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Can an Employer Refuse Vacation Time in Ontario?

Written by on November 12, 2021 in Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Vacation Time

Most employers give their salaried employees at least a few weeks each year for vacation so that they can relax and recharge. Depending on the employer, there may be different processes for booking that time. But can an employer refuse to let an employee book time off if the time chosen isn’t convenient? Here’s what you need to know about using your vacation time in Ontario.

How much vacation time do employees get?

In Ontario, there is legislation called the Employment Standards Act, 2000. It provides for vacation time minimums. It requires employers to give every employee who has been working for them for five years or less, at least 2 weeks of vacation time after one year of working for that employer. After five years of working for the same employer, employees will get at least 3 weeks.

When can an employee take the vacation time?

Technically, under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, an employee is entitled to take vacation time only upon the completion of a 12-month period of working for the employer. However, many employers will allow employees to take their vacation time earlier than that as they want to make sure their employees don’t burn out. Vacation entitlement may be greater depending on what is provided for in the employment agreement. Doing this also helps them stay competitive when recruiting talent.

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 also specifies that the vacation time earned for either a vacation entitlement year or a stub period must be taken within 10 months after completing that year or stub period. The employer has the right to schedule vacation as well as an obligation to ensure the vacation time is scheduled and taken before the end of that 10-month period.

Can an employer dictate what days/dates an employee can use their vacation time?

The short answer is yes – they can. The Employment Standards Act, 2000 gives an employer the absolute right to decide when their employees can use their vacation days.

This makes sense for a couple reasons. First, if you work in an industry that has a particularly busy season or time of the month then it makes sense for an employer to make sure they are not short staffed during the time they are the busiest. Additionally, if there are only one or two people who can do a certain job/task in a company it makes sense an employer ensures that both of those people are not on vacation at the same time.

If an employer has a specific time of the year or multiple times where they do not allow employees to take time off, it is recommended they implement a booking system or calendar where they make everyone aware of when they can or cannot take time off so that employees can plan accordingly.

Employers are required to schedule the vacation time earned each vacation entitlement year in a block of one, two or three week periods, as applicable and available to an employee. For example, if the employee requests and has an accrued and available to them a full week, the employer must provide a full week period of vacation time at the time requested or at an alternative time, unless an employee requests it in writing to be taken in shorter periods. A request to take vacation in shorter periods than one week must come electronically or in writing from an employee and be approved electronically or in writing by an employer. The vacation time earned for a stub period can be calculated in shorter periods and must be taken consecutively, unless the employee requests it in writing to be taken in shorter periods.

Lastly, an employee can give up some or all of their earned vacation time only (not pay) with the employer’s electronic or written agreement, and the approval of the Director of Employment Standards.

Contact Minken Employment Lawyers today

If you are an employer with questions about what you may or may not do regarding vacation time, or if you are an employee with concerns about your employer’s way of handling vacation time requests, contact Minken Employment Lawyers today to speak with a member of our team or call us at 905-477-7011.

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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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