Lady Justice: Vacations versus Holidays

The Employment Standards Code of Alberta sets out the minimum standards to be applied to most provincially regulated employment relationships. After one year of employment an employer must provide, and an employee (part time or full time) must take, minimum paid vacation of two weeks after each of the first four years of employment and three weeks after five years. Employers subject to the Code can provide their employees with greater rights but cannot legally reduce them. Canada first started legislating employee vacations in the 1940s. Not sure what was the case before then, perhaps a lot of grumpy workers. The law is there to ensure employees can rest without loss of income.

Vacations are not holidays under the Code. Holidays are another creation of statute, including the upcoming Labour Day. If there is a holiday during your vacation, you are entitled to have an additional day added to your vacation days.

While individuals and employers seek employment law advice in many areas, vacation is not generally one of them, in my experience, unless it is to ask if these must be paid if there is a termination of the employment relationship (the answer is yes, termination does not equal permanent vacation from the Code’s perspective).

I ran across a 2018 Alberta case debating vacation versus holiday entitlement for a departing lawyer and saw a significant award being made against a law firm, you would anticipate they might realize the difference given words are our tools. As a law student, I recall being advised of a law firm that provided three-month sabbaticals to its partners at some point based on losing a few of them, burnout is never a good idea. I wonder if that firm made sure its people took their vacations?

Vacations should be taken by even the most dedicated workers. The benefits to physical and mental health, especially in an increasingly complex and fast-moving society, are needed. Family time is essential. You recharge your smartphone batteries, try to be as smart about yourself.

The Pandemic meant more staycations and Alberta-made adventures for many Albertans that might have ignored our own beautiful backyard.

Now that international travel is back on the agenda, Forbes notes Alberta as one of the 22 Best Places to Travel in 2022. Canada has over 60 per cent of the world’s lakes and central Alberta has many of the most beautiful ones with Sylvan Lake being included as one of the 12 best in the province. Depending on one’s work schedule, every weekend and part of any day can be a mini-trip to the beach for Albertans.

You may recall Expedia once listing Red Deer as one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. One of the many boards I have Chaired in my quarter of a century (plus) in Red Deer, was the Tourism Red Deer board. Central Alberta is perfectly located for business conferences uniting the north and the south. But, if inflation is hitting your pocketbook, don’t forget to check out the staycation potential right here.

As I close my case advocating in favour of vacations, I emphasize that we should never feel guilty about taking a vacation, it will increase your productivity and it is the law!

Donna Purcell, Q.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.

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