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What Family Day Really Costs

February 15, 2013
Karla Thorpe

Leadership and Human Resources Research

On Monday, most people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island will get the day off work. (British Columbia celebrated Family Day last Monday for the first time in 2013). “Family Day” is a relatively new statutory holiday in Canada. It was established to give people an extra day to spend with their families—to enjoy some outdoor winter activities or just have a day at home to hibernate. It gives workers a break during the lengthy three month period between New Years and Easter.

Family Day is clearly a big hit with workers. But what about with employers? Paying for a day off costs employers roughly $206 per full-time worker and $62 per part-time worker. This adds up to $3.3 billion in wages. There is a price to pay in terms of productivity as well. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that a national statutory holiday can potentially cost the country about $6.9 billion in lost productivity.

The true cost of Family Day will certainly be lower since it is not recognized in all provinces and does not apply to federal workers. Also, with our increasingly connected workforce, many people will still be working over the long weekend. A 2011 report by The Conference Board of Canada, Work and Life: The Balancing Act, noted that 1 in 10 Canadians bring their BlackBerry with them on vacation and almost 1 in 4 check work-related e-mail or phone messages while away from work.

But can taking a day off work actually increase our productivity? Over the years, many research studies have shown that people are actually more productive, in terms of the amount and quality of output, when they get regular time off work to relax and recharge. Studies by organizations such as Ernst & Young, have found that employees who regularly take vacation perform better at work and are less likely to leave their employer. Skipping lunch and burning the midnight oil isn’t productive either. People need adequate amounts of sleep and breaks during the day to function at their best.

So before we collectively start complaining about the cost of another day off, just remember that it will make us even more productive next week.


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