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Closing a business over the Christmas holidays

Expert: CO Staff

Becky asked:

I am an employer. I want to close down the office between Christmas and New Year's. Am I required to pay salaried employees on for those days that are not stat holidays if they don't work them as a result of me deciding to close the office?

CO Staff answered:

Thank you for contacting CanadaOne. Your email address indicates that you are located in either Alberta or British Columbia, so to answer your question we spoke with Employment standards representatives in Alberta and British Columbia.

In Alberta:

The representative said that you can close your office and give people unpaid time off. However, she also recommended that you make sure that you let your employees know ahead of time, especially at this busy time of year. 

It is important to note that you may encourage your employees to take the time off as their vacation time, but you cannot force them to do so.

In other words, you will still be required to give employees their full vacation time owed at a later time in the year if they choose to take the time over the holidays off as unpaid leave.

In British Columbia:

The representative responded that how you choose to schedule your business hours is at your discretion. This is not something that is dictated by the government. You could therefore close the business for a week and have the employees take time off as unpaid leave. 

She also explained that in B.C. legislation requires that employers ensure that each employee take his or her vacation time off in the entitlement year. Section 57 in the Act states:
"An employer must ensure an employee takes an annual vacation within 12 months after completing the year of employment entitling the employee to the vacation."

Failure to ensure that your employees take the required time off in their entitlement year could result in the employer being fined, even if both the employee and employer made a different agreement previously.

Unlike Alberta, B.C.'s legislation does not prohibit you from setting the time off for your employees; in theory you could force employees to take this time off as vacation time.

This might make sense if an employee is approaching the end of his or her entitlement year and has not yet taken all of their time off. However, the representative cautioned that you could have quite a negative moral consequence if there is a long period left in the entitlement year and you were to force employees to take the time off when they would prefer to take it at another time, such as during the summer.

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