Hopefully you’ll never need to take a period of extended sick leave from work – but if you do, how much do you know about what sorts of payments you’re legally entitled to? And what about how your deal compares with those of your neighbours in other countries?
That very issue has been thrown into stark relief by a new in-depth European study which reveals that contrary to what would seem a natural assumption, sick leave pay isn’t in any way consistent with a given nation’s working rights, average wages or even levels of overall career satisfaction. This applies to both regular jobs, and some of the highest paying jobs in the world today.
Reams of Europe-wide data on average earnings and standard sick leave packages were recently compiled by Vouchercloud into a series of revealing online charts and infographics. The results have caused something of a stir, particularly in the UK press – surprisingly enough, they show that several countries known for their typically more robust economies (the UK being a prominent example) place well down the European league rankings in terms of sick leave pay entitlements for workers.
Average Costs of Salary Paid During Sick Leave in Europe Infographic Summary
Indeed, the data highlights that the average UK worker will receive just 9% of their typical weekly salary during a five-day period of sick leave. This compares extremely poorly with countries like Switzerland, where citizens can typically expect to be paid their full salary for a week of statutory sick leave (despite wages being significantly higher in Switzerland than the UK).
Even in the relatively tiny enclave of Liechtenstein – where wages are in fact the highest in Europe, thanks to the country’s unique economy and inflated GDP – the average sick leave entitlement for a week of absence dwarfs that of the UK, equating to around 64% of a full week’s pay. Across the continent as a whole, the average stands at roughly 65%.
So why the huge disparity? Well, one reason has to do with the length of absence, as the data also addresses. In the UK, as in several other EU countries, workers seeking to claim sick pay must go through an initial ‘qualifying period’ (typically three days, but longer in several places), during which no money is paid at all. This skews the statistics somewhat when looking at average compensation for a week of absence, as opposed to a month or more.
Still, where the Vouchercloud research tackles these longer periods of sick leave, the UK still lags behind much of Europe, as do other relatively resilient economies such as Ireland, Finland and even France. Perhaps more surprisingly, in several countries not typically renowned for their financial punch – including the likes of Malta, Slovenia and even Greece – employee sick leave pay represents a far, er, healthier percentage of typical salaries, regardless of how favourably or otherwise their annual incomes compare with those in higher-profile neighbouring economies.
Of course, when trying to compare these sorts of economic statistics across a continent as sprawling and diverse as Europe, with its dozens of different nation states, economies, currencies and infrastructures, a few eye-opening results are always likely to emerge. Factor in the wild disparity between different national statutory sick pay policies – in Luxembourg, compensation is supported by the National Health Fund after 76 days, while in Norway the state takes over payment after 16 days for up to a year – and the overall picture becomes very hazy the minute you look away from those bottom line figures.
Perhaps that’s why many of these countries’ own citizens don’t quite seem to understand precisely how their SSP or equivalent works, much less how it stacks up against comparable arrangements in other countries: as noted by UK newspaper The Telegraph in response to the Vouchercloud data, ‘a survey by think tank Demos found 51% of UK respondents believed they would receive full wages during illness’.
It’s hard to not wonder if that’s part of the reason why UK employees still average over nine days’ sick leave per year, significantly more than many other European and global workforces – or, indeed, how wider sharing of infographics like these might impact on that in the long run.
Infographic source: Voucher Cloud