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Average PTO Days by Country: How the US Stacks up

The number of average vacations by country greatly varies. Check out our guide to learn which countries have the most paid time off, and how the US compares.

Blog Author - Janelle Watson
Janelle Watson
Dec 26, 20235 minutes
Blog Author - Janelle Watson
Janelle Watson

Janelle Watson provides content marketing for the international team at Justworks. With a background in higher education and journalism, Janelle helps tell stories that make international expansion and EOR accessible.

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15 1920x1080 Average PTO Days by Country How the US Stacks up

Have you ever wondered how the average pto days in the USA compares to the rest of the world? Here is a look at some of the countries that offer the most vacation days globally, as well as how US employers benefit from compensating their employees with paid vacation. 

Many countries throughout the world have mandatory vacation days per year, with Europe leading globally for the most amount of paid holidays that employees receive each year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the United States (by law) does not require employers to provide employees with any paid vacation or annual leave off. 

Paid vacation not only increases the quality of life for employees, but benefits employers too. Employees who work without any vacation are more likely to experience burnout and resentment towards their employer. Despite the law, some of the top employers in the US offer competitive vacation packages; some even offer unlimited PTO. 

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What countries have the most vacation days? 

In general, European countries (like France, Spain, and the United Kingdom) offer the most paid time off. Almost all countries in Europe offer some type of paid holiday leave. 

Austria ranks first with 25 days of paid vacation that employees are required to take each year, plus an additional 13 public holidays off – all paid as well. This gives Austrian employees 38 days of paid vacation time annually. 

Some other countries that have the most vacation days for employees globally are: 

  • France and Spain are tied for second, with 36 days each 

  • South Korea requires 31 days

  • Germany requires 30 days

  • UK requires 28 days 

  • Japan mandates 26 days 

Most countries around the world mandate that employees take a vacation each year and use all of their paid time off. This helps create a better work-life balance, encourages employees to spend time with their family, and shows that employers are committed to seeing employees as individuals. 

Which country has the least vacation days? How the US compares

 The United States has one of the lowest required vacation days by country because there is no  statutory minimum requirement for what employers need to offer in terms of paid vacation days. The United States is considered an at-will country. However, most public sector and private sector employees receive time off, which is explained in their employment contracts. Public sector employees at the federal and state level, for instance, receive most federal holidays, as well as sick leave and vacation time. 

How many vacation days is normal in the US?

In the US, there are 10 public holidays that are normally celebrated, although employees are not guaranteed to have these days off depending on their employer and job sector. 

Despite the lax legal requirements, many employers still opt to give their employees between 10-15 days off per year in the US. Paid time off is normally given based on their years of service with the company or organization. 

10-15 days is also significantly lower than what employees are entitled to in many countries in Europe, which encourages employees to take around a month of vacation time each year. Labor movements in Europe have ensured that vacation is one of many workers rights that is guaranteed to all employees. Some countries even shut down their businesses for part of the summer so that citizens can use their vacation time and travel. 

The gig economy and vacation time

In the US, 1 in 4 workers don’t receive any vacation time or holiday pay. Some Americans work as gig-economy workers for companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, where they act as independent contractors. Others are simply not classified as full-time employees

Employers in the United States have the option of not offering employees paid time off when they are classified  as independent contractors. As independent contractors, they are not entitled to any type of benefit package to cover areas like paid time off, health insurance, pension, and other standard employee benefits. 

Benefits of paid vacation

Paid vacation is not only important for employees, but good from an economic and business standpoint. It helps reduce stress, improves mental health, and increases productivity. Research suggests that countries that have more paid vacation have higher overall mental health scores. 

Helps avoid employee burnout

Employees who work without any time off are likely to experience burnout. In the US, because there is a lack of statutory paid time off, companies that don’t prioritize employee wellbeing can lead to employees being afraid to take time off for themselves or to even call out sick. This creates a culture of both fear for job safety, as well as burnout on the job. When employers offer paid time off, they are helping employees to avoid burnout and work at their most optimal levels. 

Encourages work-life balance

When an employee is too closely tied to a company and feels as if they have no outlet besides work, they are likely going to resent their job. This creates tension towards both their employers as well as the company as a whole. Giving paid time off shows that the employer sees the benefit of a healthy work-life balance, demonstrating employers care about how their employees are doing outside work.  

Increased wellness

Psychologically, everyone needs time to themselves outside of sick leave. Employees who can take time for themselves are able to give their brain time to relax. In general, people are much more likely to perform optimally if they’ve had a chance to relax and reset their energy outside of a work setting. 

Increased productivity

Employees that are encouraged to take time off are more likely to be more productive  once they return to work. One study by the firm Ernst & Young found that their employees' performance ratings improved by 8% for each additional 10 hours of vacation they took.

How employers can implement vacation time

Research

Research what other international companies in other countries around the world are giving to their employees. Research employees' overall happiness in countries like France and Spain, the two countries with the highest vacation time. This will help you craft the most competitive compensation and benefit packages. 

Encourage vacation use

Try to avoid allowing rollovers for paid vacation time for the next year. Don’t reward employees for not using their vacation time. Employers should encourage their employees to use their vacation time by the end of each year so that they have enough time to recharge and relax. 

Provide sick leave and other leave

Instead of having all leave fall under the same category, try to have separate allocated amounts for sick leave, injury, or any other types of leave. This discourages employees from taking their vacation time in unexpected circumstances, like caring for family members or recovering from an illness. 

By clearly separating types of leave for what they are meant to be used for, employees will feel confident that when they take their holiday days off, that it’s being used for what matters: vacation. 

How Justworks Can Help 

Justworks’ global EOR is the best solution for small businesses looking to easily hire talent in countries where they don’t already have a legal presence. 

Justworks has direct entities in 11 countries, with the ability to hire in 100+ additional countries upon request through our trusted local partners. You can fearlessly handle HR essentials like payroll, benefits, local compliance, and more. 

Learn more about our EOR services, and get started today!

FAQ

Which country has the most paid vacation? 

Austria has the most paid vacation, with 25 mandatory vacation days and 13 mandatory public holidays off. 

What countries have paid time off? 

Almost all countries around the globe have required paid time off except for the United States. Countries with the most paid time off include Austria, Spain, France, South Korea, Germany, the UK, and Japan. 

Does China have paid time off? 

Yes, employees in China are entitled to paid time off. The amount of paid time off depends on how long the employee has worked for their employer. 

Which country has the most work free days? 

Cambodia, Vietnam, and Iran have the most work free days, with 27 paid public holidays each year. 

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Written By
Blog Author - Janelle Watson
Janelle Watson
Dec 26, 20235 minutes

Janelle Watson provides content marketing for the international team at Justworks. With a background in higher education and journalism, Janelle helps tell stories that make international expansion and EOR accessible.

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