Take your vacation, and don’t apologize to anyone


For anyone planning to spend the last days of this glorious summer on vacation: Whatever you do, don’t apologize. Not to your co-workers, nor your boss, nor anyone else who might be affected by your absence.

When we ask for forgiveness for using our earned vacation time, it reinforces the message that work is paramount—more important than rest, time with family, or anything else one might enjoy. The expectation of overwork hurts morale and productivity and provides a fast track to burnout and increases employee turnover. More than two years into this global pandemic and well-publicized job inflation, there must be a reckoning that fatigue and a crowded schedule are bad signs of success.

Taking time off is one small step toward this elusive dream of work-life balance. But when it comes to paid vacation, the Canadian regulatory bottom line is stingy — not the worst, but not great either. Labor unions, community organizations, academics and others have been calling for more vacations for decades, and for good reason.

Currently, workers in Ontario are entitled to two weeks of paid time off after a year of continuous work, and three weeks after five years. While some workers may be given more time off by their employer or unions may negotiate successfully with them, the floor is low. There are also nine recognized public holidays in Ontario, compared to 10 in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Yukon, 11 in the Northwest Territories, 12 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and only eight in Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, And a trivial six. in Nova Scotia.

For Ontario workers, this translates to at least 19 to 24 paid days per year for full-time employees. For part-time employees, time off work is calculated by the average number of days worked over the past 12 months, which can result in very little rest time, especially for those who work together on multiple part-time jobs.

Compare this with the 37 other countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. In France, workers have at least five weeks off, in addition to 11 public holidays. Some workers take up to six to ten weeks off, depending on their job. Like France, Finland has a similar GDP per capita to Canada, but has a statutory minimum of 30 days of paid vacation, plus 12 public holidays. Moving east, South Korean workers get 15 days off after one year of work, with an extra day for every two years thereafter, plus 11 public holidays.

Governments have been very cowardly in dealing with this with any taste, but employers must. At a time when companies struggle to retain skilled and loyal employees, it is worth challenging long-held assumptions about working hours, vacation entitlement, and luxury. For organizations that are serious about fighting job disruption, start by accruing more generous time off and time off from work.

Shannon Devine is a long-time labor rights advocate and advocate. She works for the United Steelworkers Union in Toronto.