Getting paid while on vacation

By: Nora Duricic

Substantial federal regulation exists to determine how much paid vacation employees get and how much they can get paid for it. However, more exceptions exist than you may expect, particularly with pandemic turmoil, leading employees to be unaware of their rights.

General Rules for Paid Vacation in Canada

Provincial differences in paid vacation regulation are significant. However, a general structure exists to shape the legislation for most provinces. In most provinces and territories, employees start with an annual vacation pay equivalent to 4% of their gross wages. Employee vacation pay is paid over a total of two weeks of vacation time.[1] Then, after a certain number of years, employees in most provinces become entitled to an annual vacation pay equivalent to 6% of their gross wages, paid over three weeks’ vacation time.

Differences in Legislation by Province

The notable exceptions…

Saskatchewan and Yukon are notable exceptions to the percent value of vacation pay. In Saskatchewan, employees are initially entitled to 5.77% of their annual gross wages in vacation pay which is paid over three weeks. After ten years of work, they are entitled to 7.69% of their gross yearly wages in vacation pay, paid over four weeks.[2] In Yukon, employees are entitled to 4% of their annual gross wages in vacation pay. This 4% amount never increases as it does in other provinces.[3] The difference grows as one compares entitlement amounts provincially, which increase over time.

Legislation in Other Provinces

In British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, an employee is entitled to two weeks of paid vacation for their first five years of work. These five years are followed by an allowance of three weeks of paid leave for every subsequent year. In Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, an employee must complete eight years of service to be entitled to three weeks of vacation.[4] In Quebec, an employee must only complete three years of work to be entitled to three weeks’ vacation.[5] Finally, in Newfoundland and Labrador, an employee must complete fifteen years of service to be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation.[6]

How your Industry Affects your Vacation Days

Unlike other forms of compensation, paid vacation that follows provincial guidelines is guaranteed by law to nearly all designated employees. However, two notable classes of workers are exempt from all the above-mentioned paid vacation days, though not exempt in every province. In Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Alberta, any employee who works as a licensed, registered, or commissioned salesperson is exempt from vacation pay.[7] Licensed members and practitioners of dentistry, law, medicine, engineering, nursing, pharmacists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, veterinarians, optometrists, and psychologists are also exempt in Ontario and the Northwest Territories.

The Effects of Covid-19 on Paid Vacation

It is always true In Canada that an employer has the right to deny an employee’s request for vacation days when the timing is unfavourable to the business.[8] Many businesses are seasonal or have annual peaks. An employer can deny employees time off when the business’ workload is high. Employers may request that employees notify them of a planned vacation further in advance. This practice has been held even during the pandemic. Sick days have been extended for employees in Canada,[9] ensuring that employers fulfill their obligation to keep a safe and healthy workplace.

However, vacation days are not subject to the same public health concerns. Therefore, their rules have not seen any remarkable shift due to Covid-19. The major logistical issue with vacation days in the pandemic was addressing whether the mandatory 14-day quarantine period post-travel should be taken out of an employee’s vacation entitlements. This quarantine period is no longer mandated, though when it was, no official regulation was in place regarding its effect on vacation days. Instead, employers formed arrangements with their employees to use sick days to cover the time or work from home while quarantining.[10]


In order to find out if you are entitled to vacation days, you must find out if you are a contractor or employee. please consult the employment tool on MyOpenCourt via Here, you can answer simple questions about the terms of your employment to determine how many vacation days you are entitled to, and if so how much you should be compensated for them.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this response is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. The content provided does not create a legal client relationship, and nothing in this response should be considered as a substitute for professional legal advice. The information is based on general principles of law and may not reflect the most current legal developments or interpretations in your jurisdiction. Laws and regulations vary by jurisdiction, and the application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts and circumstances involved. You should consult with a qualified legal professional for advice regarding your specific situation.





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