Typical Paid Holiday Schedule
In The US And European Countries

Free time is one of the most valuable assets for hard-working and talented employees. Many admit that paid leave time is not less important for them than money they earn, so it turns into one of the key factors when accepting or rejecting companies’ job offers. That’s why many companies tend to position paid time off as the primary part of their compensation packages.

In different parts of the world, different leave policies are implemented by companies. They depend on legal provisions, labor practices in specific countries, industries and fields, and on employers’ HR approaches. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how paid time off packages are configured and used in the United States and Europe, and what amounts of time off work companies offer to their employees.

United States

There’s no federal regulation that would require employers to grant paid holidays to their employees. However, there are public holidays when employees typically have paid time off work. Among public holidays when workers enjoy paid time-off, the following are usual for most companies: New Year’s day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Friday after Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Many services require ensuring uninterrupted work, including public holidays: medical and emergency services, convenience stores, technical services etc. Often, work on public holidays is performed by hourly paid workforce. Their compensation for performing their duties in irregular hours usually amounts to 1.5 – 2 times their regular hourly rate.

As US companies officially are not required to provide their employees with any paid holidays at all, in average they offer significantly less paid time off than employers in many other countries. Depending on the field, employers grant from 7 to 9 paid time off days a year, and the average number among full-time employees amounts to 7.6 days. However, employers that are interested in retaining talents tend to grant generous PTO packages that adequately compete with companies’ offers in other parts of the world.

United Kingdom

Mostly, full-time employees that work regular time are entitled to 28 work days, or 5.6 work weeks of paid holidays (statutory annual leave) a year. This amount of time off often includes 8 public holidays (also called bank holidays) that otherwise would be unpaid. Employers can choose to include bank holidays as part of their employees’ statutory annual leaves, but this is not required by law regulations.

Part-time employees receive the same number of weeks of leave entitlement, recalculated in days on a pro-rata basis. For example, if an employee only works 3 days a week, they receive 3*5.6=16.8 days of paid leave.

Those who work irregular hours, which is for example the case for shift workers, usually are entitled to paid time off for every hour they work. To get the exact figures, UK labor authorities provide a tool for calculating holiday entitlement for irregular hours.

To calculate leave entitlement for their employees, UK employers can use the “leave year” or the accrual system. The employer decides when the leave year starts – for example, it can run from January 1 to December 31 – and specify this in employment contracts. If nothing is otherwise specified in the contract, leave year starts on the first day of employment.

Carryover rules are important for many employees. The contract should specify how many leave days can be carried over to the next year if unused in the current period. Normally, a maximum of 8 days is carried over, or up to 20 days if an employee could not use their leave because they were already on another type of leave (e.g. parental or sick). Those employers that offer more paid leave time than the legal minimum can allow to carry over additional leave – this depends on the company’s internal regulations.

France

The law requires French employers to grant their employees a minimum of 2.5 days per each month worked, which amounts to full 5 weeks of vacation (30 days counting with Saturdays). Vacation days are accrued annually on June 1, to be taken until May 31 of the next year. Some employers, however, only allow taking paid vacation after a full year of employment.

Formally, vacation accrual on June 1 means that if you start working on May 1, you only have 2.5 days of vacation for the next accrual period. Many companies take into account that employees are not really happy about just 2.5 days in 13 months of employment, and offer some flexibility in their vacation policies. Usually, this means that vacations can be taken in advance, i.e. by deducting vacation days from the next accrual periods.

Additionally, up to 22 days of RTT (Réduction du Temps de Travail, or Reduction of Working Time in English) are available to French employees. This initiative was introduced in 1998 to reduce unemployment and make work conditions more favorable. Today, companies are using this part of paid time-off to adopt the 35-hour work week. What’s more, bonus days are granted to those who take their leaves outside summer.

Additionally, there are 11 public holidays that are treated by companies as paid time off work. As a result, the average number of paid leave days is 36, but for some employees in certain companies the combination of all these rules results in 9.5 weeks of leave time.

Germany

An employee with the standard 5-day work week is entitled to 20 days of paid time-off. However, many companies offer 5 to 10 more PTO days, so the resulting figure often amounts to 25-30 days. As for nation-wide public holidays, there’s only one of them, the German Unity Day. Other public holidays are regulated by specific states and their number varies between 10 and 13 (although some of them are celebrated nation-wide, their regulation is the states’ responsibility).

Normally, if an employee doesn’t use their vacation entitlement during the current vacation year, it is forfeited and cannot be used during the next periods – with the exception for sickness, in case of which remaining leave time can be used during the next three months after the end on the vacation year. Any unused vacation is compensated in money in case of termination.

Spain

According to the labor law, full-time employees can enjoy 22 days (one month worth number of working days) of annual paid leave and public holidays celebrated in their autonomous community or city. Each community is allowed to establish up to 14 days of public holidays per year. If a national holiday falls on Sunday, regional authorities can decide on an alternate holiday or allow local authorities to choose it.

Part-time employees can enjoy one month of paid leave time, recalculated in days proportionally to their working schedule. For example, if an employee works one day a week, they only receive four days of paid vacation.

Paid leaves are taken with prior application and approval by the employer. Employees are not always free to decide when they can take their vacation. A company can require to take it if it has a closing period – for example, one week at Christmas or two weeks in summer. So if a company closes in August for two weeks, it can ask its employees to take their leaves for that period and use the remaining paid leave time at their discretion.

Summary

Paid leave policies differ depending on law requirements, common practice, and company’s internal regulations. However, in most countries, employers tend to offer more paid time off than the law requires, in order to attract and retain qualified workforce. Being an essential part of the benefits package provided by the company, paid leave time is valued by employees and in many cases considered as important as salary.

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