13 weeks of Vacation time?

I am always hearing about how Americans work too much and take too little time off. This is always compared to vacation time given to employees in other countires , who seem to get weeks and weeks and weeks off. In the offices where I have worked , the following scenarios occur when people are on vacation, take a day off, or even call in sick:

–someone else has to fill in for them, leaving their own work undone, or have to work overtime
–someone has to do two jobs at once
–or the job is left undone and piles of work are waiting when the person returns to the office

What happens during all this vacation time these non-Americans get?? Do they hire temps , do they have permanant “floating” employees to cover people, or do they use one of the methods listed above? Considering how pissed off people in my office get when they have to cover for a week, I can’t imagine the office atmosphere when people are taking 13 weeks off a year.

I would imagine that they have more generalists, and fewer specialists, so that when someone is out, there are plenty of people who know how to cover for them. It’s probably a more “team oriented” working culture, with less of the “that’s not MY job” attitude that pervades the American workplace.

I also know that many European companies close entirely for, say, a month at a time. That way, no one has to cover those weeks.

When I lived in Australia, I had four weeks vacation time every year to start. This did not count federal and state holidays.

Then there is (was?) long-service leave where if you were with one employer for seven to ten years, you were entitled for an additional three months off, above and beyond your annual four weeks or more. LSL was available only one every seven to ten years. I knew folks who saved up their annual leave as much as they could and when they became eligible for LSL, took world vacations – with full pay – for six months or more.

Who did their work while they were gone? Other staff members filled in, the work didn’t get done, and/or the boss hired someone to cover.

The only think that irked me with vacation and holidays were the holidays. While there are nation-wide holidays not all states celebrated them at the same time. In a small population country like Australia, but geographically as large as CONUS, quite a bit of my work depended upon working with folks in other states. But with different holiday dates among the states, some days I could do very little work because my colleague(s) in others states had the day off, and vice versa.

On top of that, the state I was based (South Australia) has a state law stating all Sundays are automatically state holidays and it’s not legal to stack holidays on top of each other. The classic example is Easter Sunday. Since Sundays in SA are already holidays (by law), one cannot “celebrate” Easter as a holiday in its own right on Easter Sunday. So we had to have the Easter Monday holiday to compensate. When you add in Easter Friday (Good Friday) is a holiday, too, actual work tends to go down during that period.

All in all, I once calculated that among all the various holidays celebrated nationwide, there were more than 40 business days (Monday to Friday) lost annually because someone I worked with interstate was off on a holiday while I had to work, or vice versa. Add in my personal four weeks vacation (minimum) and already 12 weeks are gone in any given year to accomplish work. When you add in the month of January when businesses slow down because so many close down, cut another four weeks off the business calendar.

It’s hard getting anything done when so many people are off work on vacation and/or holidays.

13 weeks is a bit of an overestimate. I get 30 days (= six five-day weeks) paid leave which is about normal in Germany; the legal minimum is 20 days. Of course you can accumulate more if the employer agrees to your carrying over unused vacation days (if the employer does not agree last year’s unspent vacation days lapse at the end of the first quarter.)

Taking all your leave in one portion is relatively unusual. Normally the main (summer) vacation doesn’t exceed three/four weeks. After all people want to keep vacation days for short trips and for bridge days (when a public holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday).

Companies and employees usually cope by:

  • planning ahead (managers make sure that not all people qualified for some task are on vacation at the same time, and project planning include vacations of project members)
  • keeping personnel qualified outside narrow specialties (which is also in the employees’ interest, of course). Employees in qualified positions can expect their range of tasks to change significantly over the time of their employment at one company, anyway.
  • companywide vacation periods (e.g. a lot of companies close down two weeks over Christmast/New Year, and some large e.g. automobile manufacturers adjust companywide vacations to periods of low sales)
  • some temp employment and outsourcing - but not very much. For reasonably qualified work temporary workers are typically only hired to cover long periods (e.g. maternity leave or when someone has wrapped his car around a tree and isn’t expected back for a year).

In Europe. most countries give employees five or six weeks of paid vacation. Note that it’s not the companies that give it away, it’s the law. If you start a business and want to employ someone, you justhave to figure in the cost of the vacation in your budgeting.

So, how does it work? It depends on what type of business you run. I had six weeks at my latest workplace (a bonus week as part of the beenies). No one did my work, when I was gone, so it could pile up. However, I took vacation for about three weeks during summer, two weeks over Christmas / New Year and saved the rest for the odd week during spring and fall. The longest stretch, three weeks, was during the time when nothing much happpen anyway. Sweden almost closes down druing July. Nobody’s doing business, apart from retail and services. City, region and all other public places basically hibernate in July. There really is no point in working, becuase you can’t get anything done between June 20 and the first week of August.

The thing about some companies really closing is not totally true. Volvo sends home a couple of thousand of workers, but take the time when not making cars, to do maintenence, replace machines to fit the new models coming out ASF.

Generally, the less “important” the work is, the likelier it is that the company hires a temp to fill your place. Stores, restaurants and basically any place that can make do with “un-skilled” labour, will hire temps.

Oh, and all of us get bonus pay for taking time off. Not a lot, mind you, but an extra $25 per day you have vacation do add up. That’s $750 per year and buys me an airline ticket to where I want to go for vacation.

GASPOD you get paid to go on vacation??? Holy cow! our boss ( the husband of one of the docs I work for ) begrudges us 2 weeks because “technically, with vacation time, holidays and sick time , employees could take ONE WHOLE MONTH off!!” We get two weeks , a week of sick time, and 10 holidays. None of it carries over to the next year if it’s unused.
This is the office manager that works 10-3 Thursdays and Fridays.

Jones’s Law of Shelf Space; your work will take about as much time as you allocate to it.

Once you start working 48 weeks a year instead of 50, it’s amazing how 50 weeks of work suddenly gets done in 48 weeks.

I get 18 days of vacation a year, plus stat holidays, plus sick leave. Canada here.

That’s a little misleading. In my company, in Germany, people would get 30 paid holidays plus accrue up to 7 more days during the year since they were normally working a 40 and not 37 hour work week (not including us “management” types, particularly us expats, who normally worked the same crazy hours or more as the USA). Let’s say, for ease of calculations, that you earned $52,000/year. In the US you would get $1,000/week, including, for many companies, the weeks you work vacation. In Europe you’re paid the same rate that works out to roughly $52,000/year, including holidays and bonuses. So the German employee would get a “vacation” and “christmas” bonus. But they’d just take the same $52,000 and divide it out into 13.5 parcels, coming out to roughly $890/week. So in a standard month you’d make less, but then at Christmas you’d get an extra half months pay and you’d also get your vacation pay to help pay for your long holiday on the beach in Bali. But it’s really just the company budgeting for you. Since I’m not German I also don’t know how the extremely high income tax rate affects the bonus money. Maybe they only get to keep about 50%?

Place I recently got early retirement from (great!), we had 5 weeks holiday, plus stat, plus we closed Christmas eve to Jan second. The conditions for current employees are still the same.

We also worked a 35 hour week, any overtime paid at rate and a half (very rarely done though). It meant we finished for the weekend 12.30 Friday, so a two and a half day break.

This is from a major international company, one of the most profitable in the world, so it’s not doing them any harm to take care of their employees.

Coverage for time off was factored into the number of people employed. We were also told on joining that the company doctor considered a break of at least two continuous weeks during the year was necessary for our well-being. (UK)

I work in the UK in an MOD/Civil service job and started on 25 days, then after 12 years it went up to 30 days. I get public holidays on top too of course.

Our standard hours are 42 per week though, which is somewhat more than your average office worker on 37/38 or so.

Suits me.

Okay, that’s it. I gotta move… :slight_smile: The only reason I’ve 4 weeks of vacation is because I’ve been with the same company for more than ten years…

Usually in Canada it’s two week per year for the first five years, three weeks a year for the second five years, then four seeks a year afterwards.

I think I might not have phrased myself clearly. Let’s try again:
I get six weeks of paid vacation time, or 30 days to be exact. On top of this, there are 12 national holidays, which don’t cost vacation days. So this past holiday season, and with our holidays being the way they are, anyone who could, got time off from 20th of Dec. to 7th of Jan costing a total of five (yes, that’s five) vacation days. hen I stress could, it means that people in retail won’t find it easy being granted vacation time during the busiest season of the year. We have a lot of vacation, but the employer can plan for it, and force you to take vacation when it’s convenient for the company, not yours truly.

Also, the ‘vacation pay’ is a bonus, on top of the regular salary, an additional $750 a year.

Mind you - we have the highest tax rate in the world (more than half the total work force is publicly employed, so I pay for their vacation with my taxes, being privately employed). TANSTAAFL.

None of this is news to me, but it never fails to piss me off when I hear it.

One of the largest projects I ever worked on was with a Danish company (the country, not the breakfast pastry), and right in the middle of the most critical phase, the key engineer on their side went on a two-week holiday. And then came back. And expected that everything got done just fine while he was gone and I was dealing with the less-competent, less-informed junior engineer who took his place. Also, that guy wanted everything changed to HIS way of doing it during the two weeks, and then we had to change back when it was over.

I’m the general manager of a small company. I have a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I get two weeks per year, and I never get to take all of it. There is no carry-over. This is pretty much the norm in America these days. I was always raised hearing about the “lazy American worker”. I’m here to tell you friends, it ain’t so. We work our asses off.

Also, I was a little amused by this quote:

because I’ve done a good bit of work at the local Volvo plant, and I have lots of memories of being in there at all hours of the day and night, especially on holidays. They may let some of their people off, but the contractors are shown no mercy.

Oh well, thanks for letting me vent!

On 18th March this year (13 days from now) I will have been with my current employer for 10 years.

On that day I am entitled to take off 3 months (90 days including weekends) on full pay.

Add to this 8 weeks of accumulated annual leave and I can have 5 months off with full pay.

Granted this only comes around every ten years, but I’m seriously thinking about whether I should take another job or start a business and if after 5 months (on full pay) it’s not working (bad pun) then I quit/closedown and go back to my faithful old employer.

Wow. 5 months. Full pay. WooHoo.

I am retiring at the end of this year and , in addition to the 32 days plus seven bank holidays , this year I also receive 2 extra days per month " pre retirement leave " which has to be taken in that month. So this year I will be getting 63 day’s leave this year.

I compare this to my mother-in-law, who has worked for the third most profitable bank in the U.S. for the last twenty-five years and I become physically ill. She gets ten days of vacation, six sick days (and can’t take more than one at a time without jumping through hoops) and perhaps the stingiest “benefits” package I’ve ever seen. American businesses do not value their workers nor consider the benefits of time off to be real or meaningful.

I work for a (relatively) generous American company. We get 15 days vacation, 7 sick days, 8 company holidays, and two “personal” days. After five years, we get an additional 5 days vacation. We can carry 5 unused vacation days over into the following year. I always end up having to take a week off at the end of the year to avoid losing it, even though I really don’t want to, because we’re too busy the rest of the year to use all that time off. I have worked for other companies that would “buy back” unused vacation time at the end of the year, but this one doesn’t, and it may not be common.

As for my earlier comment about some European companies shutting down for weeks at a time, that comes from personal experience. I used to work for a distributor of a number of European products, and most (maybe all, my memory isn’t that clear) of them did shut down once or twice a year. Usually, they would be closed for a month in the summer and two weeks around Christmas time.

I’m an Irish civil servant and get 29 days per annum (that’s after 10 years service and a couple of promotions). They’ve also recently introduced flexitime for my grade, which enables me take another 1.5 days per month as long as I have the hours worked up. In practice, I ‘lose’ a lot of hours under the flexitime system every month but it’s well worth it. We also have sick days but they are not generally availed of. I’m fully paid for all my leave.

As previous posters have said, leave is handled through good planning and scheduling of work, some covering of the essentials by other team members (which is obviously reciprocated), a bit of a pile-up for your return and a tacit acceptance that people aren’t available to the same extent during the summer months. In my job, taking long breaks (say more than a week) outside the summer months is not really the done thing.

There are also various family friendly options such as job-sharing, career breaks, term-time leave, fully paid maternity leave etc.

the average american works 1966 hours a year. I think that is the highest of any industrialized country.


Whats bothersome are the poor people who have to work 2 jobs (each paying about $7 an hour) or students who work a full week & go to school. They probably put in 3000-4000 hours a year. Some IT guys do 4000+ hours a year.

My dad used to work 60 hours a week (it is a good paying job, but 60 hours is still 60 hours), thats roughly 2900 hours a year when you subtract 1 week of vacation & off days, but still 2x as many hours as someone from Norway works in a year.

I work for in a large manufacturing plant. “Normal” workweek is 37.5 hrs but I normally put in 9 1/2 days (includes lunch).

vacation entitlement Less than 3 yrs working = 2 weeks, 3-7 yrs = 3wks, 8-19 yrs = 4 wks, 20+ yrs = 5 weeks.