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British, Dutch Get Less Vacation

The countries' workers have fewer days off than employees in other EU nations, a survey finds. Finns fare the best.

August 12, 2003|From Bloomberg News

British and Dutch workers get shorter vacations than employees in other countries in the European Union, according to a survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

People in Britain and the Netherlands are allowed 20 days of annual leave and eight public holidays, Mercer said.

Finns have the most time off in the 15-member EU, taking 25 vacation days and 14 public holidays. The figures apply to employees with at least 10 years of service.

"Traditionally the majority of countries in Europe have felt that to protect employees there should be a relatively generous minimum of annual vacation," David Formosa, a Mercer partner in London, said. Britain "has taken the view that it's reasonable to keep it at a low level."

Other countries in the EU want Britain to extend paid leave and shorten the workday because they believe longer hours give British companies an unfair advantage. Germany, meanwhile, is looking to reduce the number of holidays to boost its economy, which probably fell into recession in the second quarter.

On average, workers in the EU get 34 days off a year, Mercer said. In the U.S., which has about 10 public holidays, the typical vacation for longtime employees is 15 days, and that isn't a legal requirement.

"Aside from basic rights, they believe in leaving it to market forces to regulate labor conditions," Formosa said.

Employees in London also pay more for cars, housing and alcohol, according to Mercer, which collects data on work conditions for companies that send workers abroad.

Workers in Austria do almost as well as those in Finland with 38 days off. In Greece, workers get 37 days of leave, and in France, 36.

French employees by law work shorter hours than counterparts in most European countries.

The Irish fare only a little better than those in Britain, taking 29 days off. Italians and Belgians get 30 days.

Although EU officials are making efforts to harmonize employment practices to enable companies to coordinate their operations across borders, religious holidays are hard to adjust, Mercer said.

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