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Vacation days: the ins & outs

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

As soon as the days get longer and the sun starts to shine - or conversely: as soon as the days get shorter and the holidays approach - many people start to get the itch: they want to take vacation! In the following, we set out the rights and obligations of the employer and employee in this regard.

How many vacation days is the employee entitled to?

It follows from the law that an employee is entitled to at least four times the agreed working hours per week of vacation. With full-time employment, this therefore means that the employee in question is entitled to four weeks = twenty days' vacation. These are the so-called "statutory vacation days". If the employer grants more than twenty vacation days to the employee, then these additional days are considered " excessive vacation days". The distinction between statutory and excessive vacation days is relevant for, among other things, the accrual of vacation days, for the period within which the vacation days must be taken, as well as for the possibility of "buying off" vacation days.

Accrual of vacation days

Employees accrue vacation days for each year in which they were entitled to pay. If an employee's employment begins in the middle of the current vacation year, the employee accrues vacation days pro rata. Please note that an employee who is on maternity leave, parental leave, or incapacitated for work also "simply" accrues statutory vacation days. If more than the statutory vacation days were granted to the employee at the start of employment, the employer may deviate from the statutory continuous accrual of vacation days in the aforementioned cases with regard to these excessive vacation days.

Taking vacation days

In practice, the determination and take-up of vacation days by the employee usually follows a fixed pattern: the employee indicates that he would like to take vacation during a certain period of time, the employer verifies whether this is possible - given the occupation etc. - and then approves the request. Strictly speaking - if the employer does not respond to the employee's request to take vacation during a certain period within two weeks - the vacation is automatically fixed.

Can the employer refuse the employee's request to take vacation in a certain period? Yes, this is possible. However, only if there are important reasons why it would be undesirable for the employee to take the requested vacation. This may be the case if taking vacation at the requested time would lead to a serious disruption of business operations. Based on the aforementioned important reasons, it is even possible to withdraw a vacation request that has already been approved.

Please note that statutory vacation days must be taken by the employee within six months of the last day of the calendar year in which the vacation days were accrued. In practical terms, this means that vacation days must always be taken before July 1 of the following year.

In addition, statutory vacation days may not be "bought off," that is, paid out on top of the regular salary without the employee actually having been off.

Excessive vacation days, however, may be paid out.

Illness and vacation days

What applies if an employee falls ill during his vacation? In principle, the rule then is that from then on the employee enjoys sick leave instead of vacation leave. To avoid discussion, however, it is advisable for the employee to report the illness to the employer.

Want to know more?

Feel free to contact one of our lawyers.


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