October 06, 2022
Most common types of leave
Other types of leave
How many types of leave are there and which ones should you offer?
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For employees, taking time off work is crucial for many different reasons. It allows them to recharge, to stay healthy, and to refocus and stay productive. But taking time off can also be needed to deal with unexpected situations. Supporting employees through difficult times and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing is part of an employer’s duty of care; however, in order to do so, employers need to know the legal basis on which leave must – or can – be granted.
While this may not be much of a challenge when working with a local team of employees who are all employed under the laws of the same jurisdiction, this quickly changes as soon as a business starts operating with a globally distributed team. To offer employees the best possible support and stay compliant with local laws, employers must know exactly what their legal obligations are in each country.
What types of leave are there? What is the most common leave from work? Read on as we run through the different types of leave for employees you may encounter in different countries, answer the most common questions about leave from work and explain why offering employees the legal minimum in terms of leave isn’t always enough.
Leave types vary from country to country and from organization to organization, but there are some types of leave that are common standard in many countries all over the world. Here are the main types of leave from work.
Annual leave, sometimes also called vacation leave, are paid vacation days that serve recreational purposes and can be used by the employee to relax, rest and go on holidays. The International Labour Office (ILO) defines paid leave as “the annual period during which workers take time away from their work while continuing to receive an income and to be entitled to social protection.”
Each country has different regulations as to how much leave employers must grant their employees. The ILO recommends 3 weeks of paid annual leave per year, but many countries provide for an annual leave entitlement that surpasses these recommendations. In the member states of the European Union, for instance, employees have a right to at least 4 weeks of paid leave per year, with countries like France even providing for up to 5 weeks of paid annual leave.
Every country has different laws when it comes to paid vacation days. Here you read how many paid vacation days to give when hiring around the world.
Days off that are given to employees to allow them to recover from illness or injury are usually referred to as sick leave (sometimes also called medical leave or sick days). In many countries, sick leave is a mandatory requirement; however, there are huge differences between countries with regard to sick leave duration, the amount of sick pay employees receive during their absence - if any - and from what day on employers have to provide sick pay.
Depending on the country, the employer may have to provide sick pay from the first day of absence. In other countries, the need to provide sick pay only kicks in after a several-day waiting period. As to the amount of sick pay, it can range anywhere between no pay at all and full pay. For example, Japanese labor law doesn’t provide for any paid sick leave. Instead, it is up to the employer to work out an internal sick leave policy. In countries like Finland, on the other hand, employers have to provide full sick pay for up to 10 days.
Maternity leave is a special protection leave for female employees expecting a child. It is typically split into a pre-natal and post-natal period, each one usually consisting of several weeks to allow the mother to rest before and after giving birth. During maternity leave, employees are protected from dismissal and, as a general rule, receive maternity benefits from the country’s social security.
According to Bloomberg, there are only seven countries in the world that have no paid maternity leave, one of them being the US – although employees working for companies with more than 50 employees or public agencies can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave (FMLA leave). All other countries offer some form of statutory maternity leave. In 118 countries, maternity leave even lasts for at least 14 weeks, as a report published by the Worldbank shows.
Paternity leave is additional leave given to fathers or partners of women who have recently given birth so that they get a chance to bond with the baby. Although not quite as common – nor as long as maternity leave – paternity leave is slowly increasing on a global scale. As shown by the above-mentioned Worldbank report, 37 new countries have introduced paid leave for fathers between 2011 and 2021, bringing the total number of countries with paid paternity leave to 114 countries.
Nethertheless, the duration and payment of paternity leave varies significantly from country to country. While countries like Spain match its length to the length of maternity leave, others merely provide for a handful of days. There are also significant differences with regard to eligibility. In some jurisdictions like Singapore, paternity leave is reserved exclusively for fathers who are married to the child’s mother.
Parental leave is an additional family leave that some countries offer to parents to allow them to spend time with their children. The length and payment of the leave vary from country to country. In Estonia, for instance, parents can claim a parental leave allowance for a period of 435 days, making it one of the countries with the most generous parental leave policies in the world.
Another aspect of parental leave that is different from one country to the next is the period of time during which the leave can be taken. In Lithuania, for instance, parental leave can only be taken until the child reaches the age of three, while other countries allow parents to take time off until their child is eight years old. In Nordic countries such as Sweden, maternity and paternity leave are an integral part of a universal family leave entitlement which is available to all parents. Depending on the country, parental leave may also be granted to employees who adopt a child.
Bereavement leave, also known as compassionate leave, is a common leave in many countries. This special leave is given to employees who are mourning the death of a family member. Compassionate leave usually lasts for a couple of days and allows employees to take some time to recover from the loss. In Australia, for instance, two days of compassionate leave must be given to workers in case of death or serious injury of a close family member.
As the name suggests, unpaid leave (i.e. leave without pay) is a type of leave from work during which the employee’s position is secured but no pay is provided; therefore, it is sometimes also called job-protected leave. Unpaid leave is typically a back-up option if the employee has run out of other types of leave but needs to take time off work due to urgent matters. While unpaid leave is quite common in countries like the United States, where there is no paid sick or parental leave, it is only used in exceptional cases in other countries.
In many countries, employees who work overtime can either be compensated for it by supplemental pay or by additional time off. The latter is called compensatory leave or time off in lieu (TOIL) leave. TOIL usually works on an hour-by hour principle, meaning that for every additional hour worked, the employee receives an additional hour off work.
No list of leave types would be complete without mentioning bank holidays (or public holidays, whichever term one prefers). They mark special days of celebration in remembrance of historic events or important cultural or religious festivities. In many Asian countries (one example being China), some of these annual cultural and religious celebrations even span several days and represent an important addition to the employee’s otherwise poor annual leave entitlement.
Every country has a different number of public holidays - sometimes, the number of holidays even differs from region to region. In most countries, it’s common standard that bank holidays are paid time off; however, in the Netherlands, for instance, employers are neither obligated to pay their employees on these days nor give them the day off.
Since every country observes different public holidays, working with a globally distributed team can make it really difficult to know which employee will be out of office on what days. Here is a guide on how to manage public holidays for remote teams.
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In addition to the most common types of leave from work listed above, there are several types of special leave which, although less common, should also be on employers’ radars if they intend to build a global team. These include:
Sabbatical leave: Usually offered at the employer’s discretion, sabbatical leave is an extended period of leave employees can use for the purpose of research, education, skill development or even traveling. The duration can be anywhere between one month and a whole year.
Duvet day: This is an extra day of leave employees can take to relax and rest. It is typically offered as part of a mental health program.The concept is common in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Gardening leave: Gardening leave or garden leave is paid leave covering an employee’s notice period in case of employment termination. It’s a common concept in the UK, New Zealand and Australia and basically describes a practice where the employee is not required to show up to work anymore after handing in his or her resignation.
Marriage leave: Marriage is an important event in a person’s life, which is why many countries provide for a couple of days of either paid or unpaid leave employees can take when they get married.
Family care leave: Family care leave can either be paid or unpaid, short-term or long-term. In Ukraine, for example, employees can take up to 30 days of unpaid leave to care for a sick family member.
Study leave: Study leave can either be a statutory employee right or be granted at the employer’s discretion. It usually encompasses a couple of days the employee can use to prepare for or take part in exams.
Victims leave: Employees who become victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or similar offences should take time off to recover from what they experienced. In New Zealand, for instance, employees can take up to 10 days of family violence leave.
Well, the answer is: It depends. As we’ve seen, there are many different types of leave and each country has different rules and regulations when it comes to the circumstances under which employees can take time off work.
Also, keep in mind that not all types of leave are automatically a legal requirement; therefore, it’s up to the company to decide how many types of leave to include in its internal leave policy – as long as the legal requirements are met. Offering employees a variety of different types of leave can be a great addition to your employee benefits package and provide an extra incentive for candidates to come and work for your company.
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