Always On Vacation

My classmates didn’t believe the words printed in our textbook. They had to ask me: “is this true?” I assured them it was.

Part of language lessons is imparting knowledge that will be useful as you integrate into a new society. Vacations are part of that, which means we had a page focusing on German holidays and vacations in my German course. One of the things we read was a description of holidays comparing the vacation time German workers receive with those in other countries, including Canada.

Germans, we were told, get 30 days of paid holiday annually, on top of 9-12 statutory holidays (the number depends on which state you live in). That appears to be about the same as in France, Finland and Brazil. In Switzerland they get 20 vacations days, and, in Canada, or so the book told us, people have ten days annual leave. My classmates were shocked. They wanted me to confirm that wasn’t a misprint.

I hadn’t thought about it before. I grew up in Canada, and I never considered the number of vacation days to be insufficient. Mind you, it has been a long time since I only had ten days annual leave.

As I tried to explain in my limited German, ten days is the legally mandated start point, not what most people get. From what I have seen, many places are offering new employees three weeks vacation to start. And the number of days increases with seniority. When I left Parliament Hill last year, I think I was entitles to five weeks annually, and could probably have asked for and received more. There was always flexibility for those who worked hard.

I’m don’t think 30 days is the German minimum though, no matter what the book says. An acquaintance here has just been offered a job, minimum wage, that has only 20 days annual leave. Which is still four weeks if you take it all at once. Canadians usually have to be ten years with the same company to reach that level.

I wonder which is best for employer and employee? Thirty days seems like a long time off work to me. During that time someone would have to cover for the vacationing employee, do their work, which might not be necessary if they were only gone a week or two. This probably requires better trained (and better paid) staff. Maybe you aren’t allowed to take all 30 days at one time.

Theoretically though, if you have more vacation days you should be better rested and less likely to suffer from workplace stress and burnout. You may not spend as many days at work as your Canadian counterpart, but you could be more productive. Some sociologist must have done a study, but I will leave that research to you if you are interested. (I feel guilty as a researcher to leave that job to you – but only mildly. I get paid to do research, and your cheque seems to always be in the mail and never in my hand.)

Which vacation system do you think is better? Your comments are welcome.

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