When Can an Employer Cancel or Deny Vacation?

It is a little-known fact that the Employment Standards Act protects the Employer’s right to schedule vacation leaves to a time that is most convenient for the operation of the business.

In cases where the operation has “shut down” periods (such as one week in July and one week at Christmas) the employer is permitted to restrict vacation time off to the shutdown periods, and then further define the permitted times for those workers who have more than two weeks of vacation entitlement.

If an employee “forgets” the policy and requests time off outside of the permitted periods, the employer is free to deny the request. Consideration could be given on a case-by-case basis to allow for exceptional circumstances.

It is strongly recommended that employees request, and receive approval for the vacation time, before they purchase tickets or other items.

If the employee has paid for items for the trip such as a cottage, hotel or flight (whether they do this as an attempt to force the employer’s decision or not), and the employer denies the vacation the employer is not obligated to reimburse the employee in any way for such expenses.

In addition, if the employer has denied a vacation request and the employee simply decides to take their vacation anyway (not show up for work), the employee runs the risk of the employer exercising the “abandonment of position” clause in the Employment Standards Act, meaning that they can treat the absence as though the employee quit their job if they don’t show up for three shifts or more.  Under this circumstance the employee is not entitled to any notice of termination pay and would likely suffer a penalty from Employment Insurance as well.

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