Want to maximise your annual leave? Here’s how to use public holidays to your advantage

By combining your annual leave with public holidays, you can maximise your time off work.
By combining your annual leave with public holidays, you can maximise your time off work. Copyright Canva
By Servet Yanatma
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EU countries must give a minimum of 20 days paid annual leave - but some member states are more generous.

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In the EU, all employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks’ paid holiday per year.

Some countries set this figure higher, while others have a calendar of public holidays that can be used to maximise your annual leave.

Taking time off work not only boosts your mental and physical health but also helps increase productivity and performance when you return, according to European Employment Services (EURES).

So how does your country’s annual holiday allowance stack up?

Here’s which European countries offer the most leave, and which have the most public holidays.

Which European country offers the most paid annual leave?

The minimum statutory annual paid leave differs across the EU, ranging from 20 days per year in most member states to 25 days in some countries.

Eighteen countries offer the minimum under EU law - 20 days - according to 2020 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These include Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Outside of the EU, Switzerland also offers 20 days, while the UK minimum is 28 days, including bank holidays.

Austria, France, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark offer a minimum of 25 days statutory annual paid leave per year.

Which EU country has the most public holidays?

Sick leave, weekly rest, maternity, long service leave, parental leave and - in most countries - public holidays are calculated separately from paid annual holiday leave.

In 2020, the statutory annual public holidays among EU countries varied from six days in Greece to 15 days in Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. It was more than 10 days for most member states. The EU average was 11.7 days.

Combining minimum paid leave and public holidays in the EU, Greece has the lowest allowance at 26 days while Austria and Malta offer the highest at 38 days. The EU average is 33 days.

In the UK, public holidays count towards the 28-day statutory minimum leave, so if employees work on these days they would be entitled to a different day off.

How to maximise your annual leave in 2024

By planning your time off around public holidays, you can maximise your consecutive days of holiday leave, allowing you to take longer breaks.

Tips for maximising your annual leave in the UK

Easter is a great time to maximise your annual leave. Good Friday (29 March) and Easter Monday (1 April) are public holidays in the UK. You can make it a 10-day break by using just four days of your annual leave. Take off either 25-28 March or 2-5 April. You can also get two weeks off for Easter while only taking eight days of leave.

This year, the Early May Bank Holiday falls on 6 May. You can take off 7-10 May to get nine days rest for the price of four. This also works for the Spring Bank Holiday on 27 May and Summer Bank Holiday on 26 August.

Get 16 days of vacation using only seven days of paid leave in France

In France, Easter is also a good time for an extended break. Friday 29 March and Monday 1 April are public holidays, so book off 2-5 April to get a nine-day holiday while only using four days of annual leave.

The month of May, however, offers the best prospects for a long break: 1, 8 and 9 May are public holidays, so you can take Saturday 27 April to Sunday 12 May off (16 days) while only using seven days of leave.

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Alternatively, you can take a nine-day break (18-26 May) using four days’ leave at Pentecost, as 20 May is a public holiday.

In autumn, you can once again take four days off for nine days of holiday (either 26 October-3 November or 9-17 November), as 1 and 11 November are public holidays.

How to boost your paid leave in Germany

Take four days off over Easter (25-28 March or 2-5 April) in Germany and get a nine-day break thanks to public holidays on 29 and 31 March and 1 April.

As Labor Day (1 May) falls on a Wednesday this year, you can get five days off in a row if you take two days off (29-30 April or 2-3 May).

Take four days off (21-24 May) for a nine-day vacation around Pentecost, as 20 May is a public holiday. 

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Three in 10 in the EU cannot afford one week annual holiday

Despite having holiday days, affording travel might be an issue. In 2022, almost three in 10 (29 per cent) of people in the EU could not afford a one-week annual holiday away from home.

Among the EU members, Romania recorded the highest share of individuals in this situation, with a huge majority (63 per cent) being unable to afford a one-week trip. This proportion was over 40 per cent in four countries: Greece (49 per cent), Bulgaria (44 per cent), Croatia (42 per cent) and Hungary (41 per cent).

Only 10 per cent of people in Sweden were unable to afford a one-week holiday, followed by Finland (12 per cent), the Netherlands and Denmark (both 13 per cent).

It was 22 per cent in Germany, 24 per cent in the UK and 25 per cent in France.

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