For all America’s strong work ethic, sometimes it’s hard not to envy Europeans their standard sick leave and vacation time in a country where we are entitled to neither.
In American workplaces, there are few rights when it comes to mandatory leave (making workplaces sicker due to the fact that unwell people are often forced to come in and infect fellow staff, workers and customers) and oftentimes, it is difficult and slow to accrue even when it is offered — a rare circumstance for low-level, retail and chain employees.
The scaling back of unions has only contributed to the problem, and Americans are now working harder, longer hours compared to our European buddies, to make up for all our former co-workers who were downsized and whose work has been passed around and is about as welcome as the cold the guy with no sick leave brought in.
Though I’ve personally been long removed from a traditional workplace, I obviously remember what it was like to not only have to take unpaid leave, but to be “warned” for a medically necessary and doctor-excused absence per workplace policy. Many Americans have similar work conditions, and as you probably know, that’s not the case in Europe.
If you’re among the lucky Americans that gets a whopping week or so of paid vacation (compared to the European standard of four to six weeks, depending on country), then you probably know what it’s like to wake up to a planned trip only to realize the back of your throat itches and your nasal passages feel decidedly narrow.
But again, for many Americans, the idea of paid sick or vacation time is a highfalutin’ fantasy — not so in Europe, where it was just ruled that when workers fall ill on vacation, they get to call time and start over.
I’m just going to give you a minute to absorb that.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union decided Thursday that the two are designated for separate purposes, and should be treated as such:
“The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.”
The court found that vacation time should not be affected, as the “point at which the temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant,” and the ruling applies across all 27 countries in the European Union. So, tell me again why we’re so afraid of European-style Socialism?