European Workers Get More Time Off than U.S. Workers

October 13, 2009 ( - A new Mercer study of employer vacation policies found the average U.S. allowance is 15, days while Canada has a statutory minimum of 10 days.

A Mercer news release said contrary to popular European belief, low levels of statutory time off in the United States and Canada are not comparative to European standards when taking public holidays into account.

Workers in United States and Brazilhave an additional 10 and 11 days of public holiday, respectively, while workers in Canada are entitled tonine. In total, employees in Brazil that can take the full entitlement and the full number of public holidays would receive 41 days off, those in the United States typically 25 days, and those in Canada19 days, Mercer said.

Thestudy focused onstatutory entitlements for an employee working five days a week, with 10 years of service.

Meanwhile, employees in Europe receive the most generous statutory time off allowances in the world according toMercerdata. However, taking public holidays into account, employees in Lithuania and Brazil have the potential to access the most time off work.

Mercer said employees in Finland, Brazil, and France are entitled to receive as many as 30 days total statutory time off a year, with those in Lithuania, Russia, and the U.K. entitled to 28 days. Poland (with 26 days) follows closely behind, with employees in Greece, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway entitled to 25 days.

By comparison, Mercer said Asia Pacific countries fare poorly with Australian, New Zealand, and Japanese employees receiving 20 days total statutory time off followed by Taiwan (15), Hong Kong and Singapore (14), India (12), and China (10).

In addition to statutory holidays, public holidays can markedly increase the amount of time employees have off work. Japan and India top the global list with 16 days a year for public holidays, closely followed by Cyprus, Slovakia and South Korea with 15.

"Employers trying to coordinate business operations around the world are caught in a maze of legislation when it comes to holidays," saidMatthew Hunt, a principal with Mercer's international consulting business and who advises multinationals on employment practices. "Public holidays tend to be rooted in local tradition or religious beliefs, so it can be difficult to change practices. But with the increasing cultural diversity of the global workforce there is pressure for greater flexibility around public holidays."