Even though the US is considered one of the most progressive countries in the West, it is still one of the few countries in the world where employees have no right to statutory holiday pay


It’s that time of year when most of the UK workforce are utilising their annual leave but the same can’t be said for our American counterparts. Since they have no statutory holiday pay, vacation time is something that is negotiated between the employer and employee.

For companies that operate in different territories, paid leave can be particularly tricky. For companies with US bases, US employee could receive substantially less holiday than their UK counterparts. Unless the company is particularly generous, like Google who offers three weeks paid leave initially and work their way up to five weeks after five years of service, according to Glassdoor.

In the UK employees are automatically entitled to the statutory minimum of 28 days in their first year. However, UK employees often get confused about bank holidays in relation to their annual leave. Legally, employers do not have to pay during bank holidays, which means that the 28 days is often 20 days annual leave plus 8 public holidays.

It is important to note the wording employers use in contracts of employment, as most have not kept these up to date. If a contract states that employees are entitled to “statutory entitlement plus bank holidays”, this does not mean 20 days leave plus eight bank holidays. Following the increase in statutory minimum leave from four to 5.6 weeks in 2009, this wording would grant 28 days holiday as well as eight bank holidays.

Another source of confusion for employees is the entitlement to premium pay during public holidays. Employers are not actually legally required to pay a premium during bank holidays, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

Austria and Malta are among some of the world’s best nations for statutory paid staff holiday, with 38 days paid annual leave, however Adrian Lewis, director of absence management software company Activ Absence reveals the best nation for paid annual leave, stating  “ The honour goes to Kuwait, where employees receive 30 days paid holiday, plus a further 13 paid public holidays, giving staff a whopping 43 days off – and if an employee has not yet taken Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca), they are entitled to an additional 21 days paid leave after two years continuous service to do so.  Again, our system can manage this.”

“Cambodia comes a close second.  Employees are entitled to 27 paid public holidays, as well as 15 normal days.  In all these cases, this is the statutory minimum – some employers will exceed this!”

By comparison, UK employees are luckier than their US counterparts when it comes to annual leave, but the UK is nearer the bottom of the European league table for staff holiday. This may be something employers need to note, especially post-Brexit, in order to compete for top talent.

Lewis adds ““Accessing annual leave is as important as the amount of days available.  Employees get unhappy and frustrated if they want time off and can’t get a quick answer, because the data is stuck somewhere on a spreadsheet or form, and often by the time someone has come back confirming they can book the time off, that ‘sweet deal’ at the travel agents has gone already and they know their partner will be annoyed as well.”

“Of course, the amount of days is still important, but being demonstrably fair, and dealing with leave queries expeditiously is vital in maintaining good employee relations.  In our experience, employers who manage their annual leave better have happier employees, no matter what the actual leave allowance is.”