As spring arrives and summer looms, employees will soon begin to contemplate cashing in on their annual vacation allowances. As an employer, it's important to be aware of the minimum vacation entitlements in your province.

Vacation time

The governing legislation in each Atlantic Province stipulates minimum vacation for most full-time employees. Although minimum vacation is prescribed, the legislation of each province contemplates and permits employees and employers to agree on vacation greater than the minimum. However, in Newfoundland and Labrador, while such agreements may be enforced by the courts, they won't be enforced by the Labour Standards Board.

The legislation in each province prescribes minimum vacation using a two-tiered entitlement scheme. Specifically, vacation entitlement will increase for employees who have been employed longer than a specified period of time. However, employees in each province, except New Brunswick, will only be entitled to the prescribed minimum vacation once the individual has been employed for a specified period of time. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, employees become entitled to vacation after having completed 12 months of consecutive employment. In Newfoundland and Labrador, employees become entitled to vacation after having worked a minimum of 90 per cent of the regular working hours for a continuous 12 month period. Similarly, employees in Newfoundland and Labrador will only be entitled to vacation in a given year if they have worked a minimum of 90 per cent of the regular working hours during that vacation year.

The governing legislation for each province and the vacation entitlements prescribed are set out in the table below:

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Finally, the legislation of each province addresses how vacation may be taken, whether vacation must be taken, time limits for using vacation and whether the employer has the ability to dictate when vacation will be taken. Note that there are exemptions and employers should take steps to determine whether the following applies to their employees.

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Other notes of interest

When a holiday occurs during vacation time taken by an employee, the vacation time shall be extended by one day for each holiday.

New Brunswick – The province's legislation is unique in that vacation accrues based on time worked. If the employee doesn't work, he or she won't be entitled to vacation time. Further, the legislation prescribes a "vacation pay year" running from July 1 to June 30. However, the province's Employment Standards Division allows for an employer to adopt a different vacation pay year.

Vacation pay

The legislation of each province also prescribes the minimum vacation pay to which employees are entitled. Similar to vacation, entitlement to vacation pay in every province, except New Brunswick, is only gained once an employee has been employed for the minimum period prescribed by the legislation and outlined above. Vacation pay entitlement is determined in each province based on the wages paid to the employee during the vacation year. Finally, the legislation of each province imposes limits on the employees' right to claim unpaid vacation pay. The table below sets the definition of "wages", the minimum vacation pay entitlements:

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For employers, it's important to be aware of employees' vacation entitlements and to provide employees with the minimum prescribed by your province's legislation. However, as noted above, it's open to employers and employees to agree to vacation entitlements greater than the minimums provided by your province's legislation.