According to a new study from the Mercer consulting firm, the U.S. once again doesn’t come out on top when it comes to employee benefits. Employees in Western European countries, on average, have access to the greatest amount of statutory paid holiday in the world, according to research by Mercer. Workers in the UK have, on the face of it, one of the most generous statutory holiday entitlements (28 days) while workers in the US have the least with no statutory holiday entitlement. Good grief.
This and the fact that we don’t even use all of our vacation days, may be contributing to the results of the 2011 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College. It found that a whopping 77% of Americans are stressed at work, with low pay the most common reason cited (14%). “A break from the daily routine is essential in maintaining employee wellbeing,” said Dr. Lorna Friedman, Partner in Mercer’s Global Health Management practice. “Companies that keep holiday provision as low as possible in order to reduce lost income from absent workers may find that their employees are less robust, in poorer health and crucially, less productive. It’s key to create a culture of health in the workplace and employees will take the message home with them and look after their health outside work as well.”
The UK is followed by Greece, Austria, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark (all 25 days). In Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands employees are entitled to 20 days statutory holidays. Cyprus offers the highest number of public holidays (15) followed by Malta and Spain (both 14) and Austria and Portugal (both 13). The UK and the Netherlands have the lowest number of public holidays in Europe.Poland (26 days) offers employees the most generous holiday entitlements in Eastern Europe, followed by Hungary (23.) The United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 22 days make provision for the greatest amount of statutory holidays in the region, followed by Morocco (18), Lebanon (15) and South Africa (15.) Employees in Venezuela receive 24 days’ holiday leave followed by Brazil and Peru (both 22), Argentina (20) and Mexico (16), with Colombia and Chile both offering employees the regions least generous entitlement of 15 days.
It turns out in North America, Canada and the U.S. are among the least generous countries when it comes to statutory holidays. U.S. federal law does not mandate pay for time not worked and holiday policies vary widely. Many organizations in the U.S. provide three weeks of vacation after five to ten years of service and unionized employees generally have vacation time specified under collective agreements. In Canada, mandatory vacation entitlements vary between provinces and companies typically supplement statutory requirements and some organizations provide up to six weeks vacation after 20 or 25 years of service
According to Friedman, “Despite continued economic turmoil, interest in the issue work/life balance continues to grow. From the employees and company’s perspective, health creates wealth. Companies recognize that a healthy, happy workforce is a productive one and this feeds directly into the bottom line. How companies interpret holiday regulations provision is a major factor. With pay rises muted and often below the rate of inflation, companies are searching for other ways to motivate their staff. Flexible working and a good employee work/life balance helps improve employee engagement when the usual financial tools are unavailable.”
This goes along with the fact that according to a survey by Expedia, the average American worker earned 14 vacation days this year but will only take 12 of them. Though two days doesn’t sound like a lot when you add it all up but altogether, Americans are giving up 226 million unused vacation days this year. Considering that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker earns $39,416 a year — which comes out to $34.3 billion worth of time.