Greanya Legal Services

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Posted on 29 September, 2015 at 18:55

By Daniel Greanya:

Every employee needs time for themselves and their family, time for recuperation and recovery. Vacation time is an important part of this recovery and crucial to mental and physical health. Employees ignore the need for recovery at their peril. From an employer’s prospective, proper rest and relaxation ensure that employees are happy and healthy, limiting turnover and encouraging increased productivity. On the other hand, employers also want employees to reliably show up for work, because absences cause a drain in human resources which may or may not be filled by other team members.


Despite the importance of vacation time on mental and physical health and productivity, it can also be an area of friction between employers and employees. Employers often forget the importance of rest to the success of their employees in the long run. Stress related to employment is an increasing problem in Ontario workplaces and for Ontario families.

There are misconceptions about how much vacation an employee is entitled to under provincial law. Some employers give their staff a hard time over taking one week off, while others generously give four or more weeks. Quite often, the amount of vacation an employee is entitled to depend on seniority, especially in unionized workplaces. The timing of vacations are also an issue, and employers have the right to ensure that vacations are taken over time so that operations can continue without significant interruption.

Under the Employment Standards Act, an employee is entitled to at least two weeks paid vacation per year. This amount is a minimum, but does not change with seniority or in accordance with any other factor. Of course, employees may negotiate for additional weeks of vacation, and employers may agree to additional weeks. In unionized workplaces, it is quite common for employees to have much greater entitlement than this two week standard, especially where the employees have served a significant period of time. The laws passed by the Legislature like the Employment Standards Act are a very important part of employment law, but there are many issues that are also set by contract law, that is by agreement between the parties and applicable court decisions which apply to employment agreements. The ESA and similar legislation exist because it is recognized that employees are often at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiation with employers. While legally an employee has the right to negotiate for their labour, in practice employees are not able to negotiate on equal standing with an employer. It is always best to set down the expectation for vacation time at the outset of the employment relationship in the contract of employment. This will help make expectations clear while the parties are on good terms, and reduce conflict later on in the employment relationship. As an employee, if more time off is important make sure to negotiate for it. Employers similarly should make their expectations about notice and approval of vacation timing clear. Both parties should be reasonable in their expectations. Employees should have flexibility in determining their vacation time, but this also means respecting the employer’s need to ensure continuity of operations.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as general information, and does not replace the advice of a Licenced Paralegal or Lawyer. For advice on your specific case, contact Greanya Legal Services directly.


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