We all need a break once in a while to keep productivity levels high and reduce stress from the daily demands of the job. But public attitudes to holidays and official labour laws differ from country to country.

Failing to meet employment laws and paid leave regulations could mean a hefty fine and some seriously disgruntled employees, so it’s essential to keep up with the rules in each region you’re operating in.


Countries within the EU operate under the Working Time Directive, which sets a minimum holiday entitlement of 20 days for full-time workers. However, many of these countries have created their own laws which require more than this lower limit.

Belgium awards full-time workers with 20 holidays plus 10 public holidays (although they cannot take these days off until the year after they have been earned). In Austria, the minimum holiday entitlement is set at 25 days (30 days after 25 years of employment). Workers there also benefit from an additional 13 public holidays — of which they must receive 24 hours of uninterrupted paid rest for each day.

The Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland also offer workers 25 days of paid annual leave (with an additional two days of public holiday entitlement in Norway). Finnish holiday law, in particular, prioritises the summer months — suggesting that four out of the five weeks should be taken between the beginning of May and the end of September.

In the UK, employees working a typical five-day week get at least 28 days of annual holiday leave. Whether or not this entitlement includes the eight public holidays is down to the employer — meaning UK employees could (in theory) get 36 days’ holiday every year. If their employer is feeling generous…

Spanish employees’ holidays can be agreed individually or collectively, but their annual length may not be less than 30 days, including Saturdays and Sundays. However, France offers the most holiday entitlement at 30 days, which French workers can receive after one month of work.

New Zealand and Australia

Many countries outside of the EU and Europe also offer generous holiday entitlements to full-time workers. For example, New Zealand and Australia provide at least 20 days of paid holiday, with an extra 10 public holidays in New Zealand and eight in Australia.

Down under, employees get four weeks of paid leave for every year of service with that employer. This entitlement accumulates continuously based on the number of ordinary hours they work and can be taken as soon as it is accrued. The holiday allowance doesn’t have to be taken each year either — although employers can direct an employee to take leave when they have an excessive balance (generally about eight weeks).

In New Zealand, all employees (regardless of their classification) enjoy four weeks of paid annual holidays after every 12 months of continuous employment. If they meet specific criteria, some employees may even be granted paid annual holidays on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. However, it’s worth noting that payment for annual holidays is calculated differently from payment for public holidays — so employers must make sure that each holiday is calculated correctly based on the leave type.

Elsewhere in the world

Holiday entitlement across the rest of the world varies substantially and is often linked to the work culture in that particular country.

Workers in Brazil are granted a generous 30 days of paid annual leave as well as a vacation bonus equal to a third of their monthly salary. Elsewhere in South America, Argentina offers employees anything from 14 days (for workers with less than five years’ service with that employer) to 35 days (for workers with 20 or more years with the same company).

Canada, Japan and Singapore are a little less generous than much of the rest of the world where holiday entitlement is concerned.

In most Canadian provinces, employees receive a minimum of two weeks of vacation for every year of employment (increasing to three weeks after six consecutive years of employment). However, they do receive a further nine public holidays on top of this.

Seniority makes a big difference in Japan, where workers receive anywhere from 10 to 20 days of paid annual leave depending on experience. The Japanese aren’t guaranteed any paid public holidays, although they do get an additional holiday for every year in employment, up until a total of 20 working days.

Workers in Singapore, where the work ethic is incredibly high, receive only seven to 14 days of paid leave annually, depending on how many years they’ve been employed. 

And then you have the US…

In the US, days off are viewed by many businesses as a privilege rather than a right, with no legal minimum for paid annual leave. In practice, most companies award between five and 15 days annually even though it is not a legal requirement.

However, negotiations for these areas are conducted on an individual basis between employer and employee. As a result, about one in four workers in America receive zero hours of paid annual holiday.

And these are just the regulations for full-time employees! There are plenty of other nuanced rules to contend with for part-time or shift workers. To save yourself the headache, why not engage an expert in international employment laws? If you’re looking for a PEO in Australia, Singapore, Belgium, Spain or anywhere else in the world, we can help. Get in touch today to find out more about our employment services.  

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Published On: August 6th, 2020Last Updated: March 10th, 2022

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About the Author: Paul Sleath

Paul is responsible for global marketing and communications including brand, advertising, digital marketing, and demand generation. Paul has a wealth of experience previously co-founding PEO Worldwide and was also the former managing director of CPM People/Stipenda.