As an employer from overseas, vacation days in Europe might be an interesting and striking topic. In Europe, vacation days are an important part of employment as it directly contributes to the work-life balance. The amount of paid vacation days differs per European country. In Canada and the United States, Europe is known for the high amount of vacation days. In this blog, we outline the number of paid vacation days in Europe for 2023 in comparison with the United States and Canada. Furthermore, the phenomenon of "untaken" holidays will be explained.
Latest update: 16 March 2023
Paid vacation days in Canada & United States
In the United States, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide paid vacation. This makes the United States the only "advanced" economy that does not oblige employers to give paid vacation days or holidays to employees. However, some states and cities have their own laws that mandate paid vacation time for employees. For example, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have laws requiring employers to provide paid vacation time to their employees, while some cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago have similar laws. In reality, most employers offer full-time employees at least 10 days (2 weeks) of paid vacation time as part of their benefits package in order to attract and retain employees.
In Canada, most provinces give Canadian employees a minimum of 10 days (2 weeks) of vacation. This is seen as a basic entitlement. After six consecutive years of employment with the same employer, workers are entitled to three weeks of paid annual leave.
Paid vacation days in Europe
The number of vacation days is regulated by local law and, therefore, the mandatory minimum paid days off differs per country. The table below shows the minimum entitlement per country based on a 5 days workweek:
20 (<10 years of employment)26 ( >10 years of employment)
20 (<10 years of employment)24 ( >10 years of employment)
* Many contracts, particularly for state employees, allow for 28 days, or five weeks, of paid leave per year in Italy.
Some European countries offer employees extra days when they have been working for more than 10 years (e.g. Poland and Greece). On top of this, European employees get time off on bank holidays and maybe even regional public holidays (e.g. Italy and Spain). In some European countries, employees need to be paid on such days, in others not (e.g. UK).
Even though the mandatory minimum provides you with some guidelines on what to expect, European employees might expect more when you offer them an employment contract. Our HR Experts will support you in the process of creating a competitive offer.
Typically, employees must make sure to take their vacation days during the “holiday year”. This can be a full calendar year but can also be a longer period. Besides this perfect case scenario, how do we approach a case of an employee being unable to take their holidays when they're due?
In some countries, it is possible to transfer them to the next year, but there are some rules. For example, employees' untaken statutory holidays expire 6 months after the end of the year (The Netherlands). In the case of Finland, there is the only limitation as to how many holidays you can transfer to the next year – which is 6. This amount is subject to change only if there is a written agreement with the employer. In the case of The United Kingdom, statutory holidays cannot be transferred to the next year at all, in order to ensure that the employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.
The differences in regulations are evident, and there could still be some unwritten principles. For instance, it is a common practice for employers to grant extra holidays to the statutory minimum to European employees as an act of goodwill. If you are in doubt, our HR Experts will support you in the process of creating a competitive offer and making sure everything is settled correctly on the legal side.
In case you would like to have more information, do not hesitate to connect with Monique Ramondt-Sanders - Executive Vice President of Human Resource Outsourcing at EuroDev. Interested in more information concerning our HR Outsourcing services? Please have a look at our HR Outsourcing page.
EuroDev, established in 1996 with offices in The Netherlands, has a single, defined purpose to help mid-sized North American companies expand their business in Europe. We have created a proven, successful business development model and since our founding, have partnered with over 500 companies to help them define and meet their European business goals. Services provided include Sales Outsourcing, HR Outsourcing, and Digital Marketing.