Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time off at Christmas

Summer is great. Of course it is. Summer holidays are even better, and summer public holidays are better still. New Zealand has plenty of them.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 26) are NZ Public Holidays, followed a week later by New Year’s Day and January 2. It only gets better from there:
If one of these days falls on a weekend, workers get the following Monday off instead. If both days fall on a weekend, they get Monday and Tuesday off. This means that more years than not both the Christmas and New Year holidays are four-day weekends—one right after the other. How cool is that?

A lot of people take some of their annual leave (“vacation” in Americanese) around this time, and who wouldn’t if they could? This year, for example, by taking off the days in between the Christmas and New Year holidays you’d get eleven days off and only use of three of your annual leave days. Add the three days following New Year and you’d get two weeks off but use six annual leave days (instead of ten).

My first Christmas in
New Zealand wasn’t quite so exciting, however. The company I worked for shut down over those days, but I’d only just started with them and wasn’t yet entitled to annual leave. So, I had to take off time without pay, not that I really minded all that much.

Annual leave in
New Zealand is very different from America. All full-time workers are, by law, entitled to three weeks annual leave per year (most employers allow you to use days as you accrue them, which is one and a quarter days per month). That’s about to go up to four weeks, which may be short by some European standards, but way ahead of many Americans.

When I left
America I had three weeks vacation per year, but that was because I’d stayed with the same employer for five years. In New Zealand I got the same entitlement immediately.

But for me, whether I had additional time off or not, it was the Public Holidays on Christmas and New Year that I really enjoyed. That, and the fact they happen in summer.

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