Canadian Employers Offer Options for Work/Life Balance

June 30, 2010 ( - Many Canadian organizations are offering programs to help employees better balance workplace and personal demands on their time, according to a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates.

At the majority of employers surveyed, flexible work hours, telecommuting, extra paid time off for personal reasons, education leave, and job sharing are the norm for some or all of their salaried full-time employees. Some organizations also offer a compressed work week, sabbaticals, and paid time off for volunteer work.  

The measures are designed to counter the fact that the majority of employees work more than regular full-time hours each week. According to a news release, the 164 organizations who responded to the Hewitt survey in April reported that only one-third of their employees stick to working the regular full-time work week of between 35 and 40 hours. Forty-five percent work one to five hours extra a week, 23% work five to ten hours more, and 1% work ten to 15 additional hours.  

Common work/life offerings among Canadian employers include: 

  • Eighty-six percent of organizations offer flexible work hours for all or a portion of their employee population, although 68% require employees to be on the job for certain core hours of the day;  
  • Seventy-seven percent permit all or some employees to telecommute regularly. Ninety percent of those that do so negotiate the terms with individual employees based on an approved business case;  
  • Seventy-four percent provide extra paid time off for personal reasons in addition to regular vacation time; 
  • Sixty-five percent allow for time off for education leave. Twenty-two percent of organizations that do so provide one to five days off per year, while the majority (56%) make decisions on a case-by-case basis; 
  • Just over half of employers (54%) enable some or all employees to job share;  
  • Forty-three percent of organizations authorize a compressed work week, with only 18% doing so on the basis of the seasonality of the company’s work;  
  • Thirty-six percent offer sabbatical leave. Of those, 54% provide six to 24 months off, while a further 31% assess situations individually. Very few employers (4%) pay employees during a sabbatical, but of those that do, two-thirds allow them to bank a portion of their salary in advance of the leave;  
  • Thirty-two percent of employers support volunteerism by providing employees with extra paid time off. Fifty-six percent of those that do so, allow one to five days per year; 32% have either no set policy, sponsor specific activities, or decide on a case-by-case basis.  


“With so many employees giving up their personal time to their jobs, progressive organizations are willing to offer them a work schedule that enables them to better meet their personal needs,” said Rochelle Morandini, a senior consultant in Hewitt Canada’s organizational health practice.