Everything Students & Grads Need To Know About Vacation Days


If you’re anything like me, vacation days are your most prized possession. Taking time off to relax or travel outside the confines of your cubicle is important for your physical and mental health.

Almost every job is guaranteed to have some sort of vacation day policy in place (with the exception of a part-time or contract position), and this is definitely something you should ask about before you accept a new job offer. Below are some things you can expect from a typical job in terms of vacation days, and tips for asking for time off to enjoy yours.

What to expect

For many Canadian jobs, receiving two to three weeks of vacation is typical, but most companies often have a policy that you can’t take these days off until you pass the allocated probation time when starting a new job. Some workplaces even have a program in place that rewards people the longer they stay committed and continue to work there. For example, once you hit your 5 year anniversary, you gain another week of vacation.

On top of your allocated vacation time, you’ll often have additional days to use in case you’re sick, need a personal day, are moving, or if you have a religious holiday you celebrate that may not usually fall in the statutory holidays we get as Canadians. Also, there are usually places where you can accumulate overtime in the form of vacation days, especially if you are paid on salary versus hourly. Not all places do this, so keep this in mind when you’re working extra hours every day!

So what happens if you don’t use your allocated vacation days within the year? Some workplaces may allow you to rollover these dates into the following year up to a certain period of time. For example, if you don’t use your vacation by December 31, 2015, you may be able to carry it over – but you’ll need to use them by February 28, 2016 before they expire. You should always aim to plan your vacation days strategically so you don’t end up wasting them!

Asking for time off

While it’s not a big deal, this can be intimidating for people who are just starting out in their career. Many new grads feel like they haven’t earned the right to take vacation days off, especially if they just started working. The truth is, you are given these vacation days for a reason, and your boss more than likely assumes you will want to take them. So even though you may feel hesitant to take days off, your boss probably won’t even think twice when receiving your request.

Each workplace has their own system for requesting time off – some companies require employees to submit their applications through an online system, and other companies will have you make your request through your direct manager. Either way, when requesting your time off, make sure you are positive about the dates you need (to avoid going back and forth).

Keep in mind that you should never assume you will get approved for your time off. So it’s always good to ask before you go ahead and book your vacation. Your workplace isn’t required to give you the time off during those specific dates you want. Consider the timing of your request – you may be requesting time off during the busiest time of the year when you have important deadlines to meet. Maybe the person who would usually take over for you has already requested that same time off. Take all these factors into consideration.

Little known facts about vacation days

Many people don’t realize that there are ways around your limited vacation days. Let’s be honest – although three weeks sounds like a lot, things will pop up from time to time over the course of 12 months. So what happens if you find yourself missing out on something important because you don’t have enough vacation days?

Many workplaces will allow you to take unpaid vacation days. Now this may not seem like a good idea at first – how are you going to make ends meet when you aren’t being paid while on vacation? The truth is, depending on how you organize your vacation day needs and how you save your money over the year, this may be a good option to have when you are in a bind.

Paying for employees to be on vacation is expensive, so it’s normal for workplaces to limit you to only two to three weeks a year – but if you want to go on extended vacations, or take more days, most places would be willing to let you do that (provided it doesn’t harm business production).

Another thing to consider is many offices close during statutory holidays, so your three weeks vacation may actually be four weeks if you count the one week your office may be closed for the winter holidays.

As someone who loves to travel, I have become the expert in trying to make the most out of vacation days, and I’m definitely scared to ask for additional days off. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is your boss saying “no.” But if you don’t ask, you won’t get the opportunity to relax and take some well-deserved vacation!

Are you planning a summer vacation? How would you ask for time off? Comment below!