Working With Cambodia’s Numerous Official Public Holidays

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This year, Cambodian workers will enjoy a grand total of 27 days off as a result of public holidays. DHLEONARDCONSULTING.COM

Like it or not, Cambodia is one of the most festive places on Earth, with over two dozen public holidays every year. In 2017, workers across the Kingdom will officially enjoy a total of 27 days off as a result of public breaks. Compare this to Thailand, where national holidays this year amount to 20, or Vietnam, where employees will only have around 15 days off work.

The traditional Khmer calendar is lunisolar, which means that, while based on the phases of the moon, the dates are also synchronised with the solar year to keep the seasons from drifting. The dates of the festivals, and therefore holidays, in Cambodia are subject to change every year, although the major ones such as Khmer New Year cover multiple days so fluctuations are less noticeable. Most Buddhist holidays coincide with full moons.

Khmer-New-Year
Khmer New Year falls on 14-16 April this year.

In the fourth quarter of each year, the Cambodian government issues a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen outlining the official holidays for the following year. This list is then used by the Ministry of Labour to form a prakas (proclamation), which is sent out to all registered members in various industries. Below, you’ll find the official public holiday calendar for 2017, as stipulated by Prakas No. 466 and by Sub Decree No. 223.

  • 1 January – International New Year’s Day (1 day off)
  • 7 January – Victory Over Genocide Day (1 day off)
  • 11 February – Meak Bochea Day (1 day off)
  • 8 March – International Women’s Day (1 day off)
  • 14-16 April – Khmer New Year (3 days off)
  • 1 May – International Labour Day (1 day off)
  • 10 May – Visak Bochea Day (1 day off)
  • 13-15 May – King Norodom Sihamoni’s Birthday (3 days off)
  • 14 May – Royal Plowing Ceremony (1 day off)
  • 1 June – International Children’s Day (1 day off)
  • 18 June – Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk’s Birthday (1 day off)
  • 19-21 September – Pchum Ben (3 days off)
  • 24 September – Constitutional Day (1 day off)
  • 15 October – Commemoration Day of Former King Norodom Sihanouk (1 day off)
  • 23 October – Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord (1 day off)
  • 29 October – King Norodom Sihakmoni’s Coronation Day (1 day off)
  • 2-4 November – Water Festival (3 days off)
  • 9 November – Independence Day (1 day off)
  • 10 December – International Human Rights Day (1 day off)

Reshuffling public holidays

All private sector employees must follow the calendar put forth in the aforementioned prakas and sub-decree, says Vo Vanarith, associate at Sciaroni & Associates.

According to experts consulted, firms are not allowed to relocate an official holiday to a different day – although those same experts have noted that the law is very ambiguous on this particular point. This makes the common practice of moving a holiday that falls in the middle of the week to Friday in order to enjoy a long weekend unlawful.

As per Article 164 of the Labour Law of 1997, if a specific industry needs to operate during public holidays, staff working on those days are entitled to double-time pay, which means they get a 100 percent indemnity in addition to their basic salary. This is according to Prakas No. 10 on Indemnity for Work Performed During Paid Holiday, dated 4 February, 1999.

“If it is, say, a hospital or a workplace where it is vital to continue with a workforce during public holidays, then these places are normally continuously staffed and staff get overtime [double-time] for working on public holidays or any days off in lieu of public holidays,” says Yos Samnoek, legal advisor at HBS Law.

As stipulated in Prakas No.10, companies cannot force their staff to work during public holidays – it has to be a voluntary decision on the part of the worker.

Public holidays that fall on Saturdays and Sundays

When a holiday falls on a Sunday, private companies must allow staff to take a day off at another time (usually the following Monday), and must pay those workers their normal salary. If they work on a Sunday that falls on a public holiday, they get double pay.

Saturdays are a bit different, says HBS Law senior consultant Peter Mewes. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday, and if staff are contractually obliged to work on Saturdays (whether the whole day or just half day), workers can take off that day (or half day) and still get normal pay. If the company needs them to work that Saturday, they will have to be paid double.

Most Cambodian companies have a six-day workweek, allowing only Sunday off. As per the Labour Law, employees must get at least one full day (24 hours) off per week, which is normally Sunday. Companies are barred from using the same worker more than six days per week.

Whenever a multiple-day holiday falls on both Sunday and Monday – as it is the case with King Sihamoni’s birthday in May this year – it’s up to each individual employer to decide whether or not a day will be taken off on Tuesday, as the law is not clear on this point.

Unofficial holidays

When it comes to unofficial holidays, such as Chinese New Year, employees are required by law to attend work as usual, says Sciaroni & Associates’ Vanarith. However, Mewes notes that for some informal holidays there seems to be a flexible arrangement between many firms and their staff.

For Chinese New Year, for example, many people of Chinese descent take off a few days or a week to celebrate with friends and family, explains Mewes. In this instance, staff sometimes use their own personal paid annual leave. However, many employers close down for three days or a whole week for Chinese New Year anyway, allowing staff to take time off.

Under Article 166 of the Labour Law, annual leave is accrued at a rate of one a half days per month of employment. The right to use paid annual leave is acquired only after one year of service.