Lose-lose: unused vacation days cost everyone

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Canadians are one of the most vacation-deprived nations, according to a recent study, with more than a quarter saying they don’t take their days off because they can’t afford to.

Canadian workers neglect to take the equivalent of 41 million vacation days a year that they’re owed (that’s equivalent to $6.3 billion in unclaimed paid holidays).

Ontario lawyer Casey Dockendorff, from Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti, says provincial and federal laws cover the minimum requirements, but individual employee agreements and union requirements will guide an employer’s responsibilities.

For most provinces you cannot implement a “use it or lose it” rule on leave, except what is above the minimum requirements, but you can require staff to take their vacation days. In Ontario, an employee can give up some or all of his or her earned vacation time with the employer's written agreement and the approval of the Director of Employment Standards.

Stress and wellness expert Beverly Beuermann-King warns against offering this kind of scheme, as it only increases worker stress, and some staff members may feel pressured not to take leave.

“Burnout is a major concern,” says Beuermann-King. “Some companies encourage people not to take vacation time, which in turn increases burnout, job turnover and in some cases injury.”

She uses the analogy of a car engine – you can’t keep revving it without the necessary maintenance. Staff describe returning to work rejuvenated and refreshed.

“Many employers are looking at putting together health and wellness programs, but vacation time is a health and wellness program that’s already in place.”

The main reason for not taking leave was not being able to afford the vacation, with 26 per cent indicating this affected them. Beuermann-King says the increasing popularity of “staycations” showed how this issue could be offset, as long as workers use the time to have a break rather than catching up with chores or working at home.






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