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Do holidays matters? New study reveals they do, but highlights global complexities for companies building a global leave strategy

With the summer holiday season fast approaching Punter Southall Health and Protection in partnership with Asinta, a global network of employee benefits consultants has investigated how much paid time off employers give their staff and how entitlements differ in companies around the world.

Employers staff overseas are often challenged by how much paid leave they should provide. It’s complex issue, as industry, employee demographics, location, culture and even religion, all need to be considered. Add in mandatory paid time off requirements, public holidays and unusual special leave too and achieving global harmonisation in terms of paid time off is far from simple.

Punter Southall Health & Protection recently published a ‘Global Paid Time off Study,’ in partnership with Asinta, a global partnership of independent employee health and welfare consultancies.

The study highlighted that holidays are good for our health and that not taking leave can have a big toll. According to the Framingham Heart Study, men who don’t take their holidays were 30% more likely to have a heart attack, while women were 50% more likely. We also found that paid time off is highly valued and a top-rated benefit by employees.

We often think the UK is generous when it comes to paid leave, with 33 days off a year (counting mandatory paid holidays and public holidays), but the study revealed it’s Spain with 44 days, Germany with 41 days and Brazil with 38 days a year which are the most generous countries.

On the other end of the spectrum are countries like the USA which does not mandate paid leave and holidays for employees. But this doesn’t mean the workers in the USA don’t receive holiday, it is just offered at the discretion of the company and Americans on average take 15 to 21 days off.

China is among the least generous nation for holiday benefits, as workers aren’t entitled to any paid leave during their first year of employment. In Japan, where there is an ageing population, some companies are cutting working hours and the government is introducing legislation to force workers to take at least five days holiday each year.

The study also revealed a shift towards unlimited leave favoured by companies such as Netflix, Virgin and LinkedIn. Netflix’s rationale is based on the fact it doesn’t count the out of hours employees do in the evenings and on weekends, so it wasn’t fair to track their holidays either.

Clearly Netflix’s approach to holiday entitlement won’t suit every business, but it highlights how the workplace has evolved. Technology advancements means we’re no longer confined to the traditional ‘9 to 5’ and employee benefits must evolve too.

Undertaking this study, we found a genuine business case for paid time off. It supports engagement, helps staff feel valued and they tend to return from holidays refreshed and motivated. A generous paid time off allowance will also support employee retention and recruitment.

Happy holidays!

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John Dean
John Dean is Chief Commercial Officer of Punter Southall Health & Protection, which has grown considerably since its launch in 2010 to become one of the most innovative and strongest health, protection and wellness advisers in the United Kingdom.
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