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THE QUESTION

I have worked for 7.5 years at my current job. What would be the appropriate vacation time for someone like myself? What is the average that a company bumps vacation time based on years of service?

After all this time I still only get two weeks vacation. I think that's on the low end, to be honest. Not to mention, it's not even two full weeks, as the company closes for Christmas holidays, and usually there are two or three unpaid days, which the company forces us to take as unpaid days, or use vacation time in order to get paid. Can you shed some light on my situation?

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro

Human resources partner, talent manager, Questrade.com, Toronto

In Ontario (for provincially regulated organizations) two weeks is the minimum entitlement, regardless of years of service for vacation under the Employment Standards Act. If you are working for a federally regulated organization (in Ontario) you would be entitled to two weeks, then after six years of services, three weeks. Many organizations do offer added vacation entitlement benefits based on service milestones, however it is not a legislated requirement.

Regarding your organization's practices surrounding vacation, I encourage you to review the policies for "paid time off" to understand potential added benefits provided to you regarding time off. For example, not all companies provide paid sick days; and if yours does, this would be an added benefit. Companies can schedule office closures with reasonable notice and give employees options (like using vacation days) to assure a continuance of pay.

My recommendation would be to consider all these factors and bring up the discussion with your manager and Human Resources surrounding vacation entitlements considering your years of service.

If this is an important benefit to you, it is important to discuss it. This might be something your company can negotiate with you in line with any potential bonus or salary increase.

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Another approach would be to suggest a way to earn more paid time off. For example, if there is an opportunity for you to earn time in lieu by working a couple of hours extra each week or working on a statutory holiday where you would be entitled to time and a-half that you could bank for use later.

It is important to voice your expectations as well as work with your company to find a mutually-beneficial solution.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Greg Conner

Principal, Human Capital Dynamics, Victoria

I wish I could give you a definitive answer, however, having led HR departments with locations across Canada, I can tell you that it all depends where you live and what you do.

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As an aside, please do not get me started on why there should be one set of employment standards for all Canadians! Work for a federally regulated organization, or live in more vacation enlightened provinces like Saskatchewan, British Columbia or Quebec? Then while you may start off with two weeks, after a number of years (typically five) vacation entitlement increases to three weeks and in Saskatchewan, it goes to four weeks after 10 years. On the other end of the spectrum, Ontario sets a two-week minimum standard, and does not contemplate any tenure-based increases.

Contrast that with other jurisdictions like the European Union, which sets a minimum floor of four weeks, and you might start asking why you are getting so little?

You can use the Internet to find vacation averages in your industry and then use that data to support your argument for increased vacation time. In Canada, the average vacation entitlement is over four weeks, so I would suggest for someone with your years of service it would be around 15 paid days off per year.

Now you need to sell the benefits to your employer. Simple, as the research clearly indicates employees with more vacation time are happier in their work, and happy employees generally are more productive and more likely to stay. A classic win-win.

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