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Can Employers Force Employees to Take Vacation During the Holidays?

Olivia Oszkiel

December 12, 2023

So, you really want to book that trip to *insert dream vacation spot here*, but you don’t want to deal with all the hassle that comes with travelling during the holidays. You would much rather go early in the new year and escape the January blues. Can your employer still force you to take time off during the holidays?

They could, but it’s unlikely.

Vacation Time and Vacation Pay

An employee’s annual vacation entitlements are governed by Part 7 of the BC Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”).

Under section 57(1) of the ESA, employees must take time off for annual vacation and receive vacation pay. Employees earn vacation time during the first year that they are employed. After the first year, they get minimum 2 weeks of annual vacation, and after 5 years, they get 3 weeks.

For more on Vacation Time and Vacation Pay, please click here.

So How About Vacation Time-ING?

Under section 57(2)(a) of the ESA, vacation time must be taken within 1 year of being earned. Statutory vacation time cannot be rolled over.

Employers have the right to authorize the actual timing of vacations and can schedule vacation time according to business needs. Employers can even cancel employee vacations due to a shortage of employees (provided the employee still ends up receiving their annual vacation within that 1 year).

That said, an employer should act reasonably in refusing vacation requests, and most will do their best to pick a time that works well for everyone. 

Furthermore, the employment contract or the employer’s vacation policy should address this issue (i.e., an employer may require a certain amount of notice before approving vacation time). 

As well, an annual vacation is exclusive of statutory holidays that an employee is entitled to, meaning that if an employer schedules an employee’s vacation during the holidays, then this does not mean that the employee loses out on the statutory holidays. 

Other Considerations

According to section 59 of the ESA, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s vacation just because the employer paid the employee bonus or sick pay or previously granted a longer annual vacation than the minimum required. However, an employer can reduce an employee’s annual vacation if at the written request of the employee the employer allowed the employee to take an annual vacation in advance.

And finally, section 67(1) of the ESA prohibits an employer from scheduling an employee’s vacation to coincide with a notice of termination of employment.

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Whether you are an employee who is wondering about vacation entitlements or an employer seeking clarification regarding vacation obligations, it is important to have effective legal support.


If you need assistance or want to discuss this issue, reach out to us! We are here to help.