Employment Law

Vacation pay in British Columbia: Employee rights

A pair of sunglasses rest on a stack of books near a tropical beach during vacation a British Columbia worker.

What is vacation pay in British Columbia?

Vacation pay is money that non-unionized B.C. employees receive for the time they are away from work on vacation. This pay starts accumulating as soon as an employee begins working, and ensures that employees maintain financial stability while taking time off work.

Vacation pay is covered by B.C.’s Employment Standards Act (ESA).



Difference between vacation pay and vacation time

Vacation pay and vacation time are related but distinct concepts in B.C.:

  • Vacation Pay: Vacation pay is the amount of money employees receive while they are on vacation, and it’s a percentage of the wages earned by the employee during the “vacation entitlement year.”
  • Vacation Time: Employees earn vacation time with each hour worked. It is the time that employees are entitled to take off from work, and it accumulates over time based on the length of their employment and the hours they’ve worked.

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How Is Vacation Pay Calculated in B.C.?

In B.C., vacation pay is calculated as a percentage of the employee’s total wages earned during the vacation entitlement year.

Total wages used for calculating B.C. vacation pay includes:

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How much is vacation pay in B.C.?

Here’s how much vacation pay in British Columbia is:

Years of Employment Vacation Pay Rate Entitlement Starts
Years 1 to 5 At least 4% of total wages After 5 consecutive days of employment
After 5 years At least 6% of total wages After completing 5 consecutive years

Example: Ava’s Vacation Pay in B.C.

Ava starts working for the company on January 1, 2014.

  • Years 1 to 5: From January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2018, Ava receives 4% vacation pay.
  • After 5 Years: Starting January 1, 2019, Ava earns 6% of gross wages as vacation pay each year.

This ensures Ava receives appropriate vacation pay based on her length of employment in British Columbia.

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Is it mandatory to pay vacation pay in B.C.?

Yes, it is mandatory for employers to provide vacation pay in British Columbia. All employees, full-time, part-time, or casual, are entitled to vacation pay as per the guidelines set by the ESA.

Temporary and staffing placement employees are also covered by the ESA’s vacation rules, even if the employment relationship is short-term.

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When will my vacation pay be paid out?

Vacation pay can be paid out in various ways in B.C., such as:

  • Paid in a lump sum before the employee takes vacation time.
  • Paid on each paycheque as a separate item.
  • Paid on the regularly scheduled payday during or immediately following the vacation.

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Do I get paid for unused vacation in B.C.?

Yes. Non-unionized employees in British Columbia must be paid for unused vacation time, depending on the situation. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Standard Vacation: After 1 year of work, employees get 2 weeks of vacation, increasing to 3 weeks after 5 years. Unused vacation must be paid out by the next payday after the vacation year ends or when employment ends.
  • Extra Vacation Time: For vacation beyond the standard, check your employment contract or company policy. Payment for unused extra vacation depends on your employer’s rules.

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Vacation pay and termination in B.C.

When you are fired or lose your job in B.C., your employer must give you the vacation pay you have earned but not yet been paid out. This pay should be provided within seven days of termination or on what would have been your next payday.

However, that’s not all you may be owed. If you are fired “without cause” in B.C. (for reasons other than serious misconduct), you are eligible for a full severance package. Severance in B.C. can be as much as 24 months’ pay, and is calculated based on factors such as your age, position and length of employment. A wrongful dismissal occurs when your employer fails to offer you the proper amount of severance pay, which is a common issue in B.C.

Termination “for cause” means that you were dismissed due to serious misconduct or insubordination, and in such cases, your employer is not legally required to provide you with a severance package. However, it’s important to note that this type of termination is often misapplied by employers, meaning you may still be owed significant compensation.

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Lost your job?

When you are fired, laid off or let go from your job, it is crucial to consult an experienced employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP before accepting any severance offer. signing your termination papers prematurely may cause you to forfeit essential rights, including proper severance pay and vacation pay.

Employers often impose deadlines to pressure employees into accepting insufficient severance packages. However, your legal right to a complete severance package isn’t bound by these arbitrary deadlines. You have up to two years from the termination date to claim your full severance.

At Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, our skilled team of employment lawyers consistently deliver proven results for countless clients across B.C. We work diligently to protect your rights and provide necessary guidance through employment-related issues.

If you are a non-unionized employee in B.C. (or Alberta and Ontario) facing job loss or workplace challenges, contact us or call 1-855-821-5900 to get the advice you need, and the compensation you deserve.

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