Why we’re not getting 11 days off in a row - navigating holidays in Latvia

In 2018 Latvia had the third highest number of official holidays in the European Union. Latvia had a total of 17, while Belgium topped the list with 24 days according to the Official Journal of the European Union. With the winter holiday season quickly approaching, and the debate around which days should be declared public holidays is once again being hotly discussed. In Latvia official days off include national holidays, days of celebration and remembrance days.

Public Holidays

According to Latvian labor laws Sunday is the official day of rest, but if an employer finds it necessary for an employee to work on Sunday, they must give them a different day of the week off. If an employee must work on a public holiday, they must be compensated no less than 100% of their average salary, so if an employee works on a public holiday that falls on a Sunday, they must receive the additional salary, as well as an additional day off.

This year Christmas falls in the middle of the week, so Monday and Friday are still work days, but Tuesday through Thursday are days off. Then after the weekend Monday is a work day, while Tuesday and Wednesday are once again days off. Such a schedule leads many to question why December 23, 27 and 30 couldn’t be replaced with work days on the previous Saturdays to give everyone 11 days off in a row.

"We could have done it several ways, everyone had the opportunity. Last year this issue was considered until July. A survey is always conducted through the "visidati.lv" website, so it’s what people chose themselves. In this situation people would have had to work 6 days for the rest of the weeks in December, and people didn’t want to do that. Now the situation is what it is, which is a bit strange and maybe inconvenient for some - but what can we do?” says Welfare Ministry Representative Egils Zariņš.

While most employers choose to observe these public holidays, they formally apply only to government institutions.

“The government can’t make decisions about anything else - not municipality work hours, not private entity work hours. But of course as usual, once the government makes a decision, everyone more or less follows the decision,” says Zariņš.

So it follows that the public holidays for 2020 have already been set during the first part of this year, and debates were heated, especially around the Līgo and Jāņi celebrations. It was decided that there will be five days off around these holidays. Many were displeased about this decision saying that such a long holiday is unnecessary, and expressing worry about people drinking too much.

Celebratory and Remembrance Days

There are five celebratory and five remembrance days, when flags must be placed outside all housing, office, industrial and other buildings in accordance with Latvian law, or otherwise face a fine. The only exceptions to this law are buildings in hazardous conditions or undergoing facade renovations, as well as ones located in unsuitable locations or under suitable conditions.

There are many additional regulations regarding the way in which flags are placed. On remembrance days flags must be accompanied by a black ribbon signifying mourning. Other regulations include the condition of the flag, the condition and color and length of the flagpole, as well as where the flag is placed in relation to other accompanying flags.

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