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Thinking of vacation? You’re not alone

Thinking of vacation? You’re not alone. Both Expedia and Mercer consultants recently published studies shedding light on employees’ views on vacation time.

The Expedia vacation survey shows that Canadians are taking more of their earned vacation time than they did in 2003, with British Columbians showing the highest increase; and 81 percent of Canadians overall taking their full vacation entitlement.

The Mercer holiday entitlement survey concluded that more Canadians would prefer an additional week of vacation than an additional $500 per year in pay.

As vacation is very highly valued by employees in Canada, employers should review their own vacation policies periodically to ensure that employees are able to use vacation entitlements in a way that works for both the employer and employee.

When reviewing, here are the elements to consider:

  • how early must employees request vacation time?
  • is there a fair system to determine competing vacation requests? Are employees aware of the system?
  • is vacation time mandatory?
  • is there a system to have employees cover each other’s work during vacation?
  • does the vacation policy have provisions for the intersection of vacation time with other leaves, such as sick leave or bereavement leave?

In some jurisdictions, minimum standards under Employment/Labour Standards legislation allows an employee to forgo vacation time. However, the employer and Director of Employment Standards must approve the request (this depends on the jurisdiction as well). If an employee decides to forgo vacation time you still have to pay out the vacation pay earned (this depends on the jurisdiction as well). Moreover, in general, employees cannot waive their annual vacation without agreement from the employer, and in some cases from the relevant ministry of labour. This is to prevent employers from coercing employees into giving up their vacation time. Also, since vacation pay is earned from the first day or week of work, employees who do not work a full year receive their vacation pay once they leave the company. In addition, employers can’t arbitrarily decide not to approve an employee’s requests for vacation time or renege on an existing vacation-time agreement. Employers also don’t have the right to fundamentally alter employees’ terms of employment. At this point, the employer is required to pay out the vacation pay that it owes.

A vacation policy might address the above stated issues including which periods of the year are acceptable for vacations, or include a clause allowing the employer to reschedule employees’ vacations under very specific (and reasonable) circumstances.

If you want to know more about the rules surrounding vacation time, inclduing vacation pay, please consult the following First Reference publication, The Human Resources Advisor, Ontario, Western or Atlantic Editions. To know how to draft a vacation policy, and cover all your bases, consult the Human Resources PolicyPro, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, Ontario, Atlantic Editions.

Michele Glassford
Editor of Human Resources PolicyPro
published by First Reference Inc.

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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