Vacation Policy

Vacation Policy

Every one of your employee’s compensation will include paid vacation, and that is usually referenced in terms of “weeks” per year. Though vacation times given will differ amongst your team, what needs to be detailed in your vacation policy is some universal practices, as well as any details that are specific to your company.

It is important to note that in Canada it is a legal requirement for Employers to allow a minimum amount of 2 weeks each year. Period.

Forward-thinking companies highlight the benefits of vacation in their policies (and culture) and encourage their teams to take time for themselves! Your vacation policy will also allow you to articulate important information to your staff, in terms of limitations, procedures (i.e. ‘how to book time off’), or benefits offered– these can be tedious to communicate in conversation, and could easily be misinterpreted without clear guidelines set out in writing.

What decisions do I need to make when crafting my Vacation Policy?

When employees book their vacation days, they will likely have several options and will benefit from being able to review your vacation policy so that they are aware of any fine details and understand the procedures and limitations involved.

The choice of when and how much time off is granted by the employer depends on what’s best for your company, and, your company culture.

When crafting your vacation policy, decide which specific details are important to your company, then, ensure that you outline them accordingly. Your policy should provide:

  • Instructions on how they can book time off; you’ll likely utilize your HRIS system for this, and this can also be detailed thoroughly in your Employee Handbook.
  • Details on when they should book time off (i.e. 4 weeks in advance) – this helps avoid employees booking trips, then not being approved.
  • Information regarding the length of time an employee can take off. While they are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of vacation, they should know whether or not they can take this time off in chunks, or an extended duration (such as two weeks back to back).
  • An overview of any limitations, such as not allowing two employees of the same department to book the same days off, or, ‘black out’ periods during busy seasons where vacation requests will be denied; be clear on this so that your employees aren’t disappointed, and make these decisions with your company operations and efficiency in mind.
  • Details on whether or not you allow new hires to book paid time off once they’ve completed their probationary period; this is entirely your call, some employers find offering this option boosts morale!
  • A clear statement of how much vacation time you offer your employees; for example, some employers, like Castle HR, opt for a flexible vacation policy, and many offer additional vacation time that exceeds the minimum legal requirements…and, exceeds employees’ expectations.
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Other Important Considerations

While it is imperative that you allow your employees to take the minimum amount of time off, it is just as crucial that employees actually take their paid vacation within 12 months of earning it.

Some employees may not be aware of this; it is essential that you use space in your vacation policy to highlight that this is a legal requirement, and you, as the employer, are at risk of being penalized if employees are not using the time they are allotted.

Most employees are excited to take vacations, so, they may just need a gentle reminder that they must use them before the end of the year and that they are entitled to 2 weeks (or, 4% of their gross earnings) toward a vacation. Encouraging vacations–and providing a clear vacation policy that outlines the steps to booking them–should help avoid this situation!

If the employee decides against taking their required vacation time, you, as the employer, can only offer these three options:

  • Force use; discuss potential dates/weeks with your employee if you are able to, or simply tell them when they are to take a vacation; often, employers will assign dates between Christmas and New Years Day to be allocated as vacation time for employees who need to use their vacation days before the end of the year.
  • A payout; takes the accrued vacation time an employee has earned and pays it out to them directly, usually during the final pay period of the year.
  • A rollover; allows the employee’s vacation time to accumulate and ‘roll over’ into the next calendar year, however, there is still a deadline involved with a rollover–often the first quarter– and this should be detailed in your policy (if you choose to offer this as an option).

The bottom line is, employees must take the vacation time they are entitled to, and you, as their employer, must ensure that they understand this…this is when a concise vacation policy comes in handy!

It’s also important to note that sometimes, life happens, and employees may need to request time off with limited notice, or, they may be faced with extenuating circumstances. You may find it beneficial to include a few notes regarding such circumstances in your vacation policy, and let your employees know that they can approach you, or the appropriate members of your management team, if they should ever have a unique request.

And, remember, personal days, sick days, and leaves of absence are not covered under vacation policies, these should be outlined in your Employee Handbook. 
A vacation policy ensures that your employees understand their rights and entitlement to use their paid vacation days, and makes them aware of your company-specific procedures regarding taking time off.

Companies operating without a concise vacation policy are at risk of experiencing mishaps and miscommunication, which could lead to staffing shortages, missed payments, disgruntled employees, and a lot of confusion throughout the HR department. A working vacation policy) allows for smooth operations and communication between employers and employees!

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How to keep your team’s spirits high over the 2020 winter season

2020 has been like looking both ways before crossing the street, and then getting hit by an airplane!

We are now in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19, many of us feeling the effects of shut downs, and winter is coming.

We all know the next few months will be different; starting with no Halloween parties and questions about whether or not to Trick-or-Treat this year…

The holiday season is going to be different too. You might not be able to meet with loved ones over the holidays. I’m not even sure about my own plans, as my parents are in a high risk situation. It hurts me to think about not spending Christmas day with everyone in the kitchen cooking and laughing, trying to tune out my dad’s horrible singing, and then eating so much that we need a nap.

After the holidays, I usually start dreaming about being on a beach. I’m drinking a colourful beverage and smelling jerk chicken in the air (yes, my dream beach is in Jamaica!). Sadly, this year it doesn’t look like I’ll be living that dream. 

Inability (or the inadvisability!) to travel is one of the big changes that we need to keep on our radar. Having a week or two circled on the calendar helps you get through the days when you’re shovelling a driveway or bundling up again to go outside.

Fortunately, there are ways that employers can help their teams still have some fun and human connection to lighten the mood over the next few months. Here are some ideas we’ve collected and that our clients have suggested (with a careful eye to avoid going too heavy on Zoom-based activities!):

We’d love to hear from you on what your team is up to and we will keep updating this document with your great ideas!

As we’ve been saying this whole time… we can get through this together!

We got this!

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons


Halloween Costume Party

You can still hold an annual Halloween Contest….this time with a virtual twist!

Imagine doing a company specific theme or small teams/department doing team costumes. Just have your team send in their Halloween costume photos or videos and hold a vote for the best in any number of categories: scariest, funniest, best use of technology, best pet costume, etc. 

Prizes are a great chance to get creative too. Anything goes, from the traditional gift cards and trophies to naming a Slack channel or choosing a costume category for next year…

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Holiday / Year End Party

Holding the annual holiday party will be a little different this year, as you likely won’t be able to celebrate all that you have accomplished as a team in person.

It is important for leaders to still make an effort to show appreciation to the team and here is one great idea that we’re loving:

The Great Gift Swap:

Granted, this one is done over Zoom, but so fun that the usual Zoom fatigue of meetings doesn’t really enter into it. 

Let’s say you have 20 employees. You buy 20 gifts of roughly equal value and label them 1-20. Each employee generates a random number from 1-20 and that is the order in which they will pick an item. 

One person will host this and have all the gifts there, or can have envelopes with the gifts to be purchased and shipped directly.

The first person chooses an item from the list, then the second person can either choose one of the remaining items or take the first person’s item. 

Going down the line, each person gets a turn to choose anew or take someone else’s item – repeating the order as many times as needed. The game ends (and everyone keeps what they have) when 1) each person has a gift and 2) someone chooses to keep rather than swap – locking in the choices for everyone.

It’s great fun!

Fun and Team Engagement

Here are a few ideas, apps and companies that can help bring some engagement and energy to your team.

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Recharge Your Batteries

Headspace – Meditation App

MasterClass – What would YOU want to learn?

The Great Courses – More amazing educational opportunities

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Shared Food Experiences

Wavy – Team building activities done virtually
(Think: Cooking classes or Trivia Nights)

Thriver – Team Meal Delivery and other experiences
(Great for Team Lunches)

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Focus on Fitness

Strava – Running Challenge 

Count.It – App for overall fitness challenges

Glo – Home Yoga 

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Shared Food Experiences

Wavy – Team building activities done virtually
(Think: Cooking classes or Trivia Nights)

Thriver – Team Meal Delivery and other experiences
(Great for Team Lunches)

How to keep your team’s spirits high on winter seasons

Other Ideas

Synervoz’s Switchboard – Watch a live sports games
or other events together with their app

Weekly Zoom-Free Days –
Choose a day where your entire team goes fully dark on Zoom.
No calls or meetings, so everyone can enjoy some focus time