Workers, whether full time or part time, are entitled to a vacation each year and an indemnity, commonly referred to as vacation pay.
To establish the length of vacation and calculate the amount of the indemnity, the employer must take 3 factors into account: the reference year used in their company to establish vacation entitlement, the number of years of uninterrupted service of the worker and the gross wages earned during the reference year.
Vacation accumulates over a period of 12 months, called the reference year. The worker must take their vacation within 12 months of the end of the reference year.
In most cases, the reference year runs from May 1 to April 30. The period may be different if the employer, a decree or a collective agreement sets other dates.
Length of vacation and indemnity
The length of annual vacation is based on the number of years of uninterrupted service at the end of the reference year.
The amount of vacation pay is calculated based on the gross wages earned during the reference year (4% or 6%).
|Uninterrupted service at the end of the reference year||Length of vacation||Vacation pay|
|Less than one year||1 day per full month of uninterrupted service, not exceeding 2 weeks||4% of gross wages|
|1 year to less than 3 years||2 consecutive weeks||4% of gross wages|
|3 years or more||3 consecutive weeks||6% of gross wages|
Examples of how vacation pay is calculated
A) Mario is credited with 2 years of uninterrupted service at the end of the reference year. He is therefore entitled to 2 weeks vacation and a vacation indemnity of 4%.
He earned $25 600 during the reference year.
$25 600 x 4% = $1 024. Mario will receive $1 024 in vacation pay for his 2 weeks of vacation.
B) Stéphanie is credited with 8 years of uninterrupted service at the end of the reference year. She is therefore entitled to 3 weeks vacation and a vacation indemnity of 6%.
She earned $30 000 during the reference year.
$30 000 x 6% = $1 800. Stéphanie will receive $1 800 in vacation pay for her 3 weeks of vacation.
During maternity and paternity leave, the vacation indemnity continues to accumulate, as well as during an absence owing to sickness or an accident of 26 weeks or less (or organ or tissue donation for transplant, an accident, domestic violence or sexual violence suffered by the worker).
Do not hesitate to use the monCalcul online tool to calculate the indemnity.
Timing of vacation
The employer chooses the vacation period for their employees. They must inform them of the dates of their vacation at least 4 weeks in advance.
The worker must receive his vacation pay in a lump sum before they start their vacation or at the time of the current pay covering the period of their vacation.
A compensatory indemnity may not be paid to a worker to replace their vacation period, unless:
- a collective agreement or a decree contains a specific provision to this effect
- the establishment closes for 2 weeks during the vacation and a worker entitled to 3 weeks asks to have the last week replaced by an indemnity
In the case of seasonal or intermittent activities (tourism, agriculture, fisheries), the employer may add the vacation indemnity to each pay.
At the worker’s request, the employer may allow them to take all or part of their vacation during the reference year. The proportion of the indemnity that will then be paid is determined by the worker and the employer. For example, the indemnity could be calculated based on the wages:
- earned since the beginning of the reference year
- anticipated for the whole reference year
A worker's vacation may be deferred to the following year only if, at the end of the 12-month period following the reference year, they are absent or on leave:
- owing to sickness or an accident
- for organ or tissue donation for transplant
- following domestic or sexual abuse
- owing to serious bodily injury arising out of or resulting from a criminal offence against them
- for family or parental reasons, including absence due to the state of health of a person for whom they act as a caregiver
The employer has the right to deny the request. They must then pay the worker the vacation indemnity to which they are entitled.
An employer cannot impose the division of the vacation period.
However, a worker who has more than one week of vacation may choose to divide their vacation into 2 periods.
Their employer may refuse to divide the vacation period only if they close their business during the vacation period or for a longer period.
To divide their vacation into more than 2 periods, for example into 8 Mondays, the worker must have their employer's consent.
Vacation of one week or less cannot be divided.
An employer who used to close their establishment during the annual vacation prior to March 29, 1995 may divide the vacation period of workers who are entitled to 3 weeks of vacation.
One of these periods must be for a minimum of 2 consecutive weeks and the other must be during the period the establishment is closed.
A worker who is already entitled to 2 weeks of vacation may request an additional week's leave without pay. The employer must grant this leave. The worker cannot demand to take this third week after the other 2 weeks. This additional leave cannot be divided into several periods unless the employer allows it.