New Ontario Holiday Presents Challenges for National Organizations

    Employees may be working between Christmas and New Year's in order to
    take Family Day off in February

    TORONTO, Nov. 29 /CNW/ - For Canadian organizations operating in Ontario
and other provinces, Ontario's new Family Day adds complexity to efforts to
apply an equitable national strategy with respect to statutory holidays. The
end result for some employees may be a certain loss of flexibility in
determining when to spend time off with their families, according to a survey
of 265 Canadian employers conducted earlier this month by global human
resources services company Hewitt Associates.
    Of the employers surveyed, 71 per cent operate in Ontario and at least
one other province. Of these organizations, over half (58 per cent) have a
national policy with respect to statutory holidays; they give the same number
of days off to workers in each province, regardless of provincial
requirements. Currently, statutory holiday requirements range from a low of
six per year (in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) to a high of ten
(Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut).

    Generous Statutory Holiday Policies

    "Even employers that operate in Ontario alone generally exceed the
minimum when it comes to statutory holidays," said Anthony Perlman, principal
and senior benefits consultant with Hewitt in Toronto. "In fact, 92 per cent
of employers provide 10 holidays or more per year."
    These additional days are often "floating," allowing employers to
designate days when the company or certain parts of the operation will close.
Employees may also have some personal discretion when it comes to "floaters."
Many businesses use these extra days to give employees a full week off at the
end of December.

    Some Will Add an Extra Day, Others Won't

    There's no question of how to deal with the new Family Day for some
organizations. Three-quarters of those that operate in Ontario alone or in
Ontario and additional parts of the country but have a statutory holiday
policy that varies by province will add another paid holiday for employees.
How those with union groups will address Family Day depends on the terms of
the collective agreement.
    The appropriate course of action is not as clear cut for employers that
operate in Ontario and elsewhere and have a national policy. "The
lost-productivity costs associated with an extra day off can be staggering,"
stated Tim Clarke, Canadian benefits practice leader for Hewitt.
"Organizations that already provide a generous statutory holiday policy in
order to ensure that all their employees, regardless of location, get the same
number of non-vacation days off per year have been painted into a corner by
the Ontario government."
    The last-minute Ontario Liberal campaign promise to add a new statutory
holiday was popular with employees. In enacting Family Day, the newly-elected
government followed the lead of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Manitoba will also
celebrate Family Day, known as Louis Riel Day in that province, for the first
time in 2008.
    "Employees are expecting to get an extra day off and may well be
disappointed if employers decide to use one of the floating holidays for
Family Day," said Clarke. "Nevertheless, our survey results indicate that's
what half of the organizations with national policies plan to do. Another 26
per cent are undecided. Only 12 per cent of these employers have decided to
add another day off."

    Communication is Key to Understanding and Appreciation

    Employers that are planning to eliminate one holiday in favour of using a
floater to cover Family Day will need to implement a clear employee
communication strategy to avoid negative reactions. "Many employees may not
realize how generous their employer already is," stated Perlman.
"Organizations should explain their policy carefully, pointing out how it
exceeds the statutory minimum. They also have an opportunity to point out the
other things they may be doing to help employees achieve work/life balance -
flexible hours, additional vacation buying or sabbaticals, for example."
    "It's important for workers to understand that this isn't a case of
employers being miserly and saying 'Bah, humbug!' to another holiday," said
Clarke. "It's a matter of finding the appropriate balance between time at home
and time at work for both employees and employers."

    About Hewitt Associates

    With more than 65 years of experience, Hewitt Associates (NYSE:   HEW) is
the world's foremost provider of human resources outsourcing and consulting
services. The company consults with more than 2,300 organizations and
administers human resources, health care, payroll and retirement programs on
behalf of more than 340 companies to millions of employees and retirees
worldwide. Located in 35 countries, including Canadian offices in Toronto,
Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Regina, Hewitt employs approximately 24,000
associates. For more information, please visit

For further information:

For further information: Marcia McDougall, Hewitt Associates, (416)

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