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Does my employer have to pay me for vacation?

Ontario's Employment Standards Act gives most people the right to 2 weeks of paid vacation in a year. They earn this by working 12 months for the same employer.

Some workers may get more vacation time, based on what their employer agrees to give them or what's in their collective agreement.

Earning your vacation

The period of 12 months in which you earn your vacation is called your "entitlement year". Your employer decides when this year begins. It could begin:

  • when you start working for your employer
  • on a different date, for example, January 1, if your employer uses the calendar year as the entitlement year

If the entitlement year starts on a date that's different than the date you started working, you still earn vacation pay from your first day of work to the day before the entitlement year begins.

Amount of vacation pay

Vacation pay must be at least 4% of the wages that you earn during your entitlement year, not including vacation pay.

If your entitlement year starts on a different date than the date you started working, you also earn vacation pay from your first day of work to the day before the entitlement year begins.

When you get your vacation pay

The general rule is that your employer has to pay you your vacation pay before your vacation starts.

But your employer can pay you your vacation pay on your regular pay day while you're on vacation if:

  • they pay you by direct deposit into your bank account, or
  • you're taking less than one week of vacation.

Another option is to get your vacation pay at any time that you and your employer both agree on.

Or, you can have your employer add your vacation pay to your wages each pay period. If you do this, you won't be paid when you take your vacation.

If you leave your job

When you leave a job, your employer must give you any vacation pay that they owe you. This applies whether they fire you or you quit.

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Find out if Ontario's laws about vacation pay apply to you

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has minimum standards that employers must follow, including rules about vacation pay.

But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And in some cases, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out if your job is covered and which parts of the ESA apply.

You can also call the Ministry's Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551, 416-326-7160, or 1-866-567-8893 (TTY).

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Keep track of how much vacation pay you're owed

The law says that your employer must keep records of:

  • your vacation time, including what you've earned, taken, and are owed
  • the wages you've earned
  • your vacation pay, including what you've earned, taken, and are owed

Your employer must give you this information if you ask for it.

But it's a good idea to keep your own records in case your employer does not keep accurate records.

And if you don't agree with your employer about how much vacation pay they owe you, it's helpful if you have your own records.

When you're making your own records, it's best to make them at the time. One way to show that you kept records at the time is to send email messages to yourself that:

  • list how many hours you worked
  • figure out how much you earned
  • note how much you were paid

It's a good idea to do this at least once for each pay period.

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Consider your options if an employer owes you vacation pay

If an employer owes you vacation pay and refuses to pay it, you might be able to get the money by making a claim with the Ministry of Labour

It's always best if you can resolve problems with your employer. Most people don't make claims against an employer that they're still working for. This is because the laws to protect workers don't stop employers from firing their workers. And if you're fired, it's up to you to take action against the employer to get what they owe you.

You have up to 2 years to make a claim from the date the employer owed you the wages.

Reviewed: 
June, 2015

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