Time Off: The Benefit that Helps to Create Balance

Before the start of the New Year, it may be a good idea to review your time off programs so that you can ensure that your employees have the opportunity to get the rest they need to properly re-charge and the ability to take time away to address their personal needs.

While some time off is mandated under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), your level of flexibility and focus around these programs can make a big difference to your employees. All employers in British Columbia must provide for two weeks of paid time off for each of the first five years of employment, and then three weeks after five years of service. Based on your industry and the offering of the organizations competing for your talent, this may not be sufficient to either attract or retain key members of your team. Many organizations will provide three weeks of vacation to start and managers, or those at the more senior level, could start with four weeks. Many organizations will also provide for a graduated program so that, based on tenure with the organization, more vacation time will be provided.

It is recognized that while some people eagerly await their vacation time and use it every year – others may be more reticent, preferring to delay it and carry it over to the next year, or get a payout for vacation time not used. While there may be an internal company policy addressing this subject, it is important to ensure that you are abiding by the requirements in the ESA – which speaks to both the time off and the money owed for vacation.

The BC Government does recognize ten statutory holidays per year. These paid days off can allow the employee to join friends and family at get-togethers or other activities throughout the year. Some employers also provide for an additional floating stat holiday which, in light of the diversity of your employees, would allow people to take the day off based on their own cultural needs, or enjoy the sales on Boxing Day!

While there is no legal requirement to provide paid sick time in BC, many companies choose to provide a certain number of sick days per year so that staff can remain at home and not bring an illness into the working environment, where others could catch the bug. Progressive companies will do even better and provide them as “personal days”. This will facilitate an additional level of flexibility to staff and transparency to the company so that if a child is sick, aging parents need to be taken to a couple of appointments, or they need a mental health break, employees are able to take the time without using valuable vacation days. These unplanned absences can be stressful – so how an organization deals with them is an important factor in the perceived level of support for the employee.

While unpaid time off is accommodated in a number of leave entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, including bereavement, compassionate leave and parental leaves, it is important to support your staff when they are going through these periods of life. Gestures such as sending a card, flowers or a baby gift go a long way to recognizing the fullness of their life, as separate from the demands of their work or the organization. It is also important to keep connected with employees who are on leave in order to support their reintegration into the workforce upon their return.

While most employers recognize the benefits of time off, unplanned, or even planned staff absences can be stressful for the organization and other team members. Having a clear policy with regards to time off can alleviate some of the stress, and provide employees (or potential employees) with a tangible understanding of how an organization will support both their work and personal life. Time away from work is important to maintaining good health and for the productivity on your team.

January 1st may be a good time to launch a new program.


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