HR & Management

UK offers some of the least generous benefits in Europe

4 min read

18 February 2016

Governments play an important role in providing a safety net for those who are unable to work, and in deciding what benefits and income support peopleare entitled to. It has been revealed, however, that Britain is one of the most frugal countries in terms of benefits.

A report, entitled “Which Countries in Europe Offer Fairest Paid Leave and Unemployment Benefits?” and ranking the benefits systems of 14 European countries, found that Britain came third last on the list due to factors such as unemployment benefits, maternity and paternity entitlements, annual leave and sick pay. Only Switzerland and Ireland come out worse.

The countries offering the most generous workplace and welfare benefits turned out to be Denmark, France and Spain. 

Financially, Denmark was deemed to be the best place in Europe to be unemployed, offering 90 per cent of previous earnings for up to two years. The UK offers the lowest unemployment benefit of between €66 or €84 per week, depending on age, for up to 26 weeks, while Ireland provides a flat rate of €188 per week between 22-33 weeks.

In terms of sick pay, Britain also offers the lowest benefits. Paid sick leave is most generous in the Netherlands, where workers can be absent for up to 104 weeks and receive 70 per cent of their salary for the whole period. This is followed closely by Germany where workers can be absent for 78 weeks but receive 100 per cent of earnings in the first six weeks. 

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Every EU country offers at least the statutory maternity leave minimum of 14 weeks. However, in this particular area, the most generous amount of leave turned out to be in the UK, with Ireland a close second at 52 and 42 weeks respectively. In terms of pay however, in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, new mothers get 100 per cent of previous earnings for the entire period. 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.

For new fathers the best country to live in was Finland, whose citizens receive 45 working days off, leading the pack by some considerable margin followed by Spain (15) and France (11). The Germans, Irish and Swiss offer nothing to new dads, while UK fathers get ten days off. 

Glassdoor’s chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain, 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. Social policy across Europe is generally far more generous than in the US. There is, however, considerable variation across the region. Providing workplace entitlements is a complex responsibility for governments. Striking the right balance is never easy.”

Alternatively, Steve Harry tells Real Business how employee benefits packages have failed to keep pace.

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