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Vacation time

Most employees get vacation time.

Full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, term contract employees and student employees are eligible. However, there are job-specific exemptions to the vacation with pay part of the ESA that mean certain employees are not eligible for vacation time. (Check out Is my job covered? for details about job-specific exemptions to the vacation with pay rules.)



Table of Contents
  1. What is vacation with pay?
  2. Can I decide when to take my vacation?
  3. How much vacation time can I take at one time?
  4. What if I don't work for my employer for a full vacation entitlement year or a stub period?
  5. What if my vacation overlaps with a public holiday?
  6. Does a leave of absence affect my vacation time?
  7. What if I don't want to take my vacation?
  8. Do I have a right to vacation pay when I take my vacation time off?
  9. What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?
  10. Can I see the actual ESA?

What is vacation with pay? Top

The employment standard has two parts: vacation time and vacation pay.

Most employees covered by the ESA are eligible for a minimum of two weeks of vacation time with vacation pay after each 12 months of employment. This is known as a "vacation entitlement year". Where the employer has established an alternative vacation entitlement year, the employee is entitled to a pro-rated amount of vacation time for the period (stub period) before the alternative vacation entitlement year starts. (See below for explanation of "alternative vacation entitlement year".)

Vacation pay must be at least four per cent of the "gross" wages earned in the 12-month vacation entitlement year or in the stub period (where that applies). See Vacation pay for more details about the entitlement to vacation pay.

Note: If an employee's contract or collective agreement provides a better vacation benefit than the minimum under the ESA, the employee may be entitled to more vacation time than the minimum entitlements in the ESA. For example, an employee's contract might provide for three weeks' vacation per year, with six per cent of gross earnings for vacation pay.

Vacation entitlement year
Most employees covered by the ESA earn two weeks of vacation with pay after each 12 months of employment. This 12-month period is called the "vacation entitlement year". There are two kinds of vacation entitlement years:

  • Standard vacation entitlement year
    This starts the day an employee is hired and lasts 12 months. After this entitlement year ends a new 12-month period begins. This happens every 12 months as long as the employee works for the employer.
  • Alternative vacation entitlement year
    An employer might have an entitlement year that doesn't start on the date an employee is hired. For example, an employee might be hired on June 1, but the employer has set up the entitlement year to begin each year on September 1.

Stub Period
This is the period between the date of hire and the beginning of the first alternative vacation entitlement year, or (where the employer switches from a standard vacation entitlement year to an alternate vacation entitlement year) the period between the end of the last standard vacation entitlement year and the start of the first alternative vacation entitlement year. In the example above the stub period would be the period from June 1 to August 31. Employees earn a pro-rated amount of vacation time during a stub period.

The vacation entitlement year and stub period (if any) that qualify an employee for vacation time include active and inactive employment. For example, the right to vacation time is earned even when an employee spends time away from work because of:

  • temporary layoff
  • sickness or injury
  • approved leaves under a contract of employment or collective agreement
  • ESA leaves including pregnancy, parental, family medical and personal emergency leave
Can I decide when to take my vacation? Top

Your employer has the right to schedule your vacation, provided that you receive your vacation time no later than ten months after the end of the vacation entitlement year.

You can't give up your vacation time without your employer's written agreement and the approval of the Ministry of Labour. Such an approval wouldn't affect your employer's obligations to pay you vacation pay. Employees can't give up the right to vacation pay.

How much vacation time can I take at one time? Top

1) Vacation Time Earned During Vacation Entitlement Years

Employers are required to schedule vacation time earned in the vacation entitlement year in a block of two weeks or in two one-week blocks unless the employee makes a written request, and the employer agrees in writing, to schedule the vacation in shorter periods.

If you make a written request and your employer agrees that you can take your vacation in blocks of less than one week, you need to determine how many vacation days you have:

  • If you regularly work the same number of days every week you take that number and multiply it by two.
  • Or

  • If you don't usually work the same number of days every week, you calculate the average number of days worked each week in the vacation entitlement year and multiply that number by two.

2) Vacation Time Earned During Stub Periods

If the amount of vacation time earned during the stub period is between two and five days, the vacation days must be taken all in a row, unless the employee requests in writing and the employer agrees in writing to shorter periods.

If the amount of vacation time earned during the stub period is more than five days, the first five days must be taken all in a row and any additional days may be taken together with the first five or in a separate period of consecutive days.

However, the employee may request in writing and the employer may then agree in writing for the vacation earned in the stub period to be taken in shorter periods.

To calculate the number of vacation days earned in a stub period you either:

  • If you work the same number of days every week, take the number of days in your regular work week and multiply that by the ratio of the length of the stub period to 12 months. Then multiply that number by two.
  • Or

  • If you don't work the same number of days each week, calculate the average number of days worked per work week in the stub period and multiply it by the ratio of the length of the stub period to 12 months. Then multiply that number by two.
What if I don't work for my employer for a full vacation entitlement year or a stub period? Top

If you don't complete either the stub period (if any) or the full vacation entitlement year, you don't qualify for vacation time under the Act.

(However, you earn vacation pay as you earn wages. So even if you do not complete a stub period (if any) or vacation entitlement year, you are still entitled to at least four per cent of the wages you earned as vacation pay.)

What if my vacation overlaps with a public holiday? Top

A public holiday could fall during your vacation. If you qualify for a public holiday, you don't lose the right to the paid public holiday, and the day remains a vacation day.

In this case, you are entitled to one of the following:

  • A substitute day off work with public holiday pay, taken within three months of the public holiday, or, if you agree in writing, within 12 months of the public holiday. (See Public holidays for more information about substitute days off.)
  • Or

  • If you agree in writing, the employer can pay public holiday pay for the public holiday without giving you a substitute day off work.
Does a leave of absence affect my vacation time? Top

Employees earn credit for length of employment towards the completion of their vacation entitlement year or stub period when they are on a leave provided under the ESA, including pregnancy leave, parental leave, family medical leave and personal emergency leave. You will therefore continue to earn the minimum vacation time entitlements under the Act even if you take such a leave. (Note however, that the leave may affect the amount of vacation pay that would otherwise have been earned during that time.)

What if I don't want to take my vacation? Top

You can give up any of the vacation time you've earned if you and your employer agree, in writing, and the Director of Employment Standards approves the agreement. However, the employer is still obligated to pay you any vacation pay earned with respect to that vacation time.

Do I have a right to vacation pay when I take my vacation time off? Top

In most cases, an employee has the right to the vacation pay to be paid in a lump sum before taking a vacation. See Vacation pay for more information about the payment of vacation pay.

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA? Top

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?

Can I see the actual ESA? Top

Employment Standards Act, 2000

Resources: Top

Government:
Ontario Ministry of Labour
Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000: Vacation




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