Dear Working Wise:
I have worked for my employer for more than five years and I have never had a problem
booking my vacations. This spring, my employer approved two separate weeks of
vacation, but they have now changed their mind. Can they do that? Signed, Vacation Cut
Dear Cut Short:
Summer has finally arrived and those campgrounds, lakes, and dreaded backyard
improvement projects are beckoning.
Most employers try to accommodate staff vacation requests, but they are not required by
law to do so.
Under Alberta’s Employment Standards, an employer can decide when an employee
takes their vacation if a mutually acceptable time for an employee's vacation can not be
However, keeping your staff happy—especially with Alberta’s unemployment rate
hovering below five per cent—makes good business sense.
If an employer does decide when an employee is taking their vacation, the employer must
give the employee at least two weeks written notice of the start of their vacation.
Vacations must be given in one unbroken period unless the employee requests to take
their vacation in shorter periods. This is permissible so long as those periods are at least
one day long.
Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation with pay after one year of employment.
After five years of employment, they are entitled to three weeks vacation with pay.
Vacations must be taken sometime in the 12 months after the employee becomes entitled
to the vacation.
If you are unable to take your vacation, your employer can pay you vacation pay in lieu.
Employees who are paid by the hour receive vacation pay as a percentage of their wages.
"Wages" includes any previously paid vacation pay, but does not include overtime
earnings, general holiday pay, pay in lieu of a notice of termination or an unearned bonus.
In the first four years of employment, minimum vacation pay is four per cent of earned
wages. In the fifth and subsequent years, minimum vacation pay increases to six per cent.
Part-time employees have the same vacation and vacation-pay entitlements as full-time
employees. The one important distinction is that their vacation or vacation pay will
reflect their reduced hours. For example, part-time employees who only work two days
per week are entitled to four paid vacation days after one year of employment.
Construction workers are not usually given annual vacation time, but are entitled to
vacation pay. All construction employees (full-time and part-time) must be paid vacation
pay equal to six per cent of the employee's wages.
Other workers who are exempt from vacations and vacation pay entitlements:
• employees on a farm or a ranch
• salespersons working mainly away from the employer's premises who solicit
orders for later delivery
• professionals such as real estate brokers, and licensed insurance and securities
• extras in a film or video production
• employees covered by other Acts (e.g., academic staff)
• municipal police officers
If you have any other concerns or questions, call the Alberta Employment Standards
Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-427-3731 (780 427 3731 in Edmonton) or visit
Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at
email@example.com. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human
Services. This column is provided for general information.