All work and no play

If you are not taking any vacation this summer it turns out you are not alone. New CIW research found that more than one-third of Canadians are not taking their vacation time.

In Canada, every full-time employee is entitled to at least two weeks paid vacation each year, and in Saskatchewan workers enjoy three weeks off.  

Using data from the Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2010, Cycle 24), CIW researchers looked at a sample of 3,451 Canadians who work full-time. Results showed that 36% took less than 10 days of paid vacation. Furthermore, 19.3% of Canadians who work full-time took no vacation days during the previous year. Not one day. 

Who takes vacation and who doesn’t

The CIW found several factors associated with who uses paid vacation days and who doesn’t:  

  singles, people with no children at home, younger age group, lower levels of education and household income.

Images from: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vacation time use also varies by employment sector. Agricultural workers take the least amount of vacation (only 37% of them take 10 days or more).  Contrast this with the utilities sector, where nearly 90% take the minimum 10 days of vacation time. 

 how do employment sectors compare for taking vacation?

The reasons why Canadian workers in certain sectors take less vacation time are unknown, but workplace culture, concerns about job security, and a preference for trading days off for vacation pay have been identified in other studies as factors that can contribute to taking less vacation time. 

Having paid holidays enhances wellbeing

The effects of vacation time on wellbeing are broad reaching. The CIW’s study found that people who had ten days or more of paid vacation time in the past year reported better mental health, higher levels of life satisfaction, less time pressure, better overall health, and greater satisfaction with work-life balance. Simply put: taking a vacation is good for wellbeing. 

Diagram with "taking at least 10 days paid vacation" in middle circle. Surrounding ring with nodes "enhanced life satisfaction,"  "better overall health," "less time pressure," "better mental health," and "greater satisfaction with work life balance".


This research points to some important policy areas. Specifically, governments and employers need to consider

  • How to change workplace cultures that show preference for employees who don’t take vacation.
  • If policies allowing workers to cash-in vacation time do more harm than good in the long term?
  • If a minimum of ten days paid vacation is enough given        Canadians’ increasing time-stress[1]?

Do you take all of your vacation time, and if not why? Tweet your thoughts @ciwnetwork or comment on our Facebook page.


  • [1] Canadian Index of Wellbeing. (2012). How are Canadians Really Doing? The 2012 CIW Report. Waterloo, ON: Canadian Index of Wellbeing and University of Waterloo.

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