Annual vacation

Last updated: February 22, 2022

Employees earn vacation time during the first year they're employed. After 12 months, they get 2 weeks of annual vacation. After 5 years, they get 3 weeks of annual vacation. Taking a leave under the Act or the sale of a business does not affect an employee's length of employment.

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Vacation time

Employees must take time off for annual vacation and receive vacation pay. Vacation must be taken within 12 months of being earned. Employees cannot skip taking vacation time and just receive vacation pay.

Annual vacation is scheduled in periods of 1 week or more unless the employee asks for a shorter amount of time. Employers can schedule vacation time according to business needs as long as employees are able to take their vacation days within 12 months of earning them. Employers may:

  • Cancel employee vacations due to a shortage of employees
  • Require employees to take vacation if there isn't enough work for staff

If a statutory holiday falls on an employee's scheduled vacation day, the employee may qualify for statutory holiday pay. They do not get an additional day off.

Taking vacation days in advance

Employees can ask to take vacation days before earning them. If an employer allows this, it does not affect an employee’s vacation entitlement later on, unless the employer clearly explains that at the time. The employer must require the employee to submit their request in writing.

If the employer allows the employee to take vacation days in advance, the employer can deduct the number of vacation days they took in advance from their vacation entitlement once they have actually earned it.

Example: An employee starts work in March 2019. They email their supervisor to ask for April 1st, 2nd and 3rd off. Their supervisor approves the request and the employee takes the time off. In March 2020, the employee can then take the rest of their vacation time – the 2 weeks earned during 2019 minus 3 days used before they were earned. They must use their vacation time before March 2021.

Vacation pay

Vacation pay is at least 4 percent of all wages paid in the previous year. After the employee completes 5 years of employment, the employer must pay vacation pay of at least 6 percent of all wages earned in the previous year.

Vacation pay must be paid at least 7 days before an employee starts their annual vacation time. If the employee and employer agree in writing, it can be paid out on every pay cheque instead. Any vacation pay received by an employee becomes part of the total wages paid in that year.

Total wages include:


Commission salespeople take annual vacation and receive vacation pay the same as other employees. Vacation pay is paid on all commissions earned – it is not incorporated into the commission rate. Commissions paid during an employee’s annual vacation are not vacation pay.

Example: An employee completes their first year of work at a new job on February 28, 2021. They take two weeks off in July. Before they go on vacation, their employer pays the employee the vacation pay they earned over the previous year – four percent of their gross earnings from March 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021. The vacation pay is added to their gross wages for 2021. The employee receives their vacation pay instead of their regular wages for the two weeks they are on vacation.

Farm workers

Farm workers who get paid a piece rate have vacation pay included in their piece rates.

When employment ends

When employment ends, employees must be paid all remaining vacation pay. All vacation pay that is owed to an employee must be paid on their last pay cheque. If an employee works for less than a year, they need to be paid 4 percent annual vacation pay.

Employees who are employed for 5 calendar days or less are not entitled to be paid annual vacation pay.

Agreements can be enforced

Agreements to give more vacation days or vacation pay can be enforced. Employers must uphold any agreements they make, even if they are greater than the minimum requirements for annual vacation pay or time off.

What you can do

If you're having issues at work, find out what you can do: