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Canada and U.S, global laggards in worker time off

Canada ranks near the bottom off the list when it comes to granting paid time off work, but we are much better off than our neighbours to the south, a new report shows.

A survey of the world’s 21 richest countries places Canada third from the bottom when it comes to mandatory vacation time and paid holidays – just ahead of Japan and well beyond the U.S., where companies aren’t even required to pay workers for time away from the job.

“Canada and Japan are less generous … and the United States lags far behind the rest of the world's rich countries,” says the report from the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

In Canada, employees receive a minimum of 10 mandatory vacation days and nine holidays, such as Christmas Day and Canada Day.

The report notes many Canadian employers do grant more vacation time to employees with more experience.

In Japan, employees receive a mandatory 10 vacation days and zero holidays, while employees in the U.S. don’t receive any of both.

“The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation time and is one of only a few rich countries that does not require employers to offer at least some paid holidays,” states the report, timed just ahead of the U.S. Memorial Day long weekend.

“In the absence of a legal requirement for paid vacation and paid holidays, about one fourth of the U.S. workforce has no paid vacation or paid holidays in the course of their work year.”

The report says the gap between paid time off in U.S. and other countries not on the list is even higher.

“In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 per cent) and no paid holidays (23 per cent),” the report says.

Which countries receive the most vacation? Both Austria and Portugal were at the top of the list, with their employees receiving minimum total of 35 paid days off – including 22 vacation days and 13 holidays. Germany and Spain both have 34 days off, while France and Italy receive 31.

Of course some people will be quick to make a correlation between the number of paid days off and Europe’s financial crisis, but consider that both New Zealand and Australia aren’t far behind, providing 30 and 28 paid days off, respectively.

The report says nine countries in Europe also guarantee that workers can take some of that time off in the desirable summer peak vacation season. In the Netherlands, where the rules are the most strict, employers must grant their workers leave in one continuous period between April 30 and October 1.

In New Zealand, employees are entitled to take at least two weeks of their time off in a row.