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UK bottom of the EU holiday league

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The UK, along with the Netherlands and Romania, is languishing at the bottom of the EU member states’ holiday league.

Research by Mercer Consulting added together the minimum statutory annual leave plus public holidays – and found that entitlements for an employee working five days a week with 10 years’ service varied from 28 days to 44 days.

Top of the league is Finland, where employers are entitled to 30 days’ statutory holiday plus 14 public holidays.

EU legislation provides that all member states must offer employees 20 days’ annual leave, although only Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK do not offer more. Top of the league for statutory holidays are Finland and France who both offer 30 days’ leave.

But in practice, individual employers offer more time off as a means to attract talent. Mark Sullivan, worldwide partner at Mercer said: “Generous holiday allowances are an increasingly attractive benefit, as more employees seek to improve their work-life balance.”

Public holidays are even more complex, with the number on offer in each member state ranging from seven in Romania to 16 in Slovenia. Many countries also have regional holidays as well as national public holidays.

Most EU citizens have a statutory right to public holidays, with the exception of those in France, Sweden and the UK. Employers in these countries usually grant public holidays but they are within their rights to ask employees to work or to taken them as part of their annual leave entitlements.

Sullivan commented: “Holiday entitlements are a lottery, with some countries offering over 60 per cent more days off than others. Even though efforts have been made to harmonise employment practices in the EU, there are still large disparities in holiday allowances between the member states.

“Employers trying to co-ordinate business operations across the EU are caught in a maze of legislation when it comes to holidays. Public holidays tend to be rooted in local tradition or religious beliefs, so it can be difficult to change practices. With the increasing cultural diversity of the European workforce there is pressure for greater flexibility around public holidays.”

In addition to annual leave and public holidays, employers in some EU member states are required by law to give special leave for getting married, or for the death of a spouse or close relative, for example. Even when there is no requirement, many larger employers provide additional leave for special circumstances.

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