Annual vacations and general holidays for federally regulated employees

From: Employment and Social Development Canada


As a federally regulated employee, the Canada Labour Code (Code) sets minimum standards for your employer to follow regarding your entitlement to:

Note: These requirements do not apply when your collective agreement or other work arrangement provides rights and benefits equal to, or better than those set by the Code, and it includes a provision for third party settlement of disputes.

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Annual vacation

As a federally regulated employee, you are entitled to the following:

  • at least 2 weeks of vacation annually once you have completed 1 year of continuous employment with the same employer
  • at least 3 weeks of vacation annually after 5 consecutive years of working for the same employer, and
  • at least 4 weeks of vacation annually after 10 consecutive years of working for the same employer

Defining year of employment

A “year of employment” means continuous employment for the same employer for a period of:

  • 12 consecutive months beginning with the date that your employer hired you, or
  • 12 consecutive months beginning on any anniversary of the date your employer hired you or
  • a calendar year or another period of 12 consecutive months that your employer determines in accordance with the Canada Labour Standards Regulations

Defining the “year of employment” is important because you must complete it before you are entitled to take a vacation. The wages you earn during your “year of employment” are used to determine the amount of vacation pay you will receive.

Timing of annual vacation

Generally, you may take vacation at a time that:

  • you have mutually agreed upon with your employer, or
  • your employer sets

However, your vacation must begin no later than 10 months after you have completed each “year of employment”. When your employer chooses your vacation period, they must give you at least 2 weeks’ notice of when that vacation time will begin.

Annual vacation pay

Your employer may pay you vacation pay within 14 days before your vacation is set to begin. If this is not practical or it is the established practice in your workplace, your employer may also pay it during or immediately following your vacation.

Calculating annual vacation pay

Your vacation pay is calculated as a percentage of the gross wages that you earn during your “year of employment”. When your vacation is:

  • 2 weeks; vacation pay is 4% of earnings
  • 3 weeks; vacation pay is 6% of earnings, and
  • 4 weeks; vacation pay is 8% of earnings

A vacation pay calculator is available to assist in determining vacation entitlements.

Defining wages

For the purpose of vacation, “wages” include every form of payment for work performed. However, it does not include tips and other gratuities. The vacation pay - IPG-012 explains this definition in more detail.

Waiving, postponing or splitting annual vacation

As an employee, you may:

You may do this as long as you have a written agreement with your employer to do so.

You and your employer may agree to split your vacation. In this case, your employer must pay you the prorated portion applicable to each time you take a portion of your vacation.

Postponing or interrupting annual vacation to take another leave

An employee may postpone or interrupt their vacation in order to take one of the following leaves:

Annual vacation pay during a leave of absence

When you are on leave with pay, your:

  • employment status does not change, and
  • benefits accumulate as if you were at work

In addition, you continue to earn vacation pay and time during the leave period.

When you are on leave without pay, your:

  • seniority continues to accumulate, and
  • employer will calculate vacation pay only on your wages earned during the “year of employment

The leave of absence does not change the date on which you become eligible for:

  • additional weeks of vacation, and
  • an increase in vacation pay

End of employment entitlement

Your employer must “pay out” any vacation pay owed to you for any prior completed "year of employment". Your employer must do this within 30 days after the day on which your employment ended. In addition, you are entitled to vacation pay for the partially completed current year of employment.

General holidays

In the Canada Labour Code, a general holiday is a specific day on which employees, including managers and professionals, are entitled to a day off with pay. As a federally regulated employee, you are entitled to 10 paid general holidays every year:

Note: the Code defines professionals as members of the architectural, dental, engineering, legal or medical professions.

When a general holiday falls on a non-working day

In the event that the following general holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday that is a non-working day for you, you are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately before or after the general holiday:

  • New Year's Day
  • Canada Day
  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day, or
  • Boxing Day

If one of the other general holidays, not listed directly above, falls on a non-working day for you, then a holiday with pay may be added to your annual vacation. It can be granted as a holiday with pay at a time convenient to both you and your employer.

Substituting a general holiday for another day

An employer may substitute a general holiday for another day for one or more employees.

If you are an employee who is subject to a collective agreement, there must be a written agreement on the substitution between the:

  • employer
  • union, and
  • employee(s)

If you are an employee who is not subject to a collective agreement:

  • you must approve the substitution, in writing, if the substitution applies to you only, or
  • at least 70% of the employees concerned must agree to the substitution if it applies to several employees. The employer must post the substitution notice for at least 30 days before it may take effect

You may also request to substitute a holiday with another day as part of your request for flexible work arrangements. This request must have your employer’s written authorization.

Calculating general holiday pay

Your general holiday pay is calculated according to how you earn your wages.

For most employees, holiday pay is equal to at least one-twentieth (1/20th) of the wages, excluding overtime pay, earned in the 4-week period immediately before the week in which the general holiday occurs.

A general holiday pay calculator is available to estimate general holiday entitlement and pay. However, if you work in multi-employer longshoring, this calculator will not address your needs.

Paid by commission

If your employer pays you in whole or in part by commission, and you:

  • have completed a minimum of 12 weeks of continuous employment:
    • your holiday pay is equal to at least one-sixtieth (1/60th) of the wages, excluding overtime pay, earned in the 12-week period immediately before the week in which the general holiday occurs, or
  • have not yet completed a minimum of 12 weeks of continuous employment:
    • your holiday pay is equal to at least one-twentieth (1/20th) of your wages, excluding overtime pay, earned in the 4-week period immediately before the week in which the general holiday occurs

Multi-employer employment - Longshoring employment

Many employees working in the longshoring industry work for several different employers (an employer’s association and/or multi-employer unit) during a pay period.

In this case, your holiday pay is equal to at least one-twentieth (1/20th) of the total number of hours worked, excluding overtime hours, during the 4-week period before the week in which the holiday occurs. Then multiply that number of hours by your basic rate of wages.

However, if you work for an employers’ association and perform work for another employer who is not a member of the association, instead of general holidays, the other employer must pay you, on each payday, an amount equal to 3.5% of your basic rate of wages, multiplied by the number of hours you worked during that pay period.

In addition to any amounts received, if your employer requires you to work on a general holiday, your employer must pay you no less than 1.5 times your basic rate of wages for the time worked on that day.

General holiday pay for part-time employees

As a part-time employee, you are entitled to receive pay for the same 10 general holidays as full-time employees. Your holiday pay is adjusted to the number of hours you work.

Paying employees required to work on a general holiday

The Canada Labour Code does not prohibit work on a general holiday.

However, it sets requirements about how employers should pay their employees when they work on a general holiday.

If you are entitled to holiday pay and your employer requires you to work on a general holiday, your employer must pay you no less than 1.5 times your regular rate of wages for the time worked on that day.

Managers and professionals required to work on the general holiday will receive their regular rate of pay. However, they must receive a holiday with pay at another time.

If your employer requires you to work on a general holiday and your wages are not calculated daily, hourly or by time, then the calculation is different. Your employer must pay you the average of the 20 days worked immediately before the general holiday, excluding overtime pay. Your employer must pay you the regular rate of wages in addition to the holiday pay for that day.

General holiday pay when on leave provided for under the Code

You are entitled to general holiday pay if a general holiday takes place while you are on one of the following leaves:

  • personal leave
  • leave for victims of family violence, or
  • bereavement leave

However, to receive the general holiday pay, you must have completed 3 consecutive months of continuous employment with your employer.

If your hours of work differ from day to day or your employer pays you on a basis other than time, your regular rate of wages shall be:

  • the average daily earnings, excluding overtime pay, for the 20 days you worked immediately before the first day of the period of paid leave; or
  • an amount calculated by a method agreed on in your collective agreement, if you have one

Continuous operation

A continuous operation is:

  • any industrial establishment in which, in each seven-day period, operations once begun normally continue without cessation until the completion of the regularly scheduled operations for that period
  • any operations or services concerned with the running of trains, planes, ships, trucks and other vehicles whether in scheduled or non-scheduled operations
  • any telephone, radio, television telegraph or other communication or broadcasting operations or services, or
  • any operation or service normally carried on without regard to Sundays or general holidays

Continuous operations do not run on a fixed, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, work schedule. They run continuously without stopping for holidays or weekends.

For employees who are necessary for “continuous operation” there are separate requirements. The employees who do support the continuous operation during normal weekly business hours, the general provisions apply.

For example, some trucking companies employ drivers, loaders, dispatchers, and mechanics who are necessary to the operation of the continuous running of trucks. They are considered employees working in a continuous operation. While office employees who support the administration of the company such as finance and human resources are not considered employees working in a continuous operation.

For more information, please visit the General holidays – Continuous operations page.

Paying employees of continuous operations required to work on a general holiday

When working for a “continuous operation” employer, there are 3 options when it comes to paying you when your employer requires you to work on a general holiday.

Your employer must pay you:

  • 1.5 times your regular rate of pay for the actual hours worked on the general holiday, in addition to paying general holiday pay, or
  • for the actual hours worked on the general holiday. They must also provide a holiday with pay on a day that is convenient to both you and your employer, or
  • for the first day on which you do not work after the general holiday, if your collective agreement allows it, should you have one

If your employer schedules you to work on a general holiday but you do not report to work that day, your employer is not required to pay you for the general holiday.

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