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A Guide to Annual Leave and Sick Leave Around the World

As you go through the multiple steps with hiring and managing your overseas employees, one area to pay close attention to is the different leave policies in each country.  This includes annual leave entitlements for holidays, medical leave and maternity leave.

Leave amounts can be very important to your employees, especially if you are hiring local residents who may expect more leave than you are used to at home. 

When you are drafting your employment contracts, you will need to know the minimum statutory leave requirements to ensure that you are compliant in the host country, and meet your employees’ expectations.  This can become an issue when the statutory minimums differ from your home country rules or company policy, which means that you will have to find a way to adjust time off and compensation for those employees abroad.

Annual Leave Entitlements

The amount of annual leave entitlement for holidays and personal time varies greatly among different countries, including how leave time is accrued and carried over if not used.  Some countries will allow an employer to pay out some portion of the annual leave, which may be preferable for both your company and the employee. 

Here is a review of statutory leave in a few popular business markets:

Countries with Minimal Annual Leave (5-14 days)


Annual leave in China is only required if an employee has worked more than one year cumulatively for all employers (not just the current employer).  For cumulative employment of 1-10 years there is 5 days of annual leave, and twice that amount for service of 10-20 years for all employers.


The statutory leave in India is a minimum of 12 days per 240 days of service (15 days annually).  Some industries may have more or less leave days allowed.


The national minimum entitlement in Canada is 14 days for every ‘year of employment’.  The year of employment begins on the date the employee is hired, and leave is accrued from that anniversary.  The annual leave entitlements do vary between the Canadian provinces, but none are less than the standard two weeks leave. 

South Africa

Holiday leave in South Africa is accrued at the minimum rate of 1.25 days per month of employment, which equals 15 days per year.  Those days are not offered upfront and can only be taken as they accrue, so the employee starts at zero and accumulates leave time during the year.

Countries with Generous Annual Leave (26-30 days)


In Brazil, an employee is entitled to 30 days of annual leave, but only after they have completed 12 months of work for the employer.  The employee can opt to take only 20 of the 30 days, plus 10 days of additional salary (pecuniary instalment). 


The annual statutory minimum leave in the UK is 28 days per year, but an employer can offer more in the employment contract.  However, any extra leave days offered are not subject to the statutory carry over rules.  Of the statutory 28 days of annual leave, a maximum of 8 days can be carried over to the next year.

New Zealand

Annual leave in New Zealand is four weeks of paid holiday every year (after one year of employment).  In the first year, leave is accumulated at the rate of 2.9231 hours per week, and this calculation is used if the employee is terminated and a leave payout is required.


In Italy, an employee is entitled to 26 days per year of leave, but it is accrued according to the number of months worked.  Accrual of leave begins on the date of hiring, at rate of 2.17 days per month.

If the leave is not used by the employee, it is rolled over into the next year, and there is no cap on the number of days that can be accrued.  If the employee is terminated or repatriated, any unused, accrued leave must be paid out to the employee.

Medical and Sick Leave Entitlements

Medical and sick leave entitlements refer to how many days will be paid while injured or ill, and you can always choose to offer more sick leave than the statutory minimums.


The minimum sick leave entitlement in China is three months (for employees with less than 10 years cumulative work experience).  Sick leave is paid on a schedule that depends on the number of years of cumulative work for all Chinese employers, ranging from 60% to 100% of salary.


Sick and casual leave can be taken for emergency or health issues, and the number of days will depend on which state in India you have employees, but is usually 10 days per year.  There is an additional 10 days of ‘casual’ leave, where the employee can choose not to come to work without any leave notice.

South Africa

In South Africa, sick leave totals the number of days an employee would work in a 6-week period (30 days), and that is the total amount available to use over a three year period. 

New Zealand

Employees get five days of sick leave per year (after 6 months of employment) in New Zealand.

How ShieldGEO Can Help

When you are setting up your employment contracts and managing employee leave, your account manager can help you become familiar with the country’s leave entitlements, and the accrual or pay out rules to be followed. 

Our in-country experts are experienced with the leave requirements, and how to make sure that your employees get the leave time they deserve, while keeping you up to date on the leave taken and accrued during the year.

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The information in this article is subject to changes in local legislation.

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