You Deserve Time Off, Really

Time Off

Marcus Zorbis on

You deserve to be here!

Irecently took at look at the legislated vacation time for almost 40 countries (see list at the bottom of the post) from around the world and learned something scary. In the supposedly “civilized” West there are two countries that don’t mandate holidays – the United States and Australia. And Canada mandates only 10 working days.

Compare this to 20 calendar days in Ireland, the UK, Italy and Poland or the 7 weeks available to French workers. Even countries that most North Americans would think of as less socially developed such as Columbia, Tunisia and Croatia offer more vacation time than most North Americans receive.

Time Misers

This miserly attitude towards time off filters down from the government and companies to individuals. The lack of legislated vacation time tells North Americans that we don’t merit time off, that we don’t deserve to take more holidays and that we don’t need vacations.

If we leave the nine-to-five world we then enter the world of small business where time off is considered instant death of profits for entrepreneurs who seem to think that success only comes from working 365 days a year 12 hours a day. For a small business, even the bare minimum is an excess of luxury.

But how many people do you know who sit at work stressed to the eyeballs muttering “I need a vacation, I need a vacation, I need a vacation”? We hang everything on the two weeks we get (if we’re lucky) and then often feel pressured not to take them because of whatever latest crisis has come up in the office. After all, taking a vacation shows a distinct lack of dedication to the job and there are hundreds if not thousands of people who would kill for your job.

And when we do take a vacation, we feel guilty about all the work piling up at the office and we fall so behind upon return that the whole thing seemed like a total waste of time. Much better to take our time off in bits and pieces. A day here, a day there and save the hassle of trying to go away and supposedly relax.

We’re Not Slaves

North America was founded by Puritans and slavers. To a slave owner, slaves never stop working, and to a Puritan relaxation and having fun let the devil into our souls. Australia was settled by prisoners who were used to few laws and fewer freedoms.

The European middle class workforce on the other hand rose out of guilds who slowly took away the feudal power from landowners, demanding more and more rights for the guild members. Companies in Europe are used to negotiations and conciliation while North American companies are used to orders and punishment.

If you take a look at the North American companies with the best vacation times, you’ll see strong unions or high income earners. The unions are the modern day version of guilds and the high income earners are the modern day slave owners. And the rest?

They squeeze out what vacation they can, feeling guilty the entire time they’re away from work.

Attitude Shift

So, what do you do? How do we travel more without the time to do so properly?

First off, we need to change our internal attitudes. Don’t accept the message that vacation days are something that we barely deserve and exist only to ruin the company. We all deserve a vacation, whether we work in a grocery store, work for ourselves, work in a factory, or work in an office competing with others for the “right” to keep your job.

This attitude change comes from within. Next time you have a vacation coming up, book a trip and go away. Use the super specials here on Sharing Travel Experiences to find something you like and that’s more than affordable, then go away and don’t think about work even a moment while you’re away.

And when someone tries to give you grief or make you feel guilty for taking the vacation, let the words slide off your back and remind yourself how good it felt to see the world beyond your office cubicle.

Mandated Vacation Days Around the World

(from NationMaster)

English Countries: Minimum none, Maximum 6 weeks (incl public holidays)

  • Ireland: 20 days, plus 9 public holidays
  • United Kingdom: 20 calendar days, plus 8 bank holidays
  • New Zealand: 4 weeks as of April 1, 2007
  • South Africa: 21 consecutive days
  • The Bahamas: 14 days after 1 year employment, 21 days after 5 years employment
  • Canada: 10 working days, plus (on average) 9 national and provincial holidays
  • Australia: Not required, but 28 days is standard. Additional Long service leave is also payable.
  • United States: Not required, but 7-21 days is standard for most employers. Typically, 10 working days with 8 national holidays.

Asia: Miminum none, Maximum 5 weeks

  • Japan: including sick leave: 18 days paid time off; officially, five weeks
  • South Korea: 10 working days
  • Vietnam: 10 working days
  • Hong Kong: 7 days
  • Singapore: 7 days
  • Taiwan: 7 days
  • China: Not required

Western Europe: Minimum 4 weeks, Max 7 weeks

  • France: 5 weeks + 2 weeks of RTT (Reduction du Temps de Travail, in English : Reduction of Working Time) = 7 weeks. The most significant vacation time of any country in the world.
  • Denmark: 6 weeks, of which 5 days can be “sold” back to the employer
  • Austria: 35 days, for elderly employees 42 days
  • Finland: 35 days
  • Sweden: 25-32 working days, depending on age
  • Spain: 30 calendar days plus public holidays
  • Switzerland: 28 days
  • Norway: 25 working days
  • Italy: 20-30 days plus 12 public holidays
  • Germany: 4 weeks (24 “workable” days, i.e. Mon to Sat, even if the working week is Mon to Fri), plus 9 to 13 bank holidays
  • Belgium: 20 days, premium pay
  • Netherlands: 4 weeks

Eastern & South Eastern Europe: Minimum 2 weeks, Maximum 5 weeks

  • Ukraine: 24 calendar days
  • Poland: 20 business days, 26 business days after 10 years of employment
  • Czech Republic: 4 weeks
  • Latvia: 4 weeks
  • Romania: minimum 20 working days
  • Bulgaria: minimum 20 working days
  • Hungary: 20 working days
  • Croatia: 18 working days
  • Turkey: 12 work days

Middle-East: Minimum 2 weeks, Maximum 6 weeks

  • Israel: 14 days
  • Saudi Arabia: 15 days
  • Tunisia: 30 work days

South & Latin America: Minimum 1.5 weeks, Maximum 6 weeks.

  • Brazil: 30 consecutive days, of which 10 can be sold back to the employer
  • Argentina: 14 calendar days (from 0 to 5 years seniority), 21 calendar days (from 5 to 10), 28 calendar days (from 10 to 20) and 35 calendar days (from 20)
  • Chile: 15 working days
  • Puerto Rico: 15 days
  • Venezuela: 15 paid days
  • Colombia: 14 days
  • Costa Rica: 2 weeks after 1 year employment.
  • Ecuador: 14 days
  • Paraguay: 14 days
  • Peru: 14 days
  • Uruguay: 14 days
  • Mexico: 7 days

Did this article sound like a dream come true?

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