Top 15 tips for vacation planning starting soon!

Sep 19, 2019 | News


Vacation planning for PHC staff covered under the provincial collective agreements opens September 30! Use these 15 tips for a stress-free vacation planning experience (that said, tips on how to breeze through airport security not included!)

By all accounts, it’s a busy year. In all corners of our organization, our collective energy is humming at an all-time high as we prepare for extraordinary change with CST and its impact across Providence. In the year to come, it will be more important than ever that you take your much deserved vacation. To make scheduling that as easy as possible, People Staffing has put together a list of 15 tips to help you in the process.

Tip #1: Know the critical dates & deadlines for annual vacation planning

Every year starting in the fall until the end of December, the annual vacation planning process for unionized staff begins. Staff select their preferred vacation dates for the upcoming year in a series of three rounds.

After each round, an updated unit schedule is provided so staff know the dates that are still available.

Round 1 (one consecutive block* only)

  • The first round of vacation planning opens on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Staff must submit their first choices before 12 noon on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
  • Confirmed first choices will be posted on or before: Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

Round 2 (one consecutive block* only)

  • Selection in the second round begins on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. The deadline to submit second choices is 12 noon on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019.
  • Confirmed second choices will be posted on or before: Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.

Round 3 (any variation of dates: blocks or single days)

  • The third round begins on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019 and choices must be submitted by 12 noon on Friday, Nov 29, 2019.
  • Confirmed third choices will be posted on or before: Thursday, Dec. 31, 2019.

The complete 2020 Vacation Schedule will be posted on or before Jan. 2, 2020.

*A “block” is defined as an uninterrupted number of shifts off on vacation. Any time back at work between vacation periods results in another block and must be submitted in a separate round as another vacation choice.

Tip #2: Know how much vacation you need to book during annual vacation planning

Community and Facilities subsector staff and Health Science Professionals must schedule a minimum of 80% of their vacation entitlement by the respective deadlines above.

Nurses must schedule all hours of their vacation entitlement, with a maximum hold-back of 37.5 hours by the respective deadlines above.

Tip #3: Know what variation of dates you can book in each round of annual vacation planning

  • In round one and two, you may choose only one block.
  • In round three, you may choose more than one block and/or any variation of individual/single days to achieve the minimum 80% (Community, Facilities and Health Science Professionals) or all hours excluding up to 37.5 hours (Nurses) of your vacation entitlement.

Tip #4: Include alternate dates in case your primary choice is not available

Vacation choices are approved based on seniority and operational requirements (quotas i.e. the number of staff who can be off on vacation at any point in time). We strongly suggest you include alternate vacation dates with each vacation choice in case your primary choice is not available.

If you do not submit alternate dates:

  • In the first and second round, you will be given the largest number of consecutive vacation days that are available from your primary choice.
  • In the third round, you will be given any available dates that are available from your primary choice.

Alternate dates are considered in the order that they are listed on the Vacation Planning Request Form.

Tip #5: Give yourself a buffer to accommodate last-minute vacations or unexpected time off

Community, Facilities and Health Science Professionals staff can “hold back” up to 20% of their vacation entitlement. Nurses can “hold back” up to 37.5 hours.

Use the Scheduling Change Request Form to request this time off after annual vacation planning ends on Dec. 31, 2019.

This “hold back” time needs to be scheduled by Aug. 1, 2020 and taken by Dec. 31, 2020.

Tip #6: Know your unit’s vacation quota and don’t book vacation when it has been reached

Ask your leader/manager what your area’s quota is (i.e., the number of staff who can be off on vacation at any point in time); generally, this figure is somewhere between 15 - 20% of staff in each job category in a unit/department or service area.

For example, say your unit baseline is 20 nurses (10 on days and 10 on nights). The quota for your unit is between three and four staff who can be off at a time (20 x 0.15 = 3 / 20 x 0.20 = 4).

Tip #7: Know how much vacation you have

The number of vacation days you have depends on your bargaining unit, employment status and your years of service but, generally speaking, PHC staff start with four weeks of paid time off for vacation.

If you don’t know how much vacation you have, speak with your leader/manager or look for your vacation entitlement posted on your unit or in the vacation binder.

If your vacation entitlement doesn’t look right to you it could be because this number can be affected by things like a leave of absence, a change to your line or to your full-time equivalent (FTE) – that’s why it’s just an estimate.

If you do notice a discrepancy with your vacation entitlement, contact Payroll; staff are available between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and email inquiries will be answered within 24 hours.

  • Call: 604-297-8683 (press 2) or toll-free 1-866-875-5306 (press 2). Follow the voice prompts and have your employee ID ready.
  • Email:

Find more information on Payroll Services on PHC Connect.

Tip #8: Know where to find your vacation estimate

Your vacation balance can be found on your electronic pay statement and is shown as “even” (e.g. 2020) and “odd” (e.g. 2019) years to indicate the year in which it is to be taken. Your vacation balance will show the hours that you’ve taken and your year-to-date balance. Vacation is deducted once the hours have been processed through Payroll.

Your vacation entitlement can also be found under the ‘Estimated Vacation Hours’ column on the vacation estimate sheet sent to your leader/manager. This sheet should be printed out and placed in the vacation binder for your home unit.

To find out the exact number of vacation days you have, contact Payroll (see above for contact details).

Tip #9: Talk to your colleagues, especially those senior to you, about their vacation plans

Hand-in-hand with knowing your vacation entitlement and the quota for your unit/department or area, talking to your colleagues about their vacation plans, especially around the hot zones of Christmas and summer, will help to avoid disappointment. For example, if your unit quota is three and you know that three senior nurses want Christmas week off, your request for Christmas week off will not be approved.

Tip #10: Know how you accrue vacation

Your vacation is accrued from July 1 to June 30 each year. These hours are what you use to schedule your vacation for the following year, and are based on your number of years of service at PHC (e.g., 2020 vacation accumulates from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020).

Part-time employees accrue vacation pro-rated to their FTE. For example, a nurse with two years’ experience, working a 0.8 FTE rotation, will be entitled to 120 hours (80% of 150 hours).

Tip #11: Get familiar with the lingo

“Vacation entitlement” is your total number of vacation hours you have accrued and that you must take in full by December 31 each year, except as otherwise specified in your collective agreement.

“Vacation estimate” is the estimated total number of vacation hours (your vacation entitlement) that your leader/manager provides you and that you must schedule during annual vacation planning; this is an estimate because over the course of the year, your vacation entitlement may change due to a leave of absence or a change in your FTE. So it is your responsibility to check your vacation entitlement during the year and schedule time off accordingly.

“Vacation quota” is the maximum number of staff who can be off on vacation at any point in time unless a seasonal or bed closure allows more staff to be off without replacement. See tip #6 above on why this matters in your vacation planning.

“Hold back days” is vacation time that you’re not required to schedule during annual vacation planning, and it varies depending on your collective agreement. Staff should “hold back” vacation days so they have options for last-minute trips or really any time they wish to take off that is not known at the time of annual vacation planning. Requests for held-back time are considered on a first-come, first-serve basis in accordance with departmental guidelines or the operational needs (quotas) of the unit/department, including the number of relief staff available to backfill vacation at regular rates.

A “block” is an uninterrupted number of shifts off on vacation. Any time back at work in between vacation periods results in another block and must be submitted as another vacation choice.

“Seniority” is defined as seniority within the hospital/area of work, specific to the union in which the employee is currently a member.

“Padding” is any additional vacation hours accrued above a part-time employee’s FTE. These additional vacation hours are not able to be taken within a part-time employee’s rotation. As a result, Staffing will schedule these additional hours into the employee’s schedule to be paid out. This process is called Padding. Padding does not apply to staff under the Nurses collective agreement.

Tip #12: Know how Seniority affects your vacation

Vacation is granted by seniority for each choice. This means that a junior persons’ first choice takes precedence over the senior person’s second choice. But, if you do not make your vacation choices within the designated time frame, you forfeit your seniority rights for that vacation round.

Tip #13: Know where to go for more information

For more information, check out:

Tip #14: Changes to pre-approved vacation or vacation carry-over are not allowed

We want you to take your well-earned vacation. We also need to adhere to our timelines and operational needs to ensure safe patient care. This is why changes to pre-approved vacation are not allowed; only in exceptional circumstances and by mutual agreement between your Manager and HR will changes be considered.

The 24/7 nature of our work takes its toll on our staff so we expect you to take all of your vacation. This is why we don’t allow you to carry over your vacation (i.e. vacation earned in one calendar year that was not taken in the calendar year it was intended for); however, if additional vacation is accrued as a result of operational needs, and with approval from HR, you may carry over this additional time as long as it is taken by March 31 of the following year.

Tip #15: Quick refresher on the exact steps you need to take

Now that you know the ins and outs of annual vacation planning, here’s a quick step-by-step:

  1. Check your vacation entitlement and contact Payroll if there is a discrepancy.
  2. Sign up for vacation selection by seniority.
  3. Use pencil to indicate your requests on the 2020 Unit Schedule provided and make sure they are clearly marked (e.g. May 10, 2020 – June 10, 2020) to assist the Vacation Planning team and minimize potential errors.
  4. Complete a Vacation Planning Request Form and submit it to your leader/manager.
  5. Remember to indicate the number (#) of the choice on the form (i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd).
  6. Submit an alternate choice for each selection.

In closing, while taking annual vacation is a treat, planning for it is no easy task. We know that there is a lot of information for you to stay on top of when submitting your requests, and, for our Vacation Planning team, whose goal is to make every effort to grant you your preferred choice, there are a lot of inputs to be weighed and calculated. The team needs to go through the vacation approval process for each request in accordance with your collective agreement and PHC vacation guidelines, while ensuring the appropriate number of skilled staff on each shift of each day.

When we can effectively plan for known vacancies, it helps to better equip us to deal with the unknown that contribute to workload issues for all staff. By planning in advance, you help us provide adequate staffing levels during peak and non-peak vacation periods.

So, please start thinking about what your time off will look like next year and here’s to wishing you a smooth vacation scheduling experience for 2020!

If you have any questions about any of the information above, please connect with your leader/manager, or email the PHC Vacation Planning team at


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