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Dec 21, 2012

Do you force employees to use vacation days between Christmas and New Year's?

Some workplaces shut down and count non-statutory holidays as vacation days. Can they?

Some offices and plants shut down every year over the winter holidays. Many of these days are statutory holidays, but the days in between Boxing Day and New Year's Day are not. As a result, some employers require that employees take those as vacation days. Is this lawful?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour website, "Employers are required to schedule the vacation time earned each vacation entitlement year in a block of two weeks or in two one-week blocks unless the employee makes a written request, and the employer agrees in writing, to schedule the vacation in shorter periods."

That is not how it usually plays out in most workplaces which have the practice I am discussing. Typically, the employer will simply impose its plan; sometimes it varies from year to year. However, employees do not have a choice; they must take the time off and, in some cases, use their vacation time to do so.

In most cases, employees are quite happy to have the time off work. Many would take the time off anyway. However, it is certainly arguable that they did not request it as the Ministry suggests.

I recently posted a poll in my Canadian HR Law Group on LinkedIn; please vote so we can get a sense as to how prevalent this approach to the holiday season.

And let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and all the best for a happy and healthy 2013.  Take the time to appreciate what you have and think of those less fortunate.

Stuart Rudner is a leading HR Lawyer and a partner in the Labour & Employment Law Group of Miller Thomson LLP, a national law firm. He provides clients with strategic advice regarding all aspects of the employment relationship, and represents them before courts, mediators and tribunals. He is author of You’re Fired: Just Cause for Dismissal in Canada, published by Carswell. He can be reached at 416.595.8672 or You can also follow him on Twitter @CanadianHRLaw and join his Canadian HR Law Group on LinkedIn.
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BC Employment Standards
Friday, October 24, 2014 5:43:00 PM
In B.C., the Employment Standards Act does not permit an employer to force the employee to use Vacation Days for office closure between Boxing Day and New Year's Day. We are permitted to close the office, and employees can choose to take those days as Unpaid Days or as Vacation Days at their own choice (or Paid Time Off days in our company). We follow the Act and do not force employees to use their Vacation Days. They have the option of Unpaid, PTO, or claiming Banked Time as well.
Manitoba Employment Standards
Saturday, January 05, 2013 3:06:00 PM by Stuart Rudner
I think it is a common practice in many jurisdictions, and I am hoping more people respond so I can get a sense of how common it is.
Manitoba Employment Standards
Thursday, January 03, 2013 5:39:00 PM by Sherri
This is a very common practice in Manitoba, and the Act provides that employers are absolutely able to schedule employee vacations as part of an annual shutdown, even where this is less than full week(s).,vacations,factsheet.html#q127

The only requirement of course is that employees are given general holidays with pay (or vacation is not deducted).
Employee Contracts.
Monday, December 31, 2012 12:11:00 AM by Stuart Rudner
I would be be cautious about relying on such a plan for substantial changes. .
Employee Contracts.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 8:54:00 PM by Jennifer
As long as we put in in writing and have employes sign off on the procedures manual as a condition of employment this should be okay I'm told.

We could word the document similar to a Rogers or Bell contract whereby the employee agrees to any changes to the said contact and they will be given at least a months notice before any changes are imposed on them.