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Are Canadians Vacation Deprived?

By Mario Cywinski |

Canadians are over worked and do not take all of their vacation time even thought they receive the third least amount of days off, according to two studies.

A recent study from Mercer human resource consulting has shown that Canada is far behind other world nations in terms of the amount of Vacation time that is allocated. In the European Union (EU) all workers are given 20 days of vacation time, and France gives its employees three times the amount that Canada does (30 days).

Practices in Canada are more similar to the model in the United States then in Europe. However, we still have 5 less vacation days then do our American neighbours.

"Canadian vacation policies are most similar [to the United States] although typically a bit more generous in practice," said Iain Morris, Principal, Mercer Human Resource Consulting "Having vacation entitlement linked to service and in some cases to job level is a North American practices."

Of the 49 nations that were surveyed, Canada ranked third last behind only Thailand (6) and the Philippines (5).

Many factors are responsible for the amount of vacation time that each employee in Canada is given, and why there is a disparity among provinces on how time should be given and when employees should have the amount of vacation increased.

"Labour standards set the minimum vacation levels in Canada. Many employers provide vacations in excess of the minimums, if not immediately, after a few years of service," said Morris. "I assume the intent is to assure an acceptable minimum while giving employers the option of providing more generous vacations to help attract and retain employees."

RankingCountryVacation Days
1United Arab Emirates30
37United States15
**Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting
*Only a handful of the total 49 countries are listed

Are we vacation Deprived?

In spite of the fact that Canada doesn't offer many vacation days, a lot of Canadians are not using up all of their vacation days. A study by Expedia.caâ„¢/Ipsos-Reid shows that even though we are taking more days off now then five years ago (21 % in 2007, 33% in 2003), we are still not taking all our days off.

To put things into perspective, 32 million total vacation days go unclaimed.

"Vacation deprivation levels over a five-year period clearly indicate that Canadians are starting to get the message and realize how important it is to take a vacation," says Beverly Beuermann-King, a stress and wellness expert. "However, many Canadians are still feeling vacation-deprived even though they are taking more vacation days – suggesting they are having difficulty coping with the speed of life, and simply need more time to re-energize."

A total of two days per person of vacation time are unclaimed each year. Some of the main reasons why Canadians are not taking all of their vacations days are:

  • trading days in for money (12%),
  • not making plans far enough in advance (11%), and/or
  • being too busy at work (11%).

Furthermore, according to the Ipos study "nearly all [respondents] (93%) believe they are fully entitled to all of their vacation days and 75% say their employer encourages them to use all of their vacation time, many have trouble coping with stress during the vacation cycle (30%) or feel guilty about taking time off (28%)."

"Vacations and time off in general are very important to Canadians. In Alberta, a number of employers have increased vacation time and extended "summer hours" all year to attract employees," said Morris. "Elsewhere some employers have formally recognized service with other employers in establishing vacation entitlement on hire. This can reduce the amount of negotiation with perspective employees."

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