While their negative impact on the economy is a matter for debate, there’s no denying that the lengthy summer holidays taken in some European countries can make it hard to conduct business during the summer months.
Despite the fact that offices in most countries don’t actually shut completely for August, long school holidays and a generous number of paid leave days ensure that many businesses in Europe can be extremely quiet at this time, thanks to a much depleted work force.
Italy is often cited as the most extreme example of this, with factories often closing in August so workers can hit the beach and enjoy ‘Il Bel Paese‘ (The Beautiful Country), but the Italians aren’t the only ones who have the opportunity to enjoy a long summer break.
Despite their summer break being much less publicised than that of Italian school children, it’s actually younger Bulgarian students who enjoy the longest summer break in Europe. They get 16 weeks off in total, meaning they are out of school for the whole of June, July and August. While this drops to 11 weeks once they are in year 8.
Their parents enjoy at least 20 paid leave days and a total of 13 public holiday a year, and while most businesses remain one for the summer months, July and August are popular times to take leave, so can be very quiet.
Just behind Bulgaria when it comes to generous summer school holidays is Italy, where children are generally out of school for just under 14 weeks from June to September.
Here it’s not uncommon to hear people wishing each other “Buone Vacanze” as early as the start of May, especially in cities, where almost anyone who is able to swaps the urban heat for the beach or the mountains.
As statutory leave in Italy is set at 20 days (with 12 paid public holidays a year), not everyone in is able to live up the Italian stereotype of taking the whole summer off and many businesses continue to operate throughout the period. However, the whole country grinds to a halt around August 15th, when everyone celebrates the public holiday of Ferragosto. While the tradition is declining in some areas, it’s still commonplace for factories to close during the summer months, with August being the peak time for closures.
Latvia and Estonia
Lucky Latvian and Estonian children are given around 13 weeks summer break, again having June, July and August out of school.
But while the summer months are a popular time to take leave and bosses are often absent, it’s business as usual for most workers, who are entitled to 4 calendar weeks leave each year in Latvia and around 28 days in Estonia.
It may be landlocked, but Hungary still has beaches thanks to the huge Lake Balaton, often affectionately called the ‘Hungarian Sea’. But whether workers have much time to spend relaxing there during the summer very much depends on their circumstances.
Here statutory leave days climb from 20 to 30 as you age and parents are awarded two extra days for each of their first children and additional seven days if they have three or more. The parents will need those extra days – as their children break for around eleven weeks each summer.
Rest of Europe
While the countries above have the longest summer breaks when it comes to the academic calendar, they are not the only ones whose school holidays could be have an impact on business closures and productivity. With school holidays and the summer heat in cities being two big influencers of when leave days are taken, it’s also worth noting that children in Iceland, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have up to 12 weeks, the Finns and Swedes have around 10 and Poland and Norway have about eight.