The Canadian “Holiday Season” - what your company should do in this secular country

2017-11-02_header_Canada Holiday Season.png

With the holiday season just next month, you may be wondering what is expected or traditional in Canada for companies. Compounding this, depending on your industry this may be an extra busy time of year or it could be extra slow. Let's also discuss both the compliance issues to be aware of and also the cultural when you're doing business in Canada.

So what is the "holiday season"? In Canada, this was often synonymous with Christmas (December 25). While Christmas Day was originally a religious holiday, for many people, it is no longer a religious based event but a time to enjoy a few days off with family (there are 2-3 statutory holidays within a week). Complete with cookies, a big dinner, Santa and presents under a tree or in a stocking. Other dates of significance around this time include Christmas Eve (Dec 24), Boxing Day (Dec 26) New Year’s Eve (Dec 31), and New Year’s Day (Jan 01). Children will generally have 1-3 weeks off school.

Statutory Holidays and Time Off

As an employer, there are a few statutory holidays where you will need to either give employees the day off with pay or pay a premium rate. In most of Canada this is Dec 25 and Jan 01 while in Ontario and federally regulated industries it is Dec 25, Dec 26 and Jan 01. Depending on your customers, they may also not be doing business during this time (i.e. offices, manufacturing and professional services) or will want to be using your business even more (e.g. grocery stores in days leading up, retail in weeks leading up, entertainment over the couple weeks kids and adults are off). If you aren't busy, you may want to either encourage employees to take vacation during that time or even have an office/plant shutdown (remember as an employer you can schedule employees' vacation time). Some employers will give additional paid days off or shut the office early on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve plus Boxing Day - this will depend on your corporate culture, company benefits and the business' financial situation. If everyone is off, you can save costs on utilities! Just make sure your customers know well in advance.

Customer Celebrations

Besides adjustments to your working hours, what else happens? Some companies will send cards and gifts to their customers and/or employees. For customers, this depends on the industry norms, culture of customers, customer lifetime value and plans your sales and marketing teams have. Do consider how this will be received by clients, we recommend more neutral greetings like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas". Also, in response to the escalating expense and desire for reducing waste, some companies are doing alternatives like donating to a charity aligned with their or customer values under the customer's name and sending electronic greetings. Again depending on your marketing plan and industry culture, some companies host a party that all their customers and suppliers are invited too. This is a nice way to mingle and also customers can share positive stories about your company together to amplify goodwill.

Employee Celebrations

For your employees, there are a number of fun and culture enhancing activities you could do. Some companies will have their performance bonuses and service awards given during this time or provide a gift like a ham or turkey. With those plus any parties, do check the Canada Revenue Agency guidelines as taxes may be due on the "benefit". For the celebration, it could be a simple catered or potluck lunch to a lavish dinner with alcohol and entertainment (legal tips about alcohol at work events available here). Some companies will have secret santa (especially if smaller workforce or just within a team), where names are either drawn randomly in advance or a gift "stealing" game where they can be traded. If your employees have a lot of children, a kid friendly party may be appreciated (Including Santa, a small gender neutral wrapped gift, and activities like gingerbread decorating and tours to see where mom and dad work!). Another tradition that may better align with your company values is collecting donations for hampers (food, clothes) or toys for underprivileged kids.

With a little planning, this can be a fun and rewarding time of year for your company, customers and employees. Wondering what you should do for your Canadian customers? How best to reward your hardworking employees? Or how to navigate the multicultural Canada this holiday season? Contact BrightGo Solutions including help planning the holidays’ marketing promotion to recognition for your employees. And remember, to have a glass of eggnog and watch the fire log!