Half of Canadians not taking full vacation this year

‘It’s not just about managing the liability on the business but the impact on engagement, retention, burnout’

Half of Canadians not taking full vacation this year
25 per cent of workers reported using zero time off this year, finds a survey.

Despite COVID-19 causing stress and anxiety among workers, many Canadians are not taking their full allocation of vacation time in 2020, according to a survey.

“The biggest thing to me is that half (49 per cent) of working Canadians are taking less or no vacation time this holiday season, which is very worrisome. And they’re actually citing the impact of COVID-19 as the reason,” says Heather Haslam, vice president marketing at ADP in Toronto.

As well, 25 per cent of workers reported using zero time off this year, which is not good news for overall employee health, says Haslam.

“That to me is jarring. I want to make sure that our HR and senior leaders and managers are aware of that... it’s not just about managing the liability of untaken vacation on the business but the impact on engagement, the impact on retention, the impact on burnout of not taking that vacation.”

The survey heard from 860 Canadians between Dec. 4 and 6 via an online panel.

For women, 50 per cent reported that they took less than half their allotted time off this year, compared to 37 per cent for men, which might not be so surprising, says Haslam.

“We don’t have clear data as to specifically why but when we connect this to some of the other studies that we’ve found around increased stress levels by females during this remote work time, we can certainly hypothesize that’s around traditional roles and the fact that women do potentially more of the at-home management, balancing of caregiving, balancing of looking after kids or elderly people,” she says.

“There’s also this potential that women are more concerned about the potential judgment that comes with actually disconnecting.”

Heather Haslam

Earlier in the year, Canadian HR Reporter talked to a legal expert for answers on when employers can force employees to take time off.

In addition to the lower numbers of vacation days, people are paying a “time off tax,” (which is extra work done both before and after vacations) that is increasing, according to Haslam. Back in 2017, that was 11 hours – now it’s 34 hours.

“That’s actually not the intention of vacation, the intention of vacation is to get a break, it’s not to do more,” she says.

For HR, the message is clear -- become the “voice of employees to ensure that there’s clarity and encouragement to take vacation,” says Haslam.

“HR has the opportunity to influence senior leaders to ensure that the organization is reinforcing the message to take your allotted time – it’s critical. And they can message in the importance of actually disconnecting, of closing the computer, of not constantly checking in, and that there is not going to be negative ramifications.”

And an August survey found that more managers were encouraging workers to disconnect by going on vacation.

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