Prosperity on European trip

Published 9:27 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Boy, our friends in Europe sure know how to vacation.

If they get sick while taking their employer-paid vacation, their employer now has to pay them to take another.

According to The New York Times, all 27 countries within the European Union, and all employers within them, must abide by that recent vacation ruling by the EU’s highest court.

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My hat goes off to my vacationing pals overseas.

Take the French. Their government mandates that every employee get at least five weeks of paid vacation. The French average 37 days of vacation every year — and 22 paid holidays on top of that.

Virtually all European countries have government mandates that require employer-paid vacation of four to six weeks — whereas America has no government-mandated vacation requirements.

European employees enjoy all kinds of additional workplace perks and benefits, too.

Canadian weekly Maclean’s reports that:

• “Spanish workers get an extra two weeks off for honeymoons, and 20 days of severance even if they’re fired with cause.”

• “In France, companies must give extra paid leave to staff who work 39 hours per week instead of the statutory 35, even if the workers are paid for the overtime.”

• “In Italy, firms that lay people off during an economic downturn can face years of costly legal proceedings. … Rome is proposing a law requiring employers to pay laid-off workers a whopping 27 months in wages.”

Vacations are way different in America. CNN says the average employed American worker got about 18 vacation days in 2011, but only used 14 of them.

And unlike our European counterparts, we never really “leave” work. Fearing for our jobs, with the economy still in the tank, we stay in touch with the office.

According to Rasmussen Reports, 72 percent of Americans use email, smartphones and other electronic devices to keep themselves accessible to their employers 24 hours a day.

It’s even worse for America’s small-business owners. According to Business News Daily, fewer than half take a week off during the summer. With the economy so uncertain and revenues down, many are afraid or unable to hire. They are picking up the slack by working two or three jobs themselves.

But we Americans are workers, I suppose. We’re so different from our European friends.

In tough times, we are happier working hard and keeping revenues coming in, rather than spending lots of dough at hoity-toity resorts.

We don’t like our government telling us or our employers how we ought to conduct business or how many vacation days employers must provide.

Heck, if our Supreme Court ruled that employers must not only provide paid vacations but pay for them all over again if an employee gets sick while vacationing, many Americans would take to the streets in protest.

Americans protest loss of their freedoms. Europeans tend to protest meddling with their government-mandated benefits.

At least that used to be a distinction between America and Europe.

Our government has been so busy handing out goodies to citizens, it’s just a matter of time before the freedom lovers are overrun by the benefit lovers.

It will be a sad day when that happens. We’ll have an even more anemic economy, just as most EU nations do now, and all of us will struggle to pursue happiness and wealth.

Oh, well, at least our employers will have to pay us for another week off if we get sick while we’re on vacation.


Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email Tom at