Canucks Party Harder at Christmas, Survey Reports

December 1, 2004 ( - Canadians, it seems, aren't quite as reserved as their southern neighbors think, at least when holiday Christmas parties are considered.

This is one of the many findings in a Hewitt Associates report on holiday employer practices. In total, 88% of Canadian employers throw parties for employees, compared to only 75% in the US. This is up from last year, when only 80% of Canadian employers threw a holiday bash.

Canadians aren’t stingy, either. Sixty-eight percent of employers will cover the entire cost of holiday extravagance, and 59% will pay additional costs for invited spouses and significant others. Seventy-nine percent of employers will allow employees to bring such people.

Sixty-nine percent of employers will also throw a children’s holiday party for employees’ families, with 71% covering the entire cost of such fetes.

The number of Canadian companies offering holiday bonuses of some sort still sits at only 33%, up only 1% over last year. Fifty-eight percent have never had such a system, while 9% have cut the program in the past. Reasons for not having such a program range from never having considered using one (49%), to cost (31%), to believing that it does not fit within the company’s philosophy (18%).

Breaking down the bonus systems, 45% of those who offer them hand out gift certificates, 32% provide cash bonuses, and 21% provide employees with some sort of food item. They do so to show their appreciation (58%), because of tradition (21%), and to show good will (18%).

Many of these programs are relatively new, with 53% of organizations asserting that they started these programs after 1990, while 32% said they started after 2000.

Seventy-six percent of Canadian employers spend less than 1% of total payroll on holiday bonuses, with an average of $300 spent on bonuses, $50 on gift certificates, and $25 on food items per employee. Variable pay incentives not tied to the holidays use up much more of Canadian payrolls however, with 13.5% on average going to such incentive programs.

The Hewitt ( ) survey, the 2004 Holiday Bonuses and Gifts Survey, took responses from 117 Canadian organizations.