UK National Holidays – are we getting a bad deal?

There was no post from me yesterday as it was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, which got me to thinking – how do we fare in terms of holidays compared to the rest of Europe/The World?

I was all to say how hard-done-by we are but the research I did was quite enlightening. The main problem is sifting through all of the available information on the Internet to find the relevant stuff!

Please note that the following table is based on the data that I found and chose to use. There is actually quite a big discrepancy is the data available – not in terms of holidays allowed/given, but in terms of how long we work.

I’ve written before that we Brits often get a bum deal at work, and some of the studies I’ve found prove this – others say that we do as little as 34.5 hours a week! I don’t know how there can be a difference of 14 hours, but I guess it depends on the data that you’ve got available and the type of workforce you’re looking into.

Anyway, the chart below details working hours and National Holidays – it doesn’t include any reference to paid holidays that you may be entitled to. For instance, I get 26 paid days leave a year with my current job (4 of those need to be kept for the Christmas period), in my last job I think I had 18!

The most surprising/annoying thing is the difference of holiday allowance within the UK itself. I’ve split England/Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland out to illustrate this. So you can see below that Scotland gets one extra day and Northern Ireland have two. That’s not fair!

I’ve ordered the table by working hours rather than holidays as I was trying to see if the number of public holidays correspondeded with hours worked but, er, it didn’t!

So, what do you think? Do we have enough holidays? Not Enough, or too many? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. I’d be interested to hear from my readers how many National Holidays you actually get per year.

Holidays/Working Hours

Country Public Holidays Average Working Hours/Year
USA 11 1804
Japan 15 1775
Spain 9 *** 1769
Australia 10 1730
Canada 15 ** 1737
Portugal 14 1685
England / Wales 8 Days 1672*
Scotland 9 days 1672 *
Northern Ireland 10 days 1672 *
Switzerland 18 ** 1659
Rep. Of Ireland 9 Days 1638
France 13 days 1546
Sweden 13 1587
Germany 9-13 ** 1437

* Data Can’t be split from data set used, plase see the UK Working hours spreadsheet for England/Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland split.
** Dependant on region
***  Plus regional holidays

Sources Cited

Holidays List – Wikipedia

UK Working Hours – Office of National Statistics (2003)

Working Hours Data taken from (2005 Data)

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    “I spent a summer in Canada, where the BC government had realized there were 3-day weekends every month but August. So hey, let’s make up a new holiday! Thus, BC Day. I thought it was brilliant.”


    “Frankly, I would KILL for an additional 8-16 days of vacation per year. You can take the 5 extra holidays; Most US workers get 2 weeks paid vacation (10 days). I would MUCH rather have more flexible days and less set holidays.”


    “Don’t forget that in some countries (France being one example) if a public holiday falls on a weekend it is lost. In the Uk, most public holidays fall on a Monday and when they fall on a weekend (Christmas day or New Year day for example), the next working day becomes a holiday. So basically, in the UK, the number of public holidays is the same every year. Take this example: in France, 01/05, 08/05, 25/12 and 01/01 are public holidays (among others), if the 01/05 falls on a Sunday, the 08/05 (which is just a week later) also falls on a Sunday. Same for the 25/12 and 01/01. When this happens, the French lose 4 public holidays which makes quite a big difference.”


    “@Rebecca – Yes, I guess we’re lucky that we do seem to have a high holiday allowance, even if we’re lacking on the public holiday front”


    “@Anthony – I did read that some countries “”lose”” public holidays if they fall on a weekend which seems a little odd to me. As you say, in the UK if a public holiday falls on a weeked it gets moved to the next working day”

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