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Can My Employer Force Me To Take A Vacation?

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If your employment agreement does not mention vacation time, how much time off are you owed? Even if your agreement does not set out how much time you can take, you are still entitled to some paid time off. In Alberta, it is the Employment Standards Code which sets out the basic minimum rules for vacation time for non-unionized employees.

This post will go over some of the basic rules around vacation time in Alberta. Employers have the right to make certain determinations, but the law also establishes the minimum standards to which all non-unionized employees are entitled. The relationship between employees and employers in a unionized workplace will be governed by the collective bargaining agreement.

Amount Of Time Off

In Alberta, how much vacation time you are entitled to is dependent upon how many years you have worked for the same employer. In an employee’s first year on the job, employers are not required to give them any paid time off.

After you have worked in your job for a year, you are entitled to 2 weeks off paid vacation. Your employer must provide two weeks’ vacation time after every year you have worked until you have worked for 5 consecutive years. Once you have been working for 5 years, you are entitled to receive 3 weeks of paid vacation time after every year.

Taking Time Off

The law requires employers to give the vacation time in one unbroken period. This means employers are not allowed to break up your vacation into smaller chunks to be taken at various times.

If you want to take your vacation in shorter periods, that is allowed, as long as your employer agrees. Employees may request that their vacation be taken be taken in shorter periods that are at least half a day long.

Can You “lose” Vacation Days?

The law requires that employers give you your vacation within 12 months of you becoming entitled to it. This means that employers do not have to let you bank up holidays year over year and can instead adopt a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy. However, even if an employee “loses” their vacation days because they have not been used by the end of the year, employers still must pay their employees for the vacation time.

When Must Vacation Pay Be Paid?

Employers may pay vacation pay at any time prior to you taking the vacation. If they have not paid it by then, they are required to pay the vacation pay no later than the next regular pay day after your vacation begins.

However, if you decide you want the vacation pay before the vacation and the employer has not paid it to you, you are able to request that they pay it. In these circumstances, your employer is required to pay you at least one day prior to your vacation starting.

Can My Employer Make Me Take A Vacation?

The law in Alberta actually does allow employers to have the final say on what the date of vacation will be. Normally vacation time is mutually agreed upon (i.e. employees ask for certain dates off and the request is granted by the employer).

However, if you can’t agree with your employer as to the dates, your employer has the final say. Employers can decide themselves when your vacation is to start and you must take the vacation at that time. Your employer must simply give you two weeks’ written notice prior to the start of the date of vacation.

Employers are unlikely to be unreasonable with this right. However, some employers do make their employees take time off at the end of the year to ensure that they have used all their vacation days for that year. While it may seem strange, they are within their rights to do so.

Ultimately, your relationship with your employer will be governed by your employment contract. The Employment Standards Code simply sets out the minimum standards to which employees are entitled. Employers may decide to provide their employees with better vacation entitlements as a part of their benefits package. If you have any questions about vacation time or other employment-related matters, please contact our team of employment lawyers who can provide advice specific to your situation.

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