Ontario's February holiday a challenge for national organizations

Employees may sacrifice an existing holiday for Family Day

Despite Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's promise of a February holiday, some employees who work for a national organization in Ontario might not get an extra day off, according to a new survey.

Of the 265 employers surveyed by HR consulting firm Hewitt, 71 per cent operate in Ontario and at least one other province. Of these organizations, more than one-half (58 per cent) have a national policy with respect to statutory holidays — they give the same number of days off to workers in each province, meeting, and in some cases exceeding, individual provincial requirements.

The survey found one-half of respondents with a national policy said they'll use an existing "floater" holiday for Family Day, so in effect, employees will be trading an existing holiday for the day off in February and only 12 per cent will give employees the extra day. Another 26 per cent are undecided.

Many employers exceed the minimum when it comes to holidays, with 92 per cent of employers providing 10 holidays or more per year, said Anthony Perlman, principal and senior benefits consultant with Hewitt in Toronto. Many employers use these extra "floater" days to give employees a full week off at the end of December.

Communication is key to understanding and appreciation

Employers that are planning to eliminate one holiday in favour of using a floater to cover Family Day will need to implement a clear employee communication strategy to avoid negative reactions, said Perlman.

“Many employees may not realize how generous their employer already is,” he said.

“Organizations should explain their policy carefully, pointing out how it exceeds the statutory minimum. They also have an opportunity to point out the other things they may be doing to help employees achieve work/life balance – flexible hours, additional vacation buying or sabbaticals, for example.”

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