Forced Vacation Time? Another Covid-19 Consideration

Can an employer require employees to take vacation time where is a slowdown in work? This is a question we are getting regularly from workers and businesses.  There is no simple answer, but we have set out some information below.

(This blog is relevant only to non-union workers in provincially regulated industries in professions/occupations/industries covered by the Employment Standards Act.  This information will apply to most non-union workers in BC.)

Can an employer force its employees to take vacation?

Maybe. Look at the employment contract and any vacation policies and see what they say about vacation scheduling. Unless the contract or policy gives the employee the right to choose their vacation time, then yes, employees can be forced to take vacation if work is slow. The BC Employment Standards Branch says this:

Employers can choose when employees take vacation. You must schedule an employee's vacation in periods of one week or more, unless they ask for a shorter amount of time.

An employee earns annual vacation during the first year they're employed. After 12 months, they get two weeks of vacation. After five years, they get three weeks of vacation.

Employers may:

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

How does forced vacation impact layoff or termination?

Whether you are an employer or employee you should keep these provisions of the Employment Standards Act in mind as well:

Scheduling Vacation

Section 67(1) prohibits an employer from scheduling an employee’s vacation to coincide with notice of termination of employment.

Section 59 of the Act prohibits an employer from granting time off as a bonus or sick time and later reducing an employee’s vacation entitlement as a result of the previously granted leave.

If the employee is going to be let go permanently, vacation has to be paid out and cannot be scheduled to coincide with termination notice or lay, per section 67(1) of the Employment Standards Act.

Will vacation impact Employment Insurance?

Employees and employers should consider the Employment Insurance ramifications of taking vacation or forcing employees to take vacation if layoffs are expected.  If the employee is going to be temporarily laid off but eventually return to work, forcing them to take their vacation before the lay-off will delay their 7 day “interruption in earnings” of no work and no pay, which is required to qualify for E.I. Employees may also want to keep some vacation time for after things start up again.

 

This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information.

Every situation must be considered on its own facts. Need legal advice? Contact me [email protected].

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