The history of annual leave

Everybody loves holidays – time to travel, time with friends and family, time to do things that you want to do. For most full-time employees, four weeks paid annual leave is part of the deal. But it hasn’t always been that way.

Annual leave for employees began in Australia in 1935 when the Printers Union won one week of paid leave. Four weeks paid leave began in 1974.

The progress of annual leave is an example of how an improvement won by one union can spread throughout the workforce. This is how stronger unions can pave the way for benefits for others. Once the printers had one week paid leave, other workers wanted the same. And then others said, if we can have one week, why not two?

  • 1935 Printers union wins one week of paid leave
  • 1945 Annual Holidays Act provides two weeks of paid leave
  • 1963 Commonwealth Industrial Court adopts three weeks annual paid leave
  • 1974 Four weeks of paid annual leave achieved

But while most workers get holiday leave, an increasing number of casual and contract workers are missing out. Some estimate that up to a quarter of the workforce now miss out on paid holidays.

In the United States there is no legal requirement to provide paid annual leave.


Relevant Resources

Working on public holidays
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