Canadian employees love their time off. They were the only ones in a global poll who chose additional paid time off as their preferred benefit
David Cooper / Toronto Star file photo
Canadian workers were the only ones in a global poll who chose additional paid time off as their preferred benefit.
Canadians routinely identify company vacation policies as a key part of their total compensation package. In fact, employees in this country were the only ones in a global poll by Mercer Consulting who chose additional paid time off as their preferred benefit.
That’s not surprising — the minimum mandated annual vacation in every Canadian province except Saskatchewan after a year of work is just two weeks. (In Saskatchewan it is three weeks.)
This puts Canada second last among 62 countries, according to another Mercer study last year. Last place is held by the United States, which has no required vacation time.
Here are 10 common misconceptions about the legal framework for paid vacations in Ontario:
Everyone gets the same minimum vacation: Not so. There are exemptions to Ontario laws that apply to federally regulated employees (banks, airlines and railways among them) and students on a work-experience program. Other exempt groups are police, clergy, judges and union officials. Vacation rules for them may be found in separate statutes, collective agreements or employment contracts.
Vacation pay is based on base pay: Employees with the minimum two weeks of vacation are entitled to vacation pay of 4 per cent of regular wages earned in the last year. Because regular wages also includes nondiscretionary bonuses, overtime pay, public holiday pay, and allowances for room and board, vacation pay can work out to more than just 4 per cent of base pay.
Vacation increases with service: Ontario employers can offer two weeks of vacation indefinitely, unlike most other provinces, where minimums increase from two to three weeks or more after several years of service.
No holiday for a year? The Ontario Employment Standards Act says employees have to work for a year before they are entitled to two weeks off. Employers do not have to view vacation as accruing monthly and let employees take one or more vacation days before the end of the first or any subsequent year.
One day at a time: Taking an extra day or two off around a long weekend can be an attractive way to take a series of minivacations. But your employer can make you take your holidays in one-week blocks.
Scheduling a vacation: To meet their operational needs, employers can dictate when employees take time off. An example is when a factory or other business shuts down for several weeks and everybody has to take their vacation at the same time.
Vacation pay for temps: People working on assignment through a temporary agency are employees of the agency and entitled to a minimum of 4 per cent vacation pay for their period of employment.
Public holidays: When a public holiday is included in an employee’s vacation period, he is entitled to another paid day off taken within three months (or up to 12 months if he agrees in writing). Employees can also agree to receive public holiday pay instead of time off.
Vacation accrual on leave: For employees on maternity, parental or other leaves of absence, the minimum vacation time of two weeks per year continues to accumulate. However, since vacation pay is based on a percentage of salary, the vacation pay for this period may be less than if the employee worked for the full year.
Use it or lose it: Employers cannot adopt a “use it or lose it” policy for the minimum two weeks of vacation. Employees must be permitted to take two paid weeks off within 10 months of the end of the vacation year. Where employees are entitled to more than the statutory minimum, a use-it-or-lose-it policy is acceptable for the additional weeks