Holiday entitlements: a worldwide comparison

In the UK, full-time workers are entitled to at least 28 days paid annual leave, but holiday entitlements are a bit like wages - everyone feels they deserve a little more than they actually receive. Depending on your point of view, 28 days from 52 weeks is a generous slice of the pie. To others, it seems that the UK has a bit of a raw deal.

Perspective is everything. To understand a bit more about where we stand, let’s circle the globe and see how other countries compare with the UK when it comes to annual leave allowances.

Don’t bank on Britain being the best

Britain’s holiday entitlements of 28 days a year appear pretty generous until you realise in most cases it usually includes bank holidays, of which there are eight. Belgium, on the other hand, offers its workers 20 days paid annual leave a year but then they also get extra time off for the country’s 10 public holidays. Italy goes one better by giving its works a minimum of 20 days plus the added sweetener of 11 public holidays.

Our French cousins, however, have the best of both worlds. Not only do most employees work a 35-hour week but they are entitled to at least 25 days a year with the cherry on the cake being their 11 public holidays. As you can imagine, that sort of package makes for some serious joie de vivre.

Happy holidays

When it comes to who has the happiest population, Scandinavian countries often come top of any well-being poll. Could it be something to do with countries like Iceland and Sweden also having 11 public holidays and 25 days of leave?

Meanwhile in sunny Spain, workers are granted 22 days of leave alongside 14 paid holidays. Malta does very well too, enjoying a whopping 24 days entitlement and 14 paid public holidays, rounding the figure off to 38 days - the most of any country in the E.U.

Interestingly, one of Malta’s holidays is the Feast of St. Peter which celebrates the apostle who was shipwrecked in Malta in AD 60. However you look at it, both Spain and Malta have ten more days than the UK, which proves that when it comes to holiday allowances, Britain seems to fall a bit short of its continental counterparts.

Sunday morning
Malta - Photo by Ferenc Horvath / Unsplash

Time to unwind

However, it’s countries like Kuwait and Cambodia who top the charts when it comes to annual leave. Kuwait workers enjoy a standard 30 days minimum per year and 13 paid public holidays to boot. After two years with the same employer, workers also receive the benefit of enjoying an extra 21 days of paid leave to make the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

In Cambodia, each worker gets a minimum of 15 days, which is seriously enhanced by their 27 days of paid public holidays. For every three years of continuous employment, workers in Cambodia also get an extra day.

Before you get too excited and start scanning the job classifieds in foreign newspapers, packing your suitcase for a more relaxed working life, it’s best to check out those countries where workers could really do with a break in every sense of the word.

Working around the clock

The U.S. might be one of the most economically developed countries in the world but its holiday entitlement for workers is terrible. In fact, it’s zero. They have no federally mandated paid leave, and even though a large percentage of the workforce receives some sort of paid leave there’s no legal guarantee you’ll get any time off from your job to unwind and chill out. It is, of course, a productive and wealthy country - but at what cost?

China also makes the UK look like the land of milk and honey when it comes to paid leave. In your first year of employment, you’ll get absolutely nothing, but by year two you’ll be given five days to put your feet up. After 20 years in the job, this rises to 15 days. It doesn't seem ideal.

For a country that's usually rather progressive, Canada is not too big on paid holidays. Most employees only get two per year, and that’s only after 12 months of unbroken employment.

Mexico, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines are also a handful of other countries that fall well below the UK’s comfortable 28 days a year.

So although things could be better when it comes to holiday entitlements in the UK, they could also be a hell of a lot worse. The important thing is to never take your holiday for granted, and always make the most of your time away from the workplace.