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Can I Force My Employees to Use up Their Vacation Balances?

December 05, 2016, by Corina Sibley | Work Environment and Policies

This question comes up a lot towards the end of the year, particularly from employers whose vacation year follows the calendar year.  Some employees have the impression that if they don’t use up their earned vacation, they can use it like a savings plan and cash out at the end of the year.  There are employers who may opt for this, but from our experience it is the exception rather than the rule.  Most organizations want their employees to use their vacation to take that much needed R&R time to recharge their batteries. 

So, can you as an employer, tell your employees to use up their vacation time and not come in to work? The short answer is yes in most provinces provided you provide them with sufficient notice.  Here’s what the various provincial employment standards say on the matter:

British Columbia:

“An employer has the right to schedule vacations according to business requirements as long as the employer ensures that an employee receives a vacation within twelve months after becoming entitled to it.”


“If a mutually acceptable time for the employee’s vacation cannot be found, the employer can decide on the time. However, the employee must receive at least two weeks’ notice in writing of the start date of their vacation. The employee must take their vacation at that time.”


“If an employer and employee cannot agree on when the vacation will be taken, the employer sets the vacation date. The employer must give the employee 15 days’ notice before the vacation is to be taken and cannot divide the vacation into periods shorter than one week. Employers can choose to schedule their employees' vacations as part of an annual shut down.”


“Employees and employers should have an agreement on when the annual vacation will be taken. If an agreement cannot be made, the employer can schedule the employee’s vacation. The employer must provide the employee at least four weeks written notice before the employee’s vacation start date.”


“The employer has the right to schedule vacation as well as an obligation to ensure the vacation time is scheduled and taken before the end of that ten-month period.”


“The employer has the privilege of setting the date of vacations. However he must inform the employee of the date of his vacation at least 4  weeks ahead of time.”

New Brunswick:

“Employers and their employees can agree on when vacation should be taken. If an agreement cannot be reached, the employer can decide when the employee’s vacation will begin as long as he provides the employee at least one week notice prior to the vacation start date.”

Nova Scotia:

“Employers decide when employees will take their vacation time.  Employers must tell employees when their vacation will begin at least one week before it begins.  Many employers let their employees choose when to take vacation time; however, the employer has the final say.”

Prince Edward Island:

“The employee must be given advance notice of one week when their vacation is to begin. At least one day before the employee’s vacation begins, the employee – depending upon length of continuous employment with that employer – must be paid either four or six percent of the employee’s wages for the 12-month period the employee earned the vacation.”

Newfoundland & Labrador:

“Unless the employer and employee otherwise agree in writing, the employer shall give to the employee not less than 2 weeks written notice of the dates of the annual vacation, and upon the notice being given, the employee shall take the annual vacation during the period specified in the notice.”


So if you and your employees cannot find a mutually acceptable time to schedule their vacation, you have the right as an employer to schedule it for them, as long as you give them sufficient written notice as outlined above.

Tell us what you think – have you ever had to schedule vacation time for an employee?

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