Press release, 19 July 2007

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Sharp contrast in days’ leave across EU

(DUBLIN, IRELAND) Marked differences exist between EU Member States in the total number of days’ leave they offer workers, with some countries having almost three-and-a-half working weeks’ more time off than others. Research findings published today from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) show that workers in Sweden have 42 days of annual leave and public holidays combined, in contrast to workers in Estonia, who have just 26 days. In addition, the length of the working week and annual hours worked vary greatly from one country to another.

On average, workers in the 12 new EU Member States work two and a half working weeks more each year than do workers in the former EU15, according to Working time developments – 2006, the annual update from Eurofound’s European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO). On average, workers in the EU15 have 35.6 days of annual leave and public holidays combined, while workers in the 12 new Member States have 31.3 days. (For the EU27 as a whole, the average is 33.7 days.) After Sweden, the countries with the greatest number of days’ leave are Germany (40 days), Italy (39 days), Luxembourg and Denmark (38 days each). The countries with the least amount of leave, after Estonia, are Latvia (27 days), Hungary (28 days) and Ireland which, with just 29 days’ of combined leave and holidays, is the lowest ranking country in the EU15.

In 2006, the average length of the working week, for full-time employees working in their main job, varied from 42.1 hours in Latvia to 37.6 hours in France. While the average collectively agreed working week in the EU27 was 38.7 hours, in practice, the actual average working week was 1.2 hours longer, at 39.9 hours.

The report also looks at the number of hours worked annually. Overall, the longest annual working hours in the EU are in Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Romania, while the shortest are in France, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Average annual hours in Estonia (1,872) are 304 hours longer than in France (1,568) – the equivalent of around 7.6 working weeks in Estonia.

The annual update also focuses on the issue of ‘on-call’ work or duty arrangements, whereby workers must be available to be called into work if required by their employer. On-call arrangements are most prevalent in the healthcare, transport, and hotels and catering sectors, and most common in Norway and the Netherlands. This form of work is an ongoing source of legal disputes, particularly in the healthcare sector, concerning such issues as payment for on-call time and whether on-call duties count as working time.

Download the full report

For further information, contact
- Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, by email or telephone +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507
- Camilla Galli da Bino, Information Liaison Officer: email or telephone +353-1-204 3125 mobile +353-87-2779370

Note to the editor
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound - is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policy making with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.
The European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) is Eurofound’s monitoring instrument offering news and analysis on industrial relations in all 27 EU Member States and Norway, and at European level.

More news and information from Eurofound is available on:

Please register for regular press updates from the Foundation.

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