An article in Benefits Canada‘s May issue explored the Australian system of long-service leave, in which employees can take three months of paid leave after working for the same employer for 10 years. Employees can also choose to take a payout instead of the time off.

In Canada, of course, employees can’t expect extended paid leaves no matter how long they work with their employer, although such breaks have long been common among tenured university professors. At the University of Waterloo, professors are eligible to apply for a sabbatical leave every six years, taken for either one term at full pay or the full year at 85 per cent of their salary. During sabbatical leaves, professors are expected to continue their research, either at their home university or another institution. 

Read: A look at long-service leave in Australia

Public school teachers are also eligible for a year off, although they must fund the time off themselves. According to the collective agreement between the Toronto District School Board and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, for example, teachers can choose to take a special leave of absence during which they work for four years at 80 per cent of their normal salary, followed by a year off, also at 80 per cent of their pay. The school board will pay for its share of benefits during all five years.

But more and more employers outside of the education sector are offering sabbaticals. Deloitte’s U.S. employees, for example, can take an unpaid month-long sabbatical for any reason or a three-to-six month sabbatical at 40 per cent of their salary to pursue career development or volunteer opportunities. Corporate employees at McDonald’s are eligible for eight-week paid sabbaticals after 10 years of full-time, continuous service. And Canadian and U.S. employees at technology company Intel Corp. can take paid eight-week sabbaticals after seven years of service. 

“Sabbatical, like the seventh-inning stretch, is a good point to take [a] break,” Intel writes on its job blog. “To stand and stretch; to do something different for a while. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take singing lessons but between work and a busy home life, you just never get around to it. That’s a great idea for sabbatical. Perhaps you are curious if baseball was really derived from cricket. On your sabbatical, travel to England or India and find out firsthand. Intel employees do some amazing things on sabbatical — Amazon River explorations, intensive courses of study in a given subject, community involvement and more.”

Read: Should you let employees buy and sell vacation days?

And then there’s regular paid vacation. A 2013 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington found Canada ranked among the worst countries for paid time off. While workers in Australia get four weeks of paid vacation and eight statutory holidays, most Canadians get just 10 vacation days (Saskatchewan provides 15 days) and an average of nine statutory holidays. All provinces and territories, except Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, mandate an additional week of vacation after five to 15 years with the same employer.

Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review, due for release later this month, is considering increasing the minimum amount of paid vacation days, according to the CBC.

What do you think? Is it time for employment standards in Canada to move towards more generous vacation provisions? Don’t forget to have your say here.

Read: Starbucks expands housing, sabbatical benefits to Chinese employees

As for last week’s poll, it looked at whether it’s a good idea for a restaurant to fund employee benefits programs through a surcharge on every bill. The majority (62 per cent) of respondents thought it wasn’t a good approach and that the employer should fund benefits through higher prices. The remaining 38 per cent thought it was a good idea, especially as the food service industry doesn’t often provide benefits.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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