Many countries guarantee a certain number of vacation days per year, with Europe leading globally for the most amount of paid time off that employees receive each year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the United States (by law) does not require employers to provide employees with any paid vacation or annual leave off.
Paid vacation not only increases the quality of life for employees, but benefits employers too. Employees who work without any hope of a vacation are more likely to experience burnout and resentment towards their employer. Despite the law, some of the top employers in the US offer competitive vacation packages; some even offer unlimited PTO.
Here is a look at some of the countries that offer the most vacation days globally, as well as how US employers benefit from compensating their employees with paid vacation.
In general, European countries (like France, Spain, and the United Kingdom) offer the most paid time off. Almost all countries in Europe offer some type of paid holiday leave.
Austria comes in at #1 with 25 days of paid vacation that employees are required to take each year, plus an additional 13 public holidays off–all paid as well. This gives Austrian employees 38 days of paid vacation time annually.
Some other countries that top the list for most vacation days globally are:
France and Spain are tied for #2, with 36 days each
South Korea requires 31 days
Germany requires 30 days
UK requires 28 days
Japan mandates 26 days
Most countries around the world mandate that employees take a vacation each year and use all of their paid time off. This helps create a better work/life balance, encourages employees to spend time with their family, and shows that employers are committed to seeing employees as individuals.
In the United States, there is no statutory minimum requirement for what employers need to offer in terms of paid vacation days annually. The United States is considered an at-will country. However, most public sector and private sector employees receive time off, which is explained in their employment contracts. Public sector employees at the federal and state level, for instance, receive most federal holidays off, as well as generous sick leave and vacation time.
In the US, there are 10 public holidays that are normally celebrated. However, employees are not guaranteed these days off. It depends on their employer and job sector.
Despite the lax legal requirements, many companies still opt to give their employees between 10-15 days off per year in the US. Paid time off is normally given based on their years of service with the company or organization.
10-15 days is also significantly lower than what employees are entitled to in many countries in Europe. Many European governments have passed laws that force employees to take around a month of vacation time each year. Labor movements in Europe have ensured that vacation is one of many workers rights that is guaranteed to all employees. Some countries even shut down their businesses for part of the summer so that citizens can use their vacation time and travel.
In the US, 1 in 4 workers don’t receive any vacation time or holiday pay. Some Americans work as gig-economy workers for companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, where they act as independent contractors. Others are simply not classified as full-time employees.
Employers in the United States have the option of not giving employees paid time off by classifying them as independent contractors. As independent contractors, they are not entitled to paid time off, health insurance, pension, and other standard employee benefits.
Paid vacation is not only important for employees, but good from an economic and business standpoint for companies. It helps reduce stress, improves mental health, and increases productivity. Research shows that countries that have more paid vacation have higher overall mental health scores.
Employees who work without any time off are likely to experience burnout. In the US, because there is a lack of statutory paid time off, many employees are afraid to take time off for themselves or to even call out sick. This creates a culture of both fear for job safety, as well as burnout on the job. When employers offer paid time off, they can prevent employee burnout and help employees work at their most optimal levels.
When an employee is too closely tied to a company and feels as if they have no outlet besides work, they are likely going to resent their job. This creates tension towards both their employers as well as the company as a whole. Giving paid time off shows that the employer sees the benefit of a healthy work/life balance, demonstrating employers care about how their employees are doing outside work.
Psychologically, everyone needs time to themselves outside of sick leave. Employees who can take time for themselves are able to give their brain time to relax. In general, people are much more likely to perform optimally if they’ve had a chance to relax and reset their energy outside of a work setting.
Employees that are encouraged to take time off are more likely to be productive once they return to work.
Try to research what international companies in other countries around the world are giving to their employees. Research employees' overall happiness in countries like France and Spain, the two countries with the highest vacation time. This will help you craft the most competitive compensation and benefit packages.
Try to avoid allowing rollovers for paid vacation time for the next year. Don’t reward employees for not using their vacation time. Employers should encourage their employees to use their vacation time by the end of each year so that they have enough time to recharge and relax.
Instead of having all leave fall under the same category, try to have separate allocated amounts for sick leave, injury, or any other types of leave. This discourages employees from taking their vacation time in unexpected circumstances, like caring for family members or recovering from an illness.
By clearly separating types of leave for what they are meant to be used for, employees will feel confident that when they take their holiday days off, that it’s being used for what matters: vacation.
Many businesses find it difficult to navigate the appropriate amount of vacation time they should give to their employees, both in the United States and internationally. You will need to know exactly what is mandated in each country, as well as what will help you attract top candidates. That’s why a lot of businesses partner with an EOR service like Via. We expedite the process of hiring and recruiting, setting up HR, and adhering to all employment laws in other countries.
With Via, we help you hire, onboard, and pay remote employees across the world. As your employer-of-record abroad, we take care of the local human resources (HR) logistics, such as salary, payroll, benefits, paid leave, and tax deductions. Maintaining compliance is our responsibility. You simply focus on building your team and running your business.