How to Prepare for Your Small Business Employees’ Vacations

As a small business owner who may already have a streamlined team, navigating employee time off can be a challenge. Balancing the need for your staff to take vacation time to maintain a positive work-life balance while ensuring that business operations run smoothly in their absence takes careful consideration and organization. Below are some steps to consider before your employees go on vacation.

Plan together and in advance

One of the most effective ways to plan for employee vacation time is to try and prepare as much in advance as possible. Of course, in certain cases, vacation requests may come at the last minute. However, if your employees have a trip scheduled, for example, or they know they need to take some time off, you can ask them to submit their requests in advance—the timing will be up to you and how long it takes to establish who will take over while they’re away.

Using a shared calendar lets you see the coming weeks and months at a glance, which can help you prepare more effectively and adjust schedules where needed.  Tracking your employees’ vacation days through a digital tool can be a great way to do this. There are several online vacation day trackers, so test them out with your staff to find one that fits your budget and needs.

If you notice that multiple team members want to take vacation time during the same period, such as summer—a common time for employees to use their vacation time—you may consider hiring a seasonal employee to backfill the team. If doing so, interviewing and training the right person takes time, and getting to it as early as possible can ensure it’s not a rushed process.

Keep track of employer vacation day requirements

The number of vacation days employees are entitled to and the way vacation accrues varies by province. For example, in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia, employees who have worked continuously for a company for one year but less than five years are entitled to two weeks of vacation every year. Meanwhile, those who have worked five or more years at the same company are entitled to three weeks, while those who’ve worked for 10 or more years at the same company get four weeks.

However, this is not the case everywhere. Employers in Alberta, for example, are not required to give any vacation time for employees who’ve worked there for less than a year unless otherwise agreed upon in a contract. Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, employees are entitled to a minimum of three weeks of vacation after each year of employment, while those who complete 10 years of work with the same employer get a minimum of four weeks. Of course, employers can always offer more paid vacation time than what’s required by federal and provincial law. Employers may also have a paid time off (or PTO) policy for non-vacation absences, such as bereavement leave, jury duty, or medical leave.

Adhere to public and statutory holidays

Most employers must give their employees time off during public and statutory holidays with pay. However, some requirements around this depend on your province, so it’s best to review your region’s guidelines.

Ontario, for example, has nine statutory holidays per year, and most employees are entitled to take these days off and get public holiday pay. However, if you require your employees to work these days, they can choose to get public holiday pay plus premium pay (1.5x their typical rate) for the hours worked or be paid their regular wage that day and get another substitute day with public holiday pay. There are also rare instances where jobs are not eligible for the public holiday pay entitlement.

If a statutory holiday falls when your team member is on vacation, they can be entitled to a substitute day off with holiday pay. If the statutory holiday falls on a day that is not ordinarily a workday (like a weekend), employers must provide a substitute day off with holiday pay or have a written agreement that they will provide public holiday pay but no substitute day.

Review required vacation pay

Before your employees use their vacation days, it is important to review the pay they are entitled to, also known as “vacation pay.” According to the Government of Canada, vacation pay is calculated as a percentage of the employee’s annual gross wage. For those with an allotted two weeks of vacation, vacation pay is 4%; three weeks of vacation time equals 6% of earnings; four weeks of vacation time equals 8% of earnings. Always be sure to double-check your province’s vacation pay requirements before proceeding.

You can provide your employees with vacation pay within 14 days of their vacation. However, you may alternatively pay them during or after their time off. This will be up to you, but letting your employees know about the plan can be beneficial in providing open communication.

Confirm a line of communication if necessary

It is important to respect your employees’ vacation time, but there may be situations where you need their expertise. Before they leave, have them detail the situations and tasks they typically deal with and their process. Get the contact information of any suppliers, vendors, customers, etc. that they often communicate with in case an issue arises while they’re off. If you think there’s a possibility that you might need to reach out, which should only be done in an emergency, let them know in advance, and encourage them to share as much information as possible with you before they leave to avoid such scenarios.

Take time to train other employees

Carving out time to train the employee(s) who will be covering for those on vacation is extremely important. Whether you have them work together in the days leading up to the vacation or hold a training session on important tasks, this preparation will be valuable when they juggle multiple roles. One of the benefits of this approach is that you can have a well-rounded team that understands and can handle various business operations, allowing them to easily jump into other roles. That way, when vacation time comes up, everyone feels prepared.

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