Room for improvement | Europe's best countries for work-life balance revealed, where is the UK?

Europe's best countries for work-life balance revealed, where is the UK?

The UK is falling behind its European neighbours when it comes to the quality of work-life balance, a new study has suggested.

Global hiring specialists Remote ranked the nation 27th out of 30 in its 2022 European Life-Work Index.

“Life-work balance”, as Remote has coined it, is an evolving definition, designed to challenge and change the way we juggle our personal lives and “put life first”.

The study gave each country a score out of 100 and considered factors such as minimum wage, maternity leave, statutory annual leave, sick pay, the country's healthcare system and the country’s overall happiness level to help workers determine the best locations for life-work balance.

More people are relocating abroad than ever before, but for what reason? Well, almost 40% of people cite work-life balance and pursuit of adventure as their motivation.

Top 10 European countries for life-work balance

Here are the top 10 countries in Europe that can offer you an ideal life-work balance:

1. Luxembourg

Luxembourg ranks #1 on Remote’s life-work balance index: it performs well across all key metrics, particularly regarding statutory maternity leave (100% of your wage for 20 weeks) and statutory annual leave (37 days). With a happiness score of 7.32, Luxembourg is also one of the most content nations in Europe.

2. Spain

Spain has a strong business culture geared towards putting home life before work when it counts. The nation has a universal government-funded healthcare system, as well as a significant minimum wage (the equivalent of $10.71/hr).

3. Norway

Norway values a strong life-work balance and this culture is enshrined within its employment laws, and long working weeks are rare across all industries. The country does not have a standard minimum wage like many other European nations. Instead, Norway has a collective agreement among nine key industries that cover 70% of workers.

With a happiness score of 7.39, Norway has one of the most content populations inside our top ten. They also have a renowned universal government-funded healthcare system, with health expenditure per head being higher than most countries.

4. Germany

Germany has the largest population in the top ten countries (83.8 million), which serves to showcase the impressiveness of its commitment to nurturing a strong life-work balance.

This nation provides workers with 30 days of statutory annual leave and 14 weeks of statutory maternity leave (at 100% of their wage). If you’re sick, companies are required to pay 70% of your wage during your absence.

5. France

Like Germany, France is one of the larger European nations to make our top ten. A generous statutory annual leave allowance of 36 days, as well as a high minimum wage ($12.23), are key factors in this nation's ranking.

In 2017, the French government passed a law known as the right to disconnect, which requires companies with more than 50 workers to create a “charter of good conduct”: a document stopping workers from answering emails outside of hours.

6. Poland

Poland arguably provides the most generous statutory maternity leave in our top ten. The nation allocates parents 20 weeks of leave at 100% of their wage. As for annual leave? Workers receive a significant 33 days, though this is at 70% of their base wage.

7. Slovenia

Slovenia is making great strides in developing a strong culture around life-work balance. Though the country prescribes to a relatively long 40-hour workweek compared to other European nations, Slovenia offers good statutory leave in return: 33 days of annual leave at 80% of your base salary, and 15 weeks of maternity leave on full pay.

8. Iceland

When it comes to statutory annual leave, Iceland is unmatched in the top ten: they offer a generous 38 days of paid leave at 100% of your base wage. And with a happiness index score of 7.55, Iceland is also one of the happiest nations in the world.

9. Italy

Italy protects workers looking to start a family by offering strong statutory maternity leave (21.7 weeks at 80% of your base salary). On top of that, Italy has a universal government-funded healthcare system known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). You also receive 32 days of statutory annual leave, though only half of your salary is protected during your absence.

10. Denmark

Denmark is the happiest nation in the top ten, with a happiness index score of 7.62 (second overall behind Finland). Workers also receive 36 days of statutory annual leave on full pay, as well as 18 weeks of paid maternity leave (53% of base salary).

Why is it important?

As remote and flexible work is normalised, the current workforce is pushing for a more inclusive life-work balance. Employers that are able to provide more inclusive and value-based benefits packages are primed to take advantage of this trend and attract the best global talent to their team. Across Europe, many workers have experienced a strong and widespread change to increased hybrid and flexible working situations, the tentative introduction of four-day working weeks and even legislation to “disconnect” from work and protect workers’ personal lives.

But is each country’s legislation going far enough to protect workers’ life-work balance?

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The UK for example, ranked in position 27 of the top 30 countries, seemingly has room to grow and develop a stronger employee life-work balance. Holiday allowance is the ideal example of an area where the UK falls behind with the second-lowest annual leave allowance of the top 30 countries at 28 days per annum. This legislation is a contributing factor to the UK’s lower life-work balance ranking. After all, London (UK) was named one of the World’s top 20 cities experiencing burnout and was the only European city to feature in the list.

By analysing the life-work balance offered to workers across Europe, Remote hopes to inspire countries and companies to reconsider their benefits packages as a total rewards program that looks far beyond compensation and statutory minimums. Employers trying to attract and retain quality talent should consider the lifestyle they are offering for their workers. Any nation or business that can improve the life-work balance of their team members can expect significant increases in morale, productivity, and staff retention rates.

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