Choosing holidays for your staff

Each year, Liberation Day on 5 May sparks conversation in the Netherlands about having days off on public holidays. Read here how the Netherlands handles days off and what a change can mean for your employees. Also, get inspired by the innovative leave scheme of web agency Nerds & Company.

It has become a tradition by now. As May approaches, 1 specific search query becomes popular on Google in the Netherlands: “Is 5 May a day off?” It shows that people are confused about this national holiday. A fine moment to discuss days off in the Netherlands and the possible effects on employees who have more days off.

Days off in the Netherlands

Days off can be divided into vacation days and public holidays. Compared to other Europeans, the Dutch are not very lucky in either of these areas. For example, the Dutch receive an average of 25 vacation days per year, whereas the Italians and Germans have 28 and 30 respectively. In addition, it is not legally determined in the Netherlands that you have the day off on public holidays. Where we only have 8 public holidays, in Italy and Germany there are 12 and 9 respectively.

Anyone who can count understands that the Netherlands is not the best place to be when it comes to days off.

More days off on public holidays

So, it is not surprising that the question of why we do not have more public holidays is  raised increasingly often (in Dutch). So is the question of whether or not it is time to add days such as Liberation Day or Eid al-Fitr (the sugar feast at the end of Ramadan) to the list of official days off. The National Committee for 4 and 5 May explains why they think this is important: “5 May as a day off gives everyone the opportunity to celebrate together that we live in an open and free, democratic society.”

Day off on 5 May?

Many collective labour agreements state that Liberation Day is an official day off once every 5 years. In other years, employers are free to decide whether to give their staff the day off on 5 May. This often leads to confusion. The National Committee hopes to change this. “There is no law that says that certain holidays are days off for employees. We hope, like many Dutch people, that the employer and employee organisations will find it important enough to make 5 May a day off every year and include this in their collective labour agreements.”

More productive and successful staff

Labour psychologist Jeanette Veenhuizen also sees added value for both employer and employee to implementing more days off. “The average pressure on employees is rising. People tend to work harder and harder, while they need days off to recharge. Well-rested employees are more productive, more successful, and less likely to be sick or stressed. More days off is therefore also beneficial for an employer.”

More vacation days off

Veenhuizen, however, has a completely different idea about how these extra days off should be divided. “I see much more use in increasing the number of vacation days than the number of public holidays. At least then people can choose themselves when they take time off. In the current trend of individualism, this freedom of choice is highly valued. This has a positive effect on well-being and job satisfaction.”

Unlimited number of days off

At web agency Nerds & Company from Enschede they seem to agree with Veenhuizen. They offer employees an unlimited number of days off. Co-owner Tim Klein Robbenhaar explains: “We have always believed that lots of freedom is important in how you treat your employees. That is why we give employees an unlimited number of vacation days. Employees do not have to request vacation days from management. They are responsible for their own planning and assignments, in consultation with their team.”

“Employees often know very well when they can take time off, so they just figure it out themselves”, Robbenhaar adds with a laugh. “As a result, we see that employees take a few more vacation days than average, but it stays within limits. This way of working contributes to the happiness, energy, and productivity of our people.”