia.com 2009 study, supplemented from earlier figures. †Average only; Not required by law.
Iceland figures averaged from Elin Ingvarsdottir of Icelandic Tourist Board via Jeanette Watkins of People for a Shorter Workweek 10/19/2004 email


ARTICLES

  • Swiss in November poll say yes to 6 weeks vacation, 11/22/2010 GenevaLunch.com
    BERN, Switzerland - Swiss voters overwhelmingly favour six weeks of vacation, the results of a poll carried out for Travail.Suisse in November show: 61% are in favour of the group’s initiative to add two weeks of annual vacation.... The federal government said in June that it is opposed to the text, arguing that there are alternatives, such as shorter hours and high wages, [for] reducing stress at work and improving the health of workers, one of Travail.Suisse’s rationales for the change.... - see whole article under 11/21-22-23/2010 #1.


  • Summertime summit in Seattle to dissect Americans' lack of vacation time, By Richard Seven, 8/09/2009 Seattle Times.
    Ever since the middle class began taking vacations in the mid-19th century, Americans have wrestled with questions of how much vacation is enough and how to leave work completely behind.
    Those and other issues will be batted around at this week's National Vacation Matters Summit at Seattle University.
    The agenda lists presentations on everything from the impact of workplace stress on coronary health to why Americans who get paid vacation time use relatively little of it.
    The roster of presenters includes cardiologists, psychologists and representatives of organized labor, academia and environmentalism, as well as the travel and tourism industries.
    John de Graaf, co-founder and executive director of Take Back Your Time, a Seattle nonprofit that preaches that time can and should mean more than money, organized the event.
    "The goal is to bring people together to brainstorm on how we can get Americans to better understand that vacation matters," says de Graaf, an author and freelance film producer. "I am not advocating slacking. That's not the point. We're just totally out of balance in this country."
    De Graaf recently helped draft a bill mandating paid vacations that was introduced in Congress by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla.
    The Paid Vacation Act of 2009 would require one week of paid vacation at companies with at least 100 employees. Three years after passage, the bill would extend the one-week vacation mandate to companies with at least 50 employees, and require two weeks for companies with 100 employees. Workers must have worked 1,250 hours in a year to be eligible.

    A 2007 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn't guarantee its workers paid vacation. A quarter of American workers don't get any paid annual vacation; those who do average about two weeks a year.
    But the vacation issue is not just about providing vacation for everyone. It's also about getting workers to take what they've earned. A 2009 survey commissioned by travel site Expedia.com found that a third of employed U.S. adults "usually" do not take all of the vacation days they receive in a year.
    When asked why not, 11% of respondents said they were banking their time in hopes of getting money back for unused vacation days. Other top responses involved the hassle of scheduling days off or not being able to coordinate their days off with those of a spouse.
    Meanwhile, 37% of respondents said they regularly work more than 40 hours per week.
    Cindy Aron, a former University of Virginia history professor and author of an exhaustive history of the American vacation, "Working at Play," notes a circular logic.
    "What made people middle-class in the 19th century was not only the sort of work they did and the sort of homes in which they lived, but the sort of values to which they aspired: hard work, sobriety, self-control, discipline," she says. "Adhering to these values were what allowed them to accumulate the resources to become middle-class and to take vacations. Being on vacation threatened to undermine those values."
    De Graaf's proposed law, which figures to languish behind more pressing legislation, attracted immediate disdain from political conservatives and business interests. Opponents complained such legislation is "one more step toward socialism" (and "becoming France"); is too expensive for employers; and an obstacle to America's competitiveness in the world economy.
    They also said the legislation is unnecessary because most American workers already get paid vacation time.
    De Graaf was taken aback by the intensity of the opposition because he was criticized by the other end of the spectrum for pushing a too-modest proposal.
    Some see this as an odd time to push for paid vacation. Unemployment is high, jobs are being outsourced, companies are under stress to do more with less, and employees find themselves working harder to make ends meet while facing cutbacks, unpaid furloughs and the threat of job loss.
    But Michelle Rupp, owner of NRG, a 12-employee Seattle insurance-brokerage company, feels this is the best time to talk seriously about vacations.
    "The profit-only model in corporate America is not working," she says. "Plants oil their machines and turn them off at night. We don't run them 24/7. So why do businesses feel they shouldn't help their workers rest and recharge?"
    Rupp's company, started by her father in the early '70s, has won national awards for bringing flexibility to the workplace. The company also starts workers at two weeks paid vacation and awards an additional monthlong paid furlough every five years.
    Rupp is rigid about one thing: When her employees take vacations, they must take at least a week. That's the minimum that she believes is necessary to feel disconnected from work. She believes rested workers are better workers.
    "I'm just carrying on what my dad did," she says. "He got it."
    De Graaf learned the value of free time as a kid hiking through Yosemite National Park with his father. At 14, he went backpacking with friends for two weeks. As a high-school senior, he hiked and camped with a buddy for six weeks. Those experiences stuck with him, and he continues to take wilderness excursions with his own son.
    In 1994, de Graaf coproduced a PBS documentary called "Running Out of Time," which solidified his thinking. He joined the voluntary simplicity movement but felt the need to go past anti-consumption and efficiency messages. He felt time was the missing — or disappearing — link. Along with colleagues, he started Take Back Your Time to give a "policy dimension" to the simplicity movement.
    "I recall a class at the University of Wisconsin in 1968 in which the professor said automation and technology would create a crisis of too much leisure time.
    "I told myself that's a problem I could deal with," he says. "But that leisure crisis never came."
    Richard Seven: 206-464-2241 or rseven@seattletimes.com
    If you go
    The National Vacation Matters Summit will be held Monday through Wednesday at Pigott Auditorium, Seattle University campus. Registration costs $50 for the full conference, $25 for students. Most of the presentations will be on Tuesday. Details: www.timeday.org/
    We're number 11!
    According to a study commissioned by Expedia.com, here is the average number of vacation days employed adults will receive in 2009 (based on the mean of all employed adults, including those who get no vacation time):
    1. France 38 days
    2. Italy 31 days
    3. Spain 30 days
    4. Germany 27 days
    (tie) Austria 27 days
    6. Great Britain 26 days
    7. New Zealand 21 days
    8. Canada 19 days
    (tie) Australia 19 days
    10. Japan 15 days
    11. United States 13 days


    [This is a long one!]

  • No-Vacation Nation, by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, May 2007, CEPR (Center for Economic and Policy Research) via cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports.
    This report reviewed international vacation and holiday laws and found that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses.
    This report also includes a comparative appendix with information on paid leave and holiday laws in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
    This report was republished by the European Trade Union Institute for Research, Education and Health and Safety (ETIU-REHS) in their European Economic and Employment Policy Brief No. 3 (2007).
    PRESS RELEASE -
    U.S. Only Advanced Economy That Does Not Guarantee Workers Paid Vacation or Holidays - Report Shows that 1 in 4 U.S. Workers Have No Paid Vacation
    , For Immediate Release: May 16, 2007, Contact: Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115, CEPR via cepr.net/index.php/press-releases
    Washington, DC: The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. As a result, 1 in 4 private-sector workers in the U.S. do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
    The report, No-Vacation Nation, by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, finds that European workers are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days common in some countries. The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger when legal holidays are included. The United States does not guarantee any paid holidays, but most rich countries provide between 5 and 13 per year, in addition to paid vacation days.
    “The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,” said John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report. “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked. It’s a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don’t get any paid vacation or paid holidays.”
    The sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays provided to U.S. workers in the private sector -- 15 in total -- would not meet even the minimum required by law in 19 other rich countries.
    A review of international standards shows that the United States lags far behind the rest of the world's rich countries. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses. The report finds:
    * Employees of small businesses in the U.S. are less likely to have any paid vacation (70%) than those in medium and large establishments (86%).
    * Lower-wage workers in the U.S. (those making less than $15 per hour) are even worse off. Only 69% have paid vacation, compared to 88% of higher-wage workers.
    * Part-time workers in the U.S., who are much more likely to be women, are far less likely to have paid vacations (36 percent) than are full-time workers (90%).
    The authors also found that several foreign countries offer additional time off for younger and older workers, shift workers, and those engaged in community service such as jury duty or voting.
    The report reviewed the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States).
    SUMMARY -
    U.S. Only Advanced Economy That Does Not Guarantee Paid Vacation or Holidays Report Shows that 1 in 4 U.S. Workers Have No Paid Vacation
    , CEPR via cepr.net/documents/publications/nvn-summary.pdf
    The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. As a result, 1 in 4 private-sector workers in the U.S. do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays.
    The report, No-Vacation Nation (below and http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/no-vacation-nation/ ), finds that European workers are guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with 25 and even 30 or more days common in some countries. The gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is even larger when holidays are included. The U.S. does not guarantee any paid holidays, but most rich countries provide between 5 and 13 per year, in addition to paid vacation days.
    “The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays,” said John Schmitt, senior economist and co-author of the report. “Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn’t worked. It’s a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don’t get any paid vacation or paid holidays.”
    The sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays provided to U.S. workers in the private sector = 15 in total = would not meet even the minimum required by law in 19 other rich countries.
    FIGURE 1
    Paid Vacation and Paid Holidays, OECD Nations, in Working Days
    Country   PaidAnnualLeave + Paid Holidays
    France 30+1 =31
    Finland 25+9 =34
    Denmark 25+9 =34
    Norway 25+2 =27
    Sweden 25
    Germany 24+10 =34
    Austria 22+13 =35
    Portugal 22+13 =35
    Spain 22+12 =34
    Italy 20+13 =33
    Belgium 20+10 =30
    Ireland 20+9 =29
    Australia 20+7 =27
    New Zealand 20+7 =27
    Greece 20+8 =28
    Netherlands 20
    Switzerland 20
    United Kingdom 20
    Canada 10+8 =18
    Japan 10
    United States 0
    Sources: See Table 1 (in Report below)
    Note: Several nations’ laws refer to workdays, while others refer to calendar days or weeks. Our comparison assumes a five-day workweek. For a more precise listing, see Table 1 (in Report below).
    This review of international standards shows that the U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world's rich countries. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses. The report reviewed the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries.
    REPORT -
    No-Vacation Nation
    , by Rebecca Ray and John Schmit, May 2007, CEPR 1611 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 400 Washington DC 20009 202-293-5380 via scribd.com/doc
    Contents
    Introduction................................................................... 1
    Vacation and Holiday Laws......................................... 2
    Paid Holidays............................................................ 5
    Special Treatment for Specific Categories of Workers ... 5
    Timing of Leave......................................................... 6
    Related Types of Paid Leave....................................... 6
    Bonus Pay for Vacation Periods................................. 6
    Provisions to Ensure that Leave is Taken................... 6
    Conclusion..................................................................... 7
    Appendix........................................................................ 8
    European Union........................................................ 8
    Australia................................................................... 8
    Austria...................................................................... 8
    Belgium...................................................................... 9
    Canada....................................................................10
    Denmark.................................................................10
    Finland....................................................................11
    France....................................................................... 11
    Germany................................................................... 12
    Greece........................................................................ 12
    Ireland....................................................................... 12
    Italy.......................................................................... 13
    Japan........................................................................ 13
    Netherlands............................................................... 13
    New Zealand............................................................ 14
    Norway..................................................................... 14
    Portugal..................................................................... 15
    Spain........................................................................ 15
    Sweden...................................................................... 16
    Switzerland............................................................... 16
    United Kingdom........................................................ 17
    United States............................................................. 17
    Bibliography.................................................................. 18
    Errata
    The original version of this paper reported that Germany had only one paid public holiday and Switzerland had at least five, varying by canton. The correct number for Germany varies between nine and 13 by German state; Swiss law does not guarantee paid public holidays.
    About the Authors
    Rebecca Ray is a program assistant and John Schmitt is a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
    Acknowledgements
    We thank Dean Baker, Heather Boushey, Liz Chimienti, John de Graaf, Lynn Erskine, and Helene Jorgensen for many helpful comments.
    Introduction
    The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirement of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offers none, but most of the rest of the world's rich countries offer between five and 13 paid holidays per year.
    In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays. According to government survey data, the average worker in the private sector in the United States receives only about nine days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year: less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world's rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid vacation days and requires no paid holidays).
    The paid vacation and paid holidays that employers do make available is distributed unequally. According to the same government survey data, lower-wage workers are less likely to have any paid vacation (69%) than higher-wage workers are (88%). The same is true for part-timers, who are far less likely to have paid vacations (36%) than are full-timers (90 percent). The problems of lower-wage and part-time workers are magnified if they are employed in small establishments, where only 70% have paid vacations, compared to 86% in medium and large establishments. Even when lower-wage, part-time, and small-business employees do receive paid vacations, they typically receive far fewer paid days off than higher-wage, full-time, employees in larger establishments. For example, the average lower-wage worker (less than $15 per hour) with a vacation benefit received only 10 days of paid vacation per year in 2005, compared to 14 days of paid vacation for higher-wage workers with paid vacations. If we look at all workers -- those who receive paid vacations and those who don't -- the vacation gap between lower-wage and higher-wage workers is even larger: only 7 days for lower-wage workers, compared to 13 days for higher-wage workers.
    This report reviews the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States). In addition to our finding that the United States is the only country in the group that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time, we also note that several foreign countries offer additional time off for younger and older workers, shift workers, and those engaged in community service including jury duty. Three countries even mandate that employers pay vacationing workers a small premium above their standard pay in order to help with vacation-related expenses. Almost every other rich country has also established legal rights to paid holidays over and above paid vacation days. We distinguish throughout the report between paid vacation -- or paid annual leave, terms we use interchangeably -- and paid holidays, which are organized around particular fixed dates in the calendar. Our analysis does not cover paid leave for other reasons such as sick leave, parental leave, or leave to care for sick relatives.
    Vacation and Holiday Laws
    Figure 1 summarizes the legal right to paid vacation for 21 of the richest countries in the world (see also Table 1). Where applicable and separate from paid vacation, the figure also shows the total number of legally mandated paid holidays. From left to right, countries are ordered from most generous (France, 30 days) to the least generous (the United States, 0 days).
    FIGURE 1 (see above in Summary)
    The European Union's (EU's) Working Time Directive (1993) sets a vacation floor for all EU member countries of four weeks or 20 days per year. Several EU member countries require substantially more than the lower limit established by the EU. France mandates 30 days of paid annual leave; Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, 25; and Germany, 24. Several EU countries offer paid holidays over and above the EU statute for paid annual leave. Austrian, Portuguese, and Italian laws require employers to give 13 paid holidays in addition to paid vacation; Spain follows closely, guaranteeing 12 paid holidays. In addition to 20 days of paid annual leave, Belgium requires 10 paid holidays; and Denmark and Ireland, nine.
    TABLE 1
    Paid Vacation and Paid Holidays in OECD Nations

    Country -- Statutory Minimum Annual Leave -- Paid Holidays
    Australia1 -- 4 weeks (5 for shift workers) -- 7
    Austria2 -- 30 calendar days (36 after 6 years) -- 13
    Belgium2 -- 20 work days -- 10
    Canada *3 -- 2 weeks (3 with seniority) -- 8
    Denmark2 -- 5 weeks -- 9
    Finland *1 -- 4 weeks (5 after 1 year) -- 9
    France2 -- 30 work days -- 1
    Germany *1 -- 24 work days (up to 30 for young workers) -- 10
    Greece2 -- 4 weeks (plus 1 work day after the 2nd and 3rd years) -- 6
    Ireland2 -- 4 weeks -- 9
    Italy4 -- 4 weeks -- 13
    Japan5 -- 10 work days (plus 1 work day after the 2nd – 10th years) -- 0
    Netherlands1 -- 4 weeks -- 0
    New Zealand1 -- 4 weeks -- 7
    Norway2, 6 -- 25 work days -- 2
    Portugal2 -- 22 work days (20 in the first year) -- 13
    Spain1, 7 -- 30 calendar days -- 12
    Sweden2 -- 25 work days -- 0
    Switzerland2 -- 4 weeks (5 for young workers) -- 0
    United Kingdom2 -- 4 weeks -- 0
    United States8 -- 0 -- 0
    * Varies by region; average is presented here; for details, see Appendix.
    Sources:
    1. ILO (n.d.) a.
    2. European Commission (n.d.) a.
    3. Canada DHRSD 2006.
    4. Heymann et Al. 2004, European Union 1993.
    5. ILO (n.d.) b., Japan (n.d.)
    6. Fellesforbundet 2005.
    7. European Commission (n.d.) b.
    8. USDOL (n.d.)
    Rich countries outside of the EU also have generous minimum requirements for vacation. In Europe, Norway requires employers to provide 25 days of paid annual leave. Workers in both Australia and New Zealand have four weeks of paid vacation and 7 paid holidays.
    Canada and Japan are less generous than the rest of the world, but still require their employers to grant ten days of paid annual leave. Both countries, however, grant rising vacation to workers based on their seniority. (In Canada, provincial governments set vacation policy. The ten-day estimate in Figure 1 is representative of the country; most provinces set higher vacation minimums for workers with higher seniority.)
    TABLE 2
    Availability and Generosity of Actual Paid Annual Leave and Paid Holidays, Private Sector Workers, United States, 2006 (see *online version of report)

    The United States is the only country in the group that does not legally require employers to provide paid annual leave. Of course, many employers in the United States offer some or all of their employees paid vacations and paid holidays even though the law does not establish a legal minimum for either kind of benefit. (Many employers in the other 20 countries in Figure 1 also offer more paid vacations and holidays than the legal minimums described in the figure.) Table 2 presents data on paid vacations and paid holidays in the U.S. private sector from the 2006 National Compensation Survey. The first column shows that about 77% of private-sector workers are in jobs where their employer offers paid vacation. The next column indicates that about 76% of workers are in jobs with paid holidays. The next two columns give the average number of paid vacation and paid holidays for those employees who have paid vacation and paid holidays, that is, the average excludes those employees who have zero paid vacation and paid holidays. For this group, which represents about three-fourths of the U.S. work force, the average paid annual leave is about 12 days, and the average number of paid holidays is about eight. The final two columns give the average number of paid vacation and paid holidays including the roughly one-fourth of the work force that does not have these benefits. On average, private-sector workers in the United States have about nine days of paid vacation per year, plus about six paid holidays.
    The table also illustrates that part-time workers, low earners, and workers in small establishments (fewer than 100 workers) are less likely to receive paid vacation and paid holidays, and when they do, these workers receive fewer paid days off. Lower-wage workers are less likely (69%) than higher-wage workers (88%) to have paid vacations. The same is true for part-timers, who are far less likely to have paid vacations (36%) than are full-timers (90%), and for employees in small establishments, where only 70% have paid vacations, compared to 86% in medium and large establishments. Even when lower-wage, part-time, and small-business employees do receive paid vacations, they typically receive far fewer paid days off than higher-wage, full-time, employees in larger establishments do. For example, the average lower-wage worker (less than $15 per hour) with a vacation benefit received only 10 days of paid vacation per year, compared to 14 days of paid vacation for higher-wage workers with paid vacations. If we look at all workers -- those who receive paid vacations and those who don't -- the vacation gap between lower-wage and higher- wage workers is even larger: only 7 days for lower-wage workers, compared to 13 days for higher- wage workers.
    Paid Holidays
    Many OECD countries also guarantee paid holidays, including New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas. Other commonly paid holidays are Labor Day, Ascension Thursday, and All Saints’ Day. Spain has 12 paid public holidays. Portugal, Italy, and Austria have 13 each; Belgium, 10; Denmark, Ireland, and Finland, nine each; Canada, eight (on average, though the number varies by province); Australia and New Zealand, seven; and Greece, six. Norway has two paid holidays, and France guarantees one. Two countries determine public holidays at the regional level: Canada (which offers at least five in each province) and Germany (with a minimum of nine holidays). Again, U.S. law makes no provisions for paid holidays, as is also the case in Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
    In most countries, employers have some flexibility around paid holidays, and often have the option to schedule workers on holidays provided that they pay those days at a higher-than-usual rate or offer a paid day off at another time. The Appendix discusses these issues in greater detail where applicable.
    Special Treatment for Specific Categories of Workers
    Several countries mandate more paid leave for younger and older workers than appears in Figure 1. Three European nations offer greater vacation time for young workers: Austria (usually an extra five working days), Germany (between one and six extra days, depending on age), and Switzerland (an extra week). Norway offers an additional week of vacation to workers over the age of 60.
    In some countries, leave entitlement rises with a worker's seniority. Japan gives seniority the most weight: after 18 months, an employee’s annual leave begins rising by one workday per year of service until reaching 20 days. Austria grants workers with over 25 years of seniority six additional calendar days of leave (for a total of 36 calendar days). In Finland, annual leave rises from four workweeks to five after the employee’s first year, and public servants with at least 15 years of tenure receive 36 working days. Greece’s annual leave increases, from four weeks, by one workday per year after an employee’s second and third year. Finally, in Canada, leave provisions vary from province to province, but most provinces grant workers an additional week of vacation after five to 10 years.
    Two nations allow more leave for workers with difficult working schedules. Australia offers some shift workers an additional 1/52 of the number of hours they work each year (or roughly one work week). Austria offers workers with “heavy night work” two to three extra days of leave, depending on how frequently they do this shift work, and an additional four days of leave after five years of shift work.
    Timing of Leave
    Nine European countries have regulations to guarantee that workers can take at least some of their leave in the summer peak vacation season. The Netherlands has the strictest rules in this regard: if possible, Dutch employers must grant their workers leave in one continuous period, to fall between April 30 and October 1. Other countries that require employers to schedule leave in summer blocks include Sweden and Finland (four consecutive weeks), Norway (18 days) Denmark (15 days), and France (12 days). Portuguese employers may close their operations completely over part of the summer to accommodate employee leave, and must consult with their workers’ union if they plan to shut for fewer than 15 consecutive working days. Finally, in Austria, employers must allow young workers (between the ages of 15 and 18) at least 12 consecutive days of leave between June 15 and September 15.
    Related Types of Paid Leave
    Several nations also offer additional leave for specific purposes. Greek law provides up to three days of paid leave for workers to vote, if accessing their polling stations requires travel. Employees in Spain receive paid leave for acts of civic duty including jury service, and for moving house. French law guarantees unpaid leave for community work, including nine workdays for representing an association and six months for projects of “international solidarity” abroad. Sweden requires employers to provide paid leave for workers fulfilling union duties.
    Bonus Pay for Vacation Periods
    Austria, Sweden, and New Zealand require employers to pay workers at a premium rate while they are on vacation. Austria is the most generous -- employers pay workers taking their month-long vacation a “13th month” salary, paid at the same time as the usual monthly salary, but taxed at a lower rate. In New Zealand and Sweden, annual leave is paid at a higher rate than the worker’s usual salary; 112% the usual pay in New Zealand and 108% the usual rate in Sweden.
    Provisions to Ensure that Leave is Taken
    Several nations have additional stipulations to ensure workers take their allotted leave each year. Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland have provisions specifically forbidding employers from offering employees additional pay for forfeiting vacation days. Australia offers a less strict version of this protection, allowing half of the annual leave to be “cashed out.” The United Kingdom prohibits cashing out the statutory minimum four weeks of leave, but employees can receive extra pay in lieu of vacation time over the statutory minimum.
    Another method of guaranteeing that workers have access to their leave is to require leave to be taken by the end of the year in which it is granted. Denmark, Ireland, and Switzerland have such provisions. Portugal requires that at least 15 days of annual leave be taken in the year accrued; the remainder can only be taken until April of the following year. The United Kingdom treats carried- over leave in the same way as it treats cashing out: employees must take the four guaranteed weeks of leave, but may carry over any additional leave granted by their employer.
    Conclusion
    This review of international standards for paid vacation and paid holidays shows that the United States lags far behind the rest of the world's rich countries. The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that does not require employers to offer at least some paid holidays.
    In the absence of a legal requirement for paid vacation and paid holidays, about one fourth of the U.S. workforce has no paid vacation or paid holidays in the course of their work year. The sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays -- 15 in total -- offered in the private sector in the United States would not meet even the minimum required by law in 19 other rich countries analyzed here. (The average in the United States only exceeds the legal minimum of ten days in Japan.)
    The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the United States is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses. Lower-wage, part-time, and small- business employees are all less likely to receive paid vacations or paid holidays, and when they do receive paid time off, the amount they receive is far less generous than what is available to their higher-wage, full-time counterparts with larger employers.
    Appendix
    European Union
    The 2003 Working Time Directive holds EU member countries to minimum standards of workplace protections. The Directive stipulates that member states must ensure that every worker is “entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks” (EU 2003: 11). Nations were initially granted a three-year implementation period, beginning in 1996, in which they could provide for only three weeks of annual leave.1
    Australia
    Australia’s annual leave provisions are guaranteed through the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard. For most employees, the Standard sets a minimum paid annual leave of one-thirteenth of time worked in each four-week period. (In practice, this becomes four weeks of paid leave per year for employees who work 38-hour weeks.) Two significant exceptions to this general rule exist: casual and continuous shift workers. Casual workers are exempted from the standard but receive a “casual loading” in addition to their usual salary to compensate for lost time (usually an additional 20% of their salary). The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 27% of all Australian workers are casual, but this figure drops to 23% if owner managers are removed from the category. On the other end of the spectrum, continuous shift workers receive additional paid leave of 1/52 of time worked, or 25% more than other employees. Finally, in addition to paid annual leave, workers are guaranteed at least seven paid holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 26 (Australia Day), Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25 (Anzac Day), December 25 (Christmas), and December 26 (Boxing Day).
    Under certain circumstances, employees may voluntarily work instead of taking annual and holiday leave. Where workplace contracts allow it, annual leave can be “cashed out” in exchange for the additional pay the employee would have received during leave. However, employees may only cash out of a limited amount of their leave: up to 1/26 of their annual hours (or two weeks per year in the case of employees who work 38-hour weeks). Employers are prohibited from requiring workers to cash out of vacation time, or from exerting undue pressure on employees in their decisions regarding whether to take all of their allotted paid leave. However, employers may require employees to take up to one-fourth of their accumulated leave if they have not used any over a two- year period. Employers can request, but not require, that employees work on holidays. In lieu of the holiday, employees receive an additional paid day off, and 150% of their usual wage for the hours worked on the public holiday (although some contracts may alter this allowance).2
    1 EU 1993.
    2 Australia OEA 2007b; See also Commonwealth of Australia. 1996. Workplace Relations Act, as amended up to Act No. 153 of 2005 and SLI 2006 No. 68. Cited in ILO (n.d.) a.
    Austria
    By default, Austrian workers are allotted five weeks of leave per year, which corresponds to 30 calendar days of paid annual leave. After 25 years of employment, workers are guaranteed an additional six calendar days, for a total of 36 calendar days of leave.3 Several special categories of workers receive varying treatment. Young workers receive 30 working days of leave, and at their request must be granted at least 12 days of leave between June 15 and September 15. Employees who work from home must receive 2.5 working days of leave per month of employment; after 25 years of employment this allotment rises to 3 working days per month. No work may be delivered to the employee’s home during these days. Workers who perform heavy night work (at least six hours of work between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., under strenuous conditions) receive extra vacation time depending on the frequency of their night work, as follows:
    • Employees who work this shift 50-100 times per year receive two extra days of annual leave. If these same employees then work at least 40 night shifts in the subsequent year, they will receive the same two extra days of leave in that next year as well.
    • Those who work this schedule over 100 times per year receive three extra days of annual leave. If these same employees then work at least 40 night shifts in the subsequent year, they will receive the same three extra days of leave in that next year as well.
    After five years of this heavy night work, workers are entitled to four extra days of leave, and after fifteen years of this work, six extra days.4
    Workers receive a holiday bonus in addition to their salary. This is called the “13th month,” and is paid at the same time as the usual monthly salary, but subject to a lower tax rate.
    There are 13 statutory public holidays. On these days, workers must receive 24 hours of uninterrupted rest, with pay. Any work done on these days is paid at 200% of the usual wage, unless compensatory time (one calendar day or 36 hours is given.5
    3 “Living and Working Conditions: Austria.” 2007. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 4 April 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=AT&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    4 Republic of Austria. Annual Leave Act, Home Work Act, and Heavy Night Work Act. Cited in ILO (n.d.) a.
    5 “Quality of Work, Austria: Working Hours/Working Time.” 2006. Database entry in European Foundation (n.d.) b. Accessed 27 April 2007. [http://www.fr.eurofound.eu.int/emire/AUSTRIA/ANCHOR-ARBEITSZEIT-AT.html], and ILO (n.d.) a.
    Belgium
    Workers in Belgium are guaranteed 20 working days’ leave for each year worked. However, they do not have the right to take the leave until the year after it is earned. In other words, a worker is not guaranteed the right to take any vacation time until after her first year with her employer.6
    Belgium has 10 public holidays with the right to paid leave. These days are: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day, Whit Monday (50 days after Easter), Belgian National Holiday (July 21), Assumption (August 15), All Saint’s Day, Armistice Day, and Christmas.7 Employers may ask their employees to work on public holidays, but must compensate them with a different day off within six weeks of the holiday.
    6 2006. “Living and Working Conditions: Belgium.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 21 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=BE&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    7 Flanders Investment and Trade 2007.
    Canada
    In Canada, provincial law governs annual leave, unless an employee falls under federal jurisdiction, which applies to the federal government and to broadcasting or interstate or international commerce operations. However, as Table A1 below shows, most jurisdictions follow a similar pattern of two weeks’ paid annual leave, which increases by one week after a significant job tenure.
    Similarly, the number of statutory paid holidays varies by province, as shown below.8 Workers may be asked to work on public holidays, and each province has set its own rules regarding additional compensation for work done on these days. Most provinces require some combination of an additional leave and a higher rate of pay for the time worked.
    TABLE A1
    Legal Minimum Annual Paid Leave and Holidays in Canada, by Province

    Jurisdiction -- Guaranteed Paid Annual Leave (Weeks) -- Required Job Tenure for Additional Week of Leave (Years) -- Paid Holidays
    Federal* -- 2 -- 6 -- 9
    Alberta -- 2 -- 5 -- 9
    British Columbia -- 2 -- 5 -- 9
    Manitoba -- 2 -- 5 -- 7
    New Brunswick -- 2 -- 8 -- 6
    Newfoundland -- 2 -- 15 -- 5
    Nova Scotia -- 2 -- 8 -- 5
    Nunavut** -- 2 -- 6 -- 9
    Northwest Territories** -- 2 -- 6 -- 10
    Ontario -- 2 -- *** -- 8
    Prince Edward’s Island -- 2 -- *** -- 5
    Quebec -- 2 -- 5 -- 8
    Saskatchewan -- 3 -- 10 -- 9
    Yukon -- 2 -- *** -- 9
    * Under federal jurisdiction, after six years of job tenure, workers’ vacation pay rises from two to 3% of their annual salary per week of vacation.
    ** In Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, workers’ six years’ tenure (required for an additional week’s annual leave) do not need to be continuous, but do need to occur within a ten-year period.
    *** In Ontario, Prince Edward’s Island, and the Yukon, the guaranteed amount of paid annual leave does not increase with job tenure.
    8 Canada Department of Human Resources and Social Development 2001, 2006a, 2006b.
    Denmark
    Danish law guarantees employees 30 days of annual leave per year worked, prorated at 2.5 days per month worked between May 2 and April 30. Under the now-common 5-day workweek, this translates to 25 workdays of paid leave. Employees may take their annual leave during the year after it is earned, and may not carry it over from one year to the next. In their first year of employment, they may still take the normal amount of annual leave, but the law does not require employers to pay them during this leave. Of their total allotted annual leave, employees must take 15 days between May 2 and September 30, although contracts may waive this norm. Finally, employees are guaranteed bonus pay of 100% for work on any of nine public holidays: New Year’s Day, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Common Prayer Day (the fourth Friday after Easter), Ascension Day, Constitution Day (June 5, from noon), Whit Monday (50 days after Easter), Christmas, and December 26.9
    9Embassy of India in Copenhagen 2002. See also “Living and Working Conditions: Denmark.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 21 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=DK&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    Finland
    Finnish law guarantees five weeks of paid leave annually, which translates to 30 days for workers with a traditional six-day workweek and 25 for those working a more modern five-day workweek. These days are allotted on a pro-rated basis: 2 days’ paid leave per month worked during their first year of employment, and 2.5 days’ paid leave per month thereafter. Four of these weeks must be taken between May 2 and September 30, and the rest may be used any time before May 2 of the following calendar year, or may be carried over to the next year at the employee’s discretion. Though the employer must allow employee input into the timing of leave, scheduling is ultimately at the discretion of the employer. Moreover, the employer may postpone a worker’s summer leave until later in the same calendar year if normal summer leave would place an excessive burden on operations. When a worker’s employment is terminated, the employer must pay the value of any remaining leave. Public servants receive special treatment: after 15 years’ tenure, they receive three workdays’ leave for each month worked.10
    Holidays vary among localities. Nationally, Independence Day is treated as a paid public holiday. Local governments set rules regarding other holidays, observing an average of nine days.11
    10 “Living and Working Conditions: Finland.” 2005. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 21 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=FI&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    See also Republic of Finland. Ordinance on the Working Time of Civil Servants. Cited in ILO (n.d.) a.
    11 ILO 2001, Republic of Finland 2005, 2006.
    France
    From their first month of employment, workers in France are eligible for annual leave, which accrues at a rate of 2.5 days per four weeks’ work, or 30 days per year (from June 1 to May 31). Workers may take up to 24 days of this leave at a time, but at least 12 of these days must be taken between May 1 and October 31. Workers receive extra leave for deciding to take a portion of their leave outside of the summer season: those who take between three and five days’ leave off-season receive an extra day’s leave, and those who take six days’ leave off-season receive two extra days. There are 11 public holidays, but only one, May 1, must be paid.12 Finally, French law guarantees additional, unpaid leave for community work: up to nine unpaid working days of leave for representing an association, and up to six months’ unpaid leave for “international solidarity” trips for service abroad.13
    12 “Quality of Work, France: Public Holidays.” 2006. Database entry in European Foundation (n.d.) b. Accessed 1 May 2007. [http://www.fr.eurofound.eu.int/emire/FRANCE/PUBLICHOLIDAYS-FR.html].
    13 “Living and Working Conditions: France.” 2003. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 26 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=FR&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    “Quality of Work, France: Public Holidays.” 2006. Database entry in Euroepean Foundation (n.d.) b. Accessed 27 April 2007. [http://www.fr.eurofound.eu.int/emire_old/FRANCE/PUBLICHOLIDAYS-FR.html].
    See also: France. 2004. Labour Code, Decree No. 2004-1381 of 21st December 2004. Cited in ILO (n.d.) a.
    Germany
    German law allows for 24 working days of leave normally, with a few notable exceptions for young workers. Workers receive 30 working days’ leave until they turn 16, 27 days until they turn 17, and 25 days until they turn 18. Working days are defined as non-holiday days between Monday and Saturday, whether or not a worker usually works on these days. Thus, the 24 working days apply to those with six-day workweeks; those with five-day workweeks receive 20 paid days of leave. Full entitlement to leave is not established until the employee has been at her job for six months. A worker’s leave may be split into multiple parts either for urgent business reasons or for the employee’s wishes, but at least one of these sections must be for at least 12 working days.14 Public holidays are paid in Germany. There is only one national public holiday, German Unity Day. States regulate the remaining holidays, varying between 9 and 13 in total.15
    14 “European Job Mobility Portal: Living and Working Conditions: Germany.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 27 March 2007 [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=DE&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0] and ILO (n.d.) a.
    15 Der Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund (n.d.), Federal Republic of Germany 2005.
    Greece
    Workers in Greece receive five weeks’ paid leave annually: 24 working days for workers on a six-day week or 20 working days for those on a five-day week. Employers must offer workers this leave by the end of their first calendar year at the job, prorated for the portion of the year for which they’ve been employed. After the second and third years of employment, annual leave is increased by one working day per year (to 22 or 26 working days, depending on the usual work schedule). Apart from the usual annual leave, Greece also offers workers up to three paid days’ leave to vote, in cases where accessing polling stations requires travel.16
    There are six mandatory paid public holidays: Independence Day (March 25), Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1, August 15, and Christmas. There is one discretionary holiday (October 28), and localities and employers may observe up to four additional holidays, including the days of patron saints of municipalities, industries, or occupations. Employees who must work on a public holiday receive a 75% wage premium for that day’s work.17
    16 “Living and Working Conditions: Greece.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 27 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=GR&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    17 “Quality of Work, Greece: Public Holidays.” 2006. Database entry in European Foundation (n.d.) b. Accessed 27 April 2007. [http://www.fr.eurofound.eu.int/emire/GREECE/PUBLICHOLIDAYS-GR.html].
    Ireland
    The Organisation of Working Time Act of 1997 provides for four weeks of annual leave per year for workers employed full-time (on a pro rata basis in the case of partial-year employment of less than 1,365 hours). Alternately, employers may provide 1/3 working week’s vacation per month in which the employee worked at least 117 hours, or 8% of an employee’s annual hours (up to a maximum of four working weeks). Leave may not be carried over from year to year. Employers may schedule their employees’ leave, but must take into account workers’ family responsibilities and must consult the employees’ union at least one month before the leave is to occur. Employers must pay leave before it commences.
    In addition to annual leave, employees are entitled to nine public holidays: New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, the first Monday in the months of May, June, August, and October, Christmas Day, and St. Stephen’s Day (December 26). Employers may choose to give employees these holidays as paid days off, or compensate them with a different paid day of leave within that month, an additional day’s annual leave, or an additional day’s pay. If holidays fall on an employee’s day off, and the employee cannot claim it as a day off of work, the employer may give the worker an additional 20% of her usual weekly pay as compensation. Part-time workers must have worked at least 40 hours in the five weeks before the holiday to receive this benefit.18
    18 “Living and Working Conditions: Ireland.” 2004. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 27 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=IE&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    Italy
    Workers in Italy are covered by the European Union Working Time Directive, which guarantees four weeks of annual leave per full-time employee.19 In addition, Italy observes 12 public holidays: New Year’s Day, Epiphany (January 6), Liberation Day (April 25), Easter Monday, Labour Day (May 1), Republic Day (June 2), Assumption (August 15), All Saints’ Day (November 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8), Christmas (December 25), St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), and the festival of the local patron saint. These are treated as paid days off. If a holiday falls on a Sunday or another day not usually worked, workers receive one additional day’s pay. If a worker must work on that day, they receive a bonus for doing so.20
    19 EU 2003.
    20 “Living and Working Conditions: Italy.” 2005. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 27 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=IT&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    Japan
    Annual leave is covered by the Labor Standards Law of 1947 (last amended in 1995). Employees are eligible for ten working days’ annual leave once they have worked at least six months, and reported to work at least 80% of their scheduled workdays (not counting days off for work-related accidents or injuries, or for child care or maternity leave). After 18 months of employment, they receive one additional working day’s leave for each year of their tenure, up to a total of 20 working days, although there is no guarantee of pay for public holidays. While the employee generally has the right to schedule the leave according to her own wishes, the employer may move the scheduled leave if it interferes with business operations. Exceptions to this provision include workers in family businesses that employ only cohabiting relatives, farm workers, domestic employees, and supervisors of employees handling confidential matters.21
    21 Japan 1999, 2002.
    Netherlands
    Workers in the Netherlands receive four weeks’ vacation each year. Employers should schedule this leave, but after consulting with employees, and with sufficient advance notice for the employees to plan vacations. If possible, leave should be scheduled as one continuous period and should fall between April 30 and October 1. However, if the business requires it or the worker requests it, leave can be split into periods of at least two weeks. The Netherlands has only two national holidays, Queen’s Day (April 30) and Liberation Day (May 5), although many employers also observe other holidays such as New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, and Christmas. There is no legal entitlement to time off for holidays, or for extra pay for workers who must work on them.
    New Zealand
    The Holidays Act 2003 covers vacation and holiday pay in New Zealand. The Act guarantees workers four weeks of annual paid leave, with an additional holiday pay allowance of 8% of their gross earnings since their last anniversary date. From the passage of the Act until April 1, 2007, employers were only required to provide three weeks’ leave and a 6 percent holiday pay allowance, phasing in the requirements.
    The Holidays Act also allows for 11 public holidays. Employees receive one and one-half times their usual salary if they must work on these days. In addition, if the holiday falls on a day when the employee would usually work, they receive an alternative day off. Four holidays receive special treatment: Christmas, Boxing Day, January 1, and January 2. Employees receive all four of these days as paid holidays, regardless of the day of the week on which they fall. If one of these holidays falls on a weekend, it is “Mondayised” and observed on the employee’s next working days. In addition, there are seven other public holidays which are only observed if they fall on a day the employee would usually work: Waitangi Day (February 6), Good Friday, Easter Monday, ANZAC Day (April 25), Queen’s Birthday (the first Monday in June), Labour Day (the fourth Monday in October), and Provincial Anniversary Day.22
    22 New Zealand 2003b.
    Norway
    Employees in Norway are guaranteed 25 working days of paid vacation each year. For these purposes, Saturdays count as working days even if the employee does not usually work on Saturdays. Thus, employees who usually work Monday through Friday will receive 21 normal working days of vacation, but be paid for 25 working days during that time. Employees over age 60 receive one additional week of vacation, for 31 working days. Rather than earning vacation time on a pro rata basis, employees are eligible for a full 25 working days of vacation if they begin a job prior to October 1, and eligible for 6 working days if they begin a job later in the calendar year. Employees are not eligible for any vacation time from their current employer if they have already received full vacation time from a different employer in the same calendar year.
    Employers set the leave schedule, but must consult with the employees. Employers may also change the leave schedule, also after consultation, but must compensate employees for costs associated with changing their holiday plans. Nevertheless, an employee may demand to take his “main holiday,” (18 working days) between June 1 and September 30 (unless she began her post after August 15). Also, if an employee falls ill to the point that she is completely incapacitated shortly before her annual leave is to begin, she can demand that it be postponed; if this happens for at least six days during her scheduled leave, she can demand alternative leave days later in the year. Up to 12 working days’ leave can be transferred to the next year for this reason.23
    Sundays are considered public holidays; most work is prohibited. Special significance is also given to May 1 and May 17, which are public, paid holidays.24
    23 “Living and Working Conditions: Norway.” 2005. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 28 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=NO&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    24 Kingdom of Norway 1995, 2006; Fellesforbundet 2005.
    Portugal
    Portuguese law guarantees 22 working days (not counting weekends) of annual leave for workers, due on January 1 each year. Several stipulations give specific guidance for employees who have not yet served for one year. First, employees who have been employed for less than one year are allotted two working days of leave for each month of their employment, up to 20 days. Second, employees who begin working in the first half of the year must wait at least six months before using their vacation days. Finally, employees who begin working in the first half of the year must only wait 60 working days before being able to use 8 vacation days (before the next January 1).25
    To accommodate vacation schedules, employers may close their businesses for part of the summer, though they must seek permission from the union to close for fewer than 15 days. If the business does shut for part of the summer, and an employee has the right to more vacation time than that, she can opt to receive extra wages in lieu of the days off, as long as she takes at least 15 days of leave per year. Where spouses are employed at the same business, employers must make every effort to allow them to take the same vacation days. Vacation days may be carried over from one year to the next, but must be used by April of the following year.26
    Portugal also has 13 compulsory public holidays: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Freedom Day (April 25), Labor Day (May 1), Corpus Cristi, Portugal Day (June 10), Ascension (August 15), Day of the Republic (October 5), All Saints’ Day (November 1), Restoration of Independence Day (December 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas Day.27 Employers must give their workers either paid leave on these days or other days in lieu, except in those businesses with fewer than 10 employees, in which case the employees are only eligible for substitute holidays up to 25 percent of the time worked.28
    25 “Living and Working Conditions: Portugal.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d. )a. Accessed 28 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=PT&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    26 Ibid.
    27 Portuguese Republic 1991.
    28 European Commission of Social Rights 2003.
    Spain
    Paid vacations in Spain are governed by the 1994 Estatuto de Trabajadores. This statute specifies that annual leave must be determined on a workplace-by-workplace basis, through collective bargaining. However, employers may not give employees fewer than 30 calendar days’ leave per year. Also, the employer and employee must agree on scheduling the vacation days, at least 2 months in advance. Annual leave may not be exchanged for additional wages. Paid leave is also given for fulfilling civic duty (including serving on a jury) and for moving house (1 day). Workers are entitled to 12 national paid holidays; local governments may add up to two additional holidays.29
    29 ILO (n.d.) a., Kingdom of Spain 1994, “Living and Working Conditions: Spain.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 29 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=ES&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    Sweden
    Workers in Sweden are entitled to paid annual leave of 25 working days, or five weeks. They have a right to take at least four of these weeks consecutively, between June and August. Moreover, if a worker becomes sick during their annual leave, the days of their illness are no longer counted toward their leave allowance.
    They also receive “holiday pay” of 12% of the wages they would have earned during their leave. This holiday pay applies to normal workers, as well as temporary replacement staff, short- term employees and employees on probation who have worked for more than 60 hours for an employer. If a worker leaves a position without taking all of their leave, they will still receive the holiday pay for their unused leave.30
    Union workers are allowed additional leave apart from annual vacation. Swedish law requires employers to allow workers to take paid leave for any days needed to fulfill union responsibilities. This leave is paid at the worker’s normal salary (without additional holiday pay).31
    Finally, there are 12 public holidays in Sweden, but employers are not required to provide paid leave on these days.32
    30 “Living and Working Conditions: Sweden.” 2006. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 29 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=SE&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    31 ILO (n.d.) a.
    32 Kingdom of Sweden 2007, “EU Throws in the Towel.”
    Switzerland
    Swiss law guarantees four weeks of annual leave for all workers and apprentices over the age of 20, and five weeks of leave for those below. At least two weeks must be given consecutively. Employees must take these vacation days in the corresponding year, and may not exchange them for additional pay or other compensation. However, they may forfeit some of their annual leave if they have taken extended sick leave or unpaid leave.
    In addition, employers must give workers four public holidays -- New Year’s Day, Ascension Thursday, Swiss National Day (August 1), and Christmas -- although they are not required to provide paid leave33. Each canton observes varying additional holidays, such as Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and Youth Service Day (which gives one day of leave for workers below the age of 30 who do volunteer service for youth).34
    In each canton, workers have at least eight public holidays.35 Employees who must work on public holidays receive a wage premium for those hours.36 “Practical Guide for Foreign Researchers in Spain 2006.” Database entry in EC (n.d.) b. Accessed 26 April 2007. [http://www.eracareers.es/fecyt/guia/guiahtml12_en.jsp].
    33 Valais Economic Development Department 2003.
    34 “Living and Working Conditions: Switzerland.” 2007. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 21 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=CH&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    35Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce 2006.
    36 Switzerland Federal Office of Migration 2006.
    United Kingdom
    In the United Kingdom, all full-time and part-time employees are guaranteed at least four weeks’ annual leave. In practice, this means that employees who work more hours per week also receive a greater amount of annual leave.
    Employees must take their allotted leave. It may not be forfeited for additional salary or other compensation. An employee may only receive payment for leave not taken when she leaves her post, and in that case she must be compensated for the unused time, regardless of the context of the termination. Moreover, leave must be taken in its corresponding year and cannot be saved. However, if an employer grants more leave than the legal minimum, they may make whatever arrangements they like with regards to carrying over the additional leave. Employees are not guaranteed paid leave on public and bank holidays. Any paid leave granted on those holidays can be counted toward the employee’s four weeks of annual leave.37
    Employees usually schedule their own leave, with the employer’s authorization. The advance notice they give their employer must be at least twice the duration of the leave they plan to take. In other words, employees who wish to take two days’ leave must notify their employer at least four days beforehand. An employer may deny or cancel an employee’s leave, but must give as much notice as the duration of the leave. Alternately, an employer may require an employee to take her leave on particular dates, but must observe the same advance notice guidelines. For example, stores may close on holidays and require their employees to take those days as part of their annual leave.38
    37 UK 1998, and “Living and Working Conditions: United Kingdom.” 2005. Database entry in EC (n.d.) a. Accessed 21 March 2007. [http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?countryId=UK&acro=living&lang=en&parentId=0].
    38 UK 2007, (n.d.).
    United States
    United States law offers no guarantees of paid leave. The only exceptions are for government contractors and subcontractors covered under the Davis-Bacon Act.39
    39 USDOL (n.d.).
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  • Europe reluctantly deciding it has less time for time off, by Mark Landler, 7/7/2004 New York Times, front page.
    ...Since the 1970's, Europeans have been willing to accept somewhat slower growth in wages as a price for fewer work hours and longer vacations.
    - The French have an average of 25 vacation days a year,
    - while the Germans get 30 days.
    - The average in Japan is 18 days
    - and in the United States, 12 days....


  • Consider this... by the numbers, 7/08/2001 #3 on our timesizing pages.
    [Presents the average number of working hours per year in 16 industrialized countries from the UN's International Labor Organization.]


  • Koreans put in most time on the job, survey shows, 6/6/2001.
    [Presents the average number of working hours per week in 11 countries.]


    [The nagging US vacation issue came up in an article in the millennial year -]

  • What you need is more vacation! - A crusading editor wants three to four weeks mandated by law, by Steve Lopez of Santa Monica, 6/12/2000 Time Magazine, 8.
    Congratulations, ace. America's unprecendented economic gains were beaten out of your work-obsessed hide, and what have you got to show for it? A few extra bucks to pay the shrink or the barkeep? A promotion that bumps you up to 60 hours a week? A pager? The bone they haven't thrown you is the one you desperately need - more time away from the salt mine.
          According to a raft of recent studies, Americans are working more and enjoying it less. Between 1995 and 1999, the number of people calling in sick because of stress more than tripled. "I've got a lot of clients coming to me from Silicon Valley," says Pam Ammondson...who runs a Santa Rosa...workshop to counsel...burnout [sufferers]. "It's a dream to make a million dollars overnight. But these people are not happy, their relationships are miserable, and they're taking a step back to ask what it's all about"....
          Joe Robinson...of Santa Monica...an adventure-travel magazine editor, has been on talk shows nationwide pitching a law that would guarantee three weeks of vacation to anyone who works at a job for a year and four weeks after three years. On his website Escapemag.com [unfortunately defunct by 1/11/2002 - ed.], Robinson rants, "We're the most vacation-starved country in the world." [His campaign has] gathered 20,000 petitioners for longer vacations. "Small-business employees get an average of eight days off, while Europeans and Australians receive four to six weeks' paid leave," says Robinson. "In total hours, we now work two months longer each year than the Germans."
          John Schmitt of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington, puts the average American vacation at 16 days. If not for their higher unemployment rate, the Europeans would be laughing at us.
    [They're laughing at us anyway, because of our much higher working-poor, welfare, disability, homelessness and incarceration rates - but we never talk about the 2,000,000 American inmates that "justify" the brutal nightmare of our corruption-bloated prison-industrial complex. We want the illusion that we're better than anybody else. Hey, we're the Land of the Free. Right? RIGHT?!! OK, attitude problem, we're locking you up for contempt of Court!]
    Anyone who travels has noticed that whether you go to Palm Springs or Timbuktu, the French and Italians [and Australians - ed.] are already there. You could parachute onto an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean and find 200 Germans lounging around talking about where to go next.
          The European economy may be a bit sluggish [or is it just non-bubble? -ed.], but just how productive, really, is the U.S. approach? "Half of all Americans report some kind of stress, and 63% say they'd rather have more time off than more money," says Robinson. "We have no identity outside of work, and there's this new glorification of the tech guy who works 18 hours a day...."
          "It costs us 150% of an annual salary to replace an employee in terms of retraining a new person, the turbulence it causes in a unit and the impact on our client," says Denny Marcel, associate director of the burnout-prevention unit at Ernst & Young. Miller calls the accounting firm, which offers 3-5 vacation weeks to its 20,000-plus employees, one of the better companies when it comes to lightening the load.
          Robinson...hopes a debate on the bottom-line realities of burnout will inspire a rash of enlightened self-interest among employers....


    [A Boston Globe article explained the curious American system for denying themselves -]
    Who has the time? It's work, work, work, by Gary Cross, 7/08/2001 BG, D8.
    Once again it's summer, and many of us are anticipating or enjoying our two-week vacations. We may be grateful - ...until we hear that the Germans get 30 days of paid vacation and the French enjoy five weeks.... While Italian workers are entitled to an average of 42 vacation days, Americans receive only 13..\..
    [Note this is three days less than the number for Americans in last year's Time article quoted above.]
    They earn the time off not after 10 or 20 years of loyalty to a company [and who escapes downsizing that long in the U.S. any more?!] but as a legal right from the first year of work.
    In the United States, employees in middle and large-sized companies usually have to wait five years before getting the third week of vacation, and often have to work for 25 years before they get the fourth....
    Why do we, of all the wealthy nations, seem to get or take so few vacation days? Perhaps because trade unions and traditions of social entitlement are so weak in America. Paralleling the great union advances in the mid-'30s...
    [How ironic that the garbage bag of trinkets with which FDR lured American labor away from their power lever (shorter hours) in the mid-'30s is still mistaken for "great union advances." In fact, they were signing their own death warrant - though World War II's massive withdrawal of labor hours from the job market gave them a one-generation stay of execution.]
    ...about half of American wage earners received company vacation plans in 1940, up from 5% in 1920. But this trend was restricted to larger companies.
    [The result of the failure to design and implement an automatic system of Fluctuating Adjustment of the Workweek to offset unemployment during the Great Depression, or even to pass an appropriate rigid workweek for the time continued the huge power gradient between employees and employers that induced the Depression in the first place (by focusing employers on producing stuff and concentrating income without thinking about who in the world was going to buy all the stuff) and resulted in the following Attitude among American (and other AngloSaxon) employers -]
    ...American employers continue to see vacations as a gift to valued and loyal employees....
    [Oh yeah, strictly lone-sided loyalty, employee-to-employer. By contrast -]
    Most European countries long ago made paid vacations a legal right.
    [And whereas today (July/2001) in the U.S. -]
    ..\..according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, blue-collar workers in smaller firms, where unions are nearly non-existent, still get only 6.8 paid vacation days on average, compared with 8.6 days for clerical and sales employees.
    [in Europe, by contrast -]
    ...Even workers at McDonald's restaurants...get 3-5 weeks' vacation.
    This entitlement dates back to the years between the world wars when [European] governments began not only to set maximum workdays (similar to our 40-hour standard [legislated in] 1938 [to take effect in 1940, after stepping down from 44 hours in 1938 and 42 hours in 1939]) but also legislated vacation rights.
    For example, the two-week vacation was one of the great victories of the Popular Front in France in 1936. The paid holiday was the only idea that the left and right shared. Both believed that wage earners should have an extended vacation to escape crowded cities and factories long enough to return to ancient villages or the seaside for family reunions. By the 1960s...Europeans had discovered sunny Spain and Greece on their own continent and world travel as their governments extended vacations with each advance in national prosperity.
    Today, the French add to their vacations by trading in hours won from their newly reduced workweek of 35 hours for longer getaway time.
    This "luxury" of leisure [our quotes - ed.] has not seemed to affect productivity in France or elsewhere in Western Europe, where output per labor hour has surged in recent years despite an average work year of 1,737 hours (compared with 1,562 hours in Germany and 1,365 in the Netherlands).
    [Gary Cross, as an historian with his brain in the past, may be forgiven for thinking that productivity still has some connection with manhours, but most of our economists, analysts and media people share this view, even though it has now be completely obsoleted by wave after wave of worksaving and output-multiplying technology for decades now.]
    But isn't America still the richest country in the world, and don't at least the professional and self-employed classes have the choice to take more time from work?... For many profession[als] and entrepreneurs, working longer than wage earners is a point of pride [or classist snobbery - ed.]. Some...feel lost without their laptops or cell phones, even on holidays [even *touring holidays].... The leisurely two-week, cross-country vacation [of] the '50s and '60s seems like a quaint...custom today..\.. The long weekend getaway by air to an expensive resort or casino is increasingly common.... Especially in downsized corporations, where one worker may be doing to job of two, there's [only] that kind of time to spare....


    A Los Angeles Times article around 2/06/2000, from a recent survey by the World Tourism Organization, presented even more dramatic average annual vacation figures, in vacation days -

    Average 
    annual 
    vacation 
    Italy 42 Brazil 34 So. Korea 25
    France 37 Britain 28 Japan        25
    Germany 35 Canada 26 USA 13


    Timesizing.com's view on all this is that vacation is just the icing. The cake is the amount of weekend time-off we get each and every week. You can lengthen annual vacation a lot and accomplish very little effective worksharing, but you can lengthen the weekend just a little by shortening the workweek and accomplish a lot of effective worksharing and job creation, because every adjustment you make gets multiplied by 52, the number of weeks in a year. For details on how we could cut the workweek while achieving continuous training in the workplace, all on a gradual market-oriented basis, see our "social software" manual Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com.

    Comments, questions, suggestions? E-mail us or phone 617-623-8080 (Boston).

    * (asterisk) before hotlink = link to external site


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