• Britain ‘one of the most frugal’ for work benefits in Europe, survey finds

  • 18 Feb 2016
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Glassdoor study looks at sick pay and maternity leave

A pan-European study of benefits including sick pay and maternity leave has revealed that the UK has one of the “most frugal” benefits offerings out of 14 European countries.

Glassdoor research showed the UK ranks in the bottom three for maternity and paternity entitlement, annual leave, sick pay and unemployment benefits with only Ireland and Switzerland ranked lower.

Countries with the most generous in-work and welfare benefits were Denmark, France and Spain, according to the report titled ‘Which countries in Europe offer fairest paid leave and unemployment benefits?’.

When it came to in-work benefits like sick pay the Netherlands was found to be the most generous where employees can be absent for up to 104 weeks and receive 70 per cent of their wages for the whole period.

Germany also offers high value sickness benefits where workers can be absent for 78 weeks and receive 100 per cent of their wages for the first six weeks.

In comparison, the UK was one of the least generous countries, offering a flat rate of around £88 a week. 

In terms of maternity pay, all EU countries offer a statutory minimum of 14 weeks paid leave.

However, this is one area where British workers faired better in terms of time off the UK offers the most leave at 52 weeks, with Ireland coming second offering 42 weeks but not all of this is paid.

The most generous pay during maternity leave was found in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, where new mums receive 100 per cent of their earnings for the entire period.

The country offering the least maternity pay is Ireland with only 26 out of 42 weeks paid at a flat rate of €230 per week. In the UK, 39 of 52 weeks are paid with only the first six weeks at 90 per cent of earnings followed by £140 per week for the remaining period.

When it comes to paternity leave the UK trails other European countries offering just 10 days leave. Paternity leave does not come under EU regulation, so entitlements vary across the continent, however, in Finland new fathers receive a massive 45 working days off. In Spain paternity leave is 15 days, in France 11, while the Germans, Irish and Swiss offer no time off at all. 

Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor chief economist, said: “No governments have limitless budgets, but the general perception has always been that the UK provides a generous benefit scheme for all.

"We now have evidence to suggest that Britain is no longer an easy ride, especially when compared to its European neighbours. Denmark, France and Spain offer far better social benefits that support local workforces.

"For the UK, it could be argued that parental leave, sick pay and unemployment benefits are particularly meagre."

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  • It would be helpful for this article to be balanced by some information about how the benefits are paid for, i.e. what percentage of earnings are deducted in each country to fund the benefits available and how does this compare to UK NI contributions.