“Holiday? No, we didn’t really have holiday,” former Philips employees told the in-house publication Philips Koerier back in 1954. “Holiday was something for the privileged few. For the rest of us it was out of the question. Sundays, that’s when we had time off. And also when the fair came to town, although we didn’t get paid on those days.
”Paid holiday that employees could take whenever they chose did not exist when Philips & Co was first founded. In the early 20th century a normal working day lasted 10 hours. People worked on Saturdays too, so a working week amounted to 60 hours. Employees were not required to work on Sundays or on official Christian festival days, however, and in Eindhoven the saints days were also celebrated. Other days off were when the fair came to town, during carnival and on ‘patron’s day’, when all of the factories and workplaces were closed. Not all employees were happy about having so many days off, especially not if it meant they lost pay. The rules and regulations governing employees in the factories at Philips & Co (‘Reglement voor de werklieden op de fabrieken der firma Philips & Co.’) stated that on days off Philips would pay its employees for half of the hours they normally worked. In some cases it was possible to request overtime in order to make up for lost wages.
Occasionally Philips also organized outings for the personnel – twelve horse-drawn vehicles would take them to see a circus performance in Tilburg, for example, or to the Barnum & Bailey circus in Den Bosch. In 1902 a group of employees visited the Industrial and Commercial Exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany. On 12 June, 1907, the weekly newspaper Peel en Kempenbode reported: “On the evening of 11 June, 1907, some 400 male and female Philips employees traveled by tram to Helmond to watch a Carré performance. This was made possible thanks to the kindness of Messrs Philips, who had already frequently shown how much they cared about their employees.” Not many employees had the means to travel places by themselves. A daytrip to the zoo or the beach was a special event.
On 25 November, 1918, Philips introduced the 8-hour working day without any reduction in wages. Employees were also no longer required to work on Saturday afternoons. And, what’s more, every employee was entitled to at least three days of paid leave. And from that point onwards Philips paid the employees’ wages in full on official Christian holidays. Two years later a holiday system was introduced with varying levels of holiday entitlement. Extra days of holiday in addition to the standard three days of factory holiday were allocated on the basis of years of service, age and job grade. These additional days had to be taken as consecutive days, however.