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?

Stuart Rudner

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 [email protected]. You can also follow him on Twitter @CanadianHRLaw and join his Canadian HR Law Group on LinkedIn.

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