Annual Leave Around the World

7th July 2015

In the UK, there doesn’t seem to be a call for the national minimum annual leave to be increased or cut. That figures when you look at the annual leave required by employers around the world – with our 28 days off per year, we’re about average. Workers and employers seem to have found a pleasant compromise.

Sure, eight of our days off are national holidays, which means most UK employees have 20 optional days off per year, but if they’re taken at the right times of year, Britons can usually work it so they get perhaps five whole weeks off. And we’re also lucky to also the Royal Bonus – every now and again a jubilee or royal wedding comes along that gives us an extra day off. So hurry up, Harry.

If you’re looking for a job abroad – or looking to set up an office overseas – make sure you familiarise yourself with the local annual leave laws. And we do mean local – many nations’ laws vary within their own boundaries.

Least generous nations for paid employee leave

If days off or weeks abroad are important to you and your family, these are the five places you probably shouldn’t consider emigrating to.

5. India

India allows no paid leave during the first 240 days of employment, after which adult workers are entitled to one paid day off for every 20 days worked, and children are allowed a day off for every 15 days worked. India does boast the largest number of national holidays, however, at twenty-one, all of which are paid – and double pay is compulsory for anyone working a national holiday. The specifics do vary widely over this vast country with its diverse religions and cultural heritage.

4. China

In China, you’re entitled to five days’ leave per year for the first 10 years of employment, ten days for the next ten years, and 15 days thereafter. These timespans do not necessarily have to be for the same employer. There are also 11 paid national holidays.

3. Israel

Israel offers just 10 days for the first four years of employment, rising to 28 days after 8 years. The picture is clouded by military service and other public service, which allow more days off. There are 11 national holidays, too.

2. Canada

Canada, which always does well in happiness and wellbeing scales, has a minimum of just 9–15 days, depending on the province. Either way, it’s not exactly the ideal place for someone who likes to holiday.

1. Singapore

Singapore offers just seven days for new employees, rising to 14 after seven years’ service. What’s quite disturbing is that after six years you’re still considered a “new” employee – many Brits are getting itchy feet after two years in a job and the average tenure in a single job in the UK is about eight years.

The top three places for holiday-lovers

These are the countries that seem to have come to the conclusion that giving staff more days off might not be such a bad thing. If you like your days off, you’d better brush up on the language and emigrate.

3. Brazil

Wellness is rewarded in Brazil, with the number of days’ paid leave being dependent upon the number of days you’ve had off sick. There’s a four-step system to calculate you leave. At the top, if you’re off work for five days or fewer in a year, you’ll be entitled to a generous 30 days’ paid leave. At the bottom, if you’re off sick for between 24 and 32 days in a year, you’re entitled to just 12 days’ leave (which is still more than parts of Canada).

2. Yemen

Yemen, which is in the bottom third in the world in terms of GDP, allows its workers 2.5 days off per month, which amounts to a generous 30 days off per year. It just goes to show that holiday entitlement generosity isn’t a rich country’s privilege.

1. Russia

If you like your time off, you couldn’t be happier than in Russia. Over there, employers are obliged to give their employees 28 optional days’ paid leave plus 12 national holidays – a total of40 days. All but one of the national holidays fall in the first half of the year, and have a distinctly Soviet feel to them: Defence of the Motherland Day, May Day, Labour Day, Women’s Day and Victory Day are among them. Catching up on office gossip in Russia must be a full-time job.

Good? Bad? Who knows?

Some places like to keep things nice and complicated when it comes to holiday entitlement. Are they good or are they bad? We really don’t know. Let’s just say “It depends …”

The United States of Bafflement

In the USA it’s a mixed bag. Most importantly, there’s no legally enforceable statutory minimum when it comes to paid leave, even on national holidays. So technically speaking, the number is zero. However, in reality, most employers do offer paid leave, and since the critical mass has been reached, employers that don’t offer any kind of paid leave for their permanent full-time staff find it harder to recruit good people. It’s usual for employers to increase the annual leave as employees spend longer with them.

Lost in France

For the ultimate in complexity, France has to take the crown. The amount of leave you are entitled to depends on how many hours you work each week and when you take your time off. You are allowed to trade in hours worked over 35 hours per week for extra days off. And if you take your holidays outside of summer (when France can sometimes grind to a halt), you can claim up to two bonus holidays.

On the down side, you only earn holidays for days worked; if you’re off sick, you earn fewer days of paid leave. Basically, then, a full-time employee is entitled to 2.5 days off per month, which comes to 30 days, plus an allowance of up to 22 days for long hours plus up to two days for taking them outside summer. Oh, and there are 11 public holidays, all but one of which can be unpaid. Apart from that, it’s simple. Fancy a job in a French HR department?

To keep track of annual leave at your company, consider having a look at our time and attendance tools to record holidays, absence and sickness.