Workers in the UK receive the most generous statutory holiday entitlements in western Europe, but have the lowest number of public holidays, according to a new study.
If the 28-day holiday entitlement added to the eight public holidays, it would suggest that employees in this country could be off for 36 days, or 10% of the year, which would be one of the highest entitlements in the world.
But firms are allowed to include the public holidays as part of the statutory 28 days, so workers in the UK actually have fewer holidays than in the rest of Europe, consulting firm Mercer said.
The 28-day statutory leave compared with 25 in Greece, France, Austria, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark, 24 in Malta, 22 in Spain and Portugal, 21 in Norway and 20 in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland, Switzerland and Holland.
Workers in Cyprus have the most public holidays in Western Europe (15), followed by Malta and Spain (14), Austria and Portugal (13), while the UK and Holland have the lowest, both with eight.
Canada and the United States are among the least generous countries for statutory holidays, with policies varying widely. Many firms in the US give three weeks holidays for staff who have given between five and 10 years service.
Wolfgang Seidl, head of Mercer's healthcare consulting business, said: "Despite continued economic turmoil, interest in the issue of work/life balance continues to grow. From the employee's and company's perspective, health creates wealth. Companies recognise that a healthy, happy workforce is a productive one, and this feeds directly into the bottom line.
"How companies interpret holiday regulations provision is a major factor. With pay rises muted and often below the rate of inflation, companies are searching for other ways to motivate their staff.
"Flexible working and a good employee work/life balance helps improve employee engagement when the usual financial tools are unavailable."
© 2011 Press Association