2020 People Report

Humi's Canadian HR Benchmark Report

2020 has not been an easy year for Canadian businesses. We were hit by a global pandemic and an economic downturn (which we are still in).  
A staggering number of Canadian workers were laid off. Teams needed to learn to work together digitally or at a distance. Employee mental health and well-being became an even greater concern for businesses as isolation drastically restricted social interaction and engagement.

If there's anything that 2020 has taught us, it's that we need to prepare for a digital future. We hope that this year's People Report helps you understand where Canadians stand when it comes to HR and guides decision-making as you prepare for this upcoming year.

Let’s dive in

Employee Time Off

Illustrative graph of employee vacation where employees took 40% less time off in 2020 compared to 2019.

How much time off did people take in 2020?

In Canada, vacation (time or pay) is an employee right, not a luxury, and businesses need to prepare management teams to proactively plan for outstanding balances well before year-end.

We’ve seen a steep decline in time off requests in Humi (40% less requests in summer 2020 vs summer 2019), primarily due to restrictions on travel. This supports the notion that vacation is still seen by many (employers and employees) as a luxury and not a necessity.

That said, the pandemic has had a major impact on job security, which raises the question as to whether or not the decline of time off requests is due to the fear of reprimand, work overload due to layoffs in the workplace, or a combination of both. 

What should employers do?

It’s your responsibility to make sure your employees take their vacation. Depending on your policy, this may mean actual vacation time or vacation pay.

To prepare both your business and employees, you should have workplace policies that outline your approach to vacation requests, carry-over, and vacation pay-out in lieu of time taken.

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) determines the minimum vacation entitlement a provincially regulated employee can receive each year.

Each province across Canada has minimum statutory requirements for vacation, outlined in the applicable employment legislation. The legal landscape and requirements for companies who are provincially regulated in Canada can be complex; it is important to check with your provincial guidelines to confirm. An employment agreement or contract can provide more than the statutory minimums, but never less.

While an individual may not take vacation time in a given year, it doesn’t alleviate the company from its obligations of vacation pay.

Here’s a complete list of provincial employment and labour legislature:

Note: qualified or registered practitioners (eg. dentists, architects, lawyers, etc.), and Federal employees are exempt from applicable employment standards legislation.

Tips for employers

  1. Communicate your policies well in advance of year-end.
  2. Proactively manage employee vacation requests and enforce vacation if needed.
  3. Adopt a tool that enables your employees to manage requests online.

Bar chart of time off requests by month and by day of the week where July, August, and January are the top 3 months, and Friday and Mondays are the top 2 days in the week.

The number of sick day requests were consistent across 2020. However, our data shows that in the months leading up to the lockdown due to COVID-19, the number of sick day requests were drastically higher compared to the remainder of the year.

Gender in the Workplace

Diversity matters.

Though businesses have come a long way when it comes to gender diversity, there's still a lot of work to be done. Women continue to be underrepresented at the C-Suite and Board of Directors level. Although dual-working households are increasingly the norm, today’s workforce has clearly not caught up.

Illustrative chart of gender distribution in organizations, where women held 21% of c-suite positions, and companies with female leadership has more female employees compared to those without.

According to our data, when there's at least one woman on the C-suite team, there's on average 8% more women on the team in total, which validates that female leadership representation matters.

Why should employers focus on gender diversity?

A diverse workplace builds a strong business. It helps organizations better understand their customers and products, and it enables employees to bring their best selves to work.

When women see themselves reflected in leadership at any level, it confirms that opportunity is possible. Finding employees who are both committed to the purpose of the business and who aspire to lead is paramount to business success. By focusing on inclusive practices that create a diverse workplace, organizations provide opportunity and advancement for employees and Canadian businesses.

Lastly, we know that working parents, especially working mothers, are highly affected by the pandemic. Because of this, employers need to prepare for a change in workplace demographics and embrace policies that support the creation of a balanced workforce.

Advice for working women

Know your rights as an employee, understand your options during transitional times, communicate your boundaries, and discuss options with your employer to understand the flexibility and workplace accommodations that are available to you.

Bar chart of gender distribution in terminations by month, where 49% was male and 42% was female in 2020.
Line chart of monthly salary change where the average salary dropped in February and March.

Our data demonstrates that more men than women were laid off in 2020; however without further analysis, it is challenging to determine the root cause. With male representation 5% -20% higher in the workplace than women (as our report outlines in the section above), this is likely one of the drivers. When we also consider the undisclosed segment of the data, it is likely that an aggregate amount of women were displaced in 2020 in comparison to men.

Heat map of gender distribution by province.
Illustrative graph of gender distribution in tech where women made up 30% of the tech workforce in 2020.

While women in technology have notoriously been underrepresented, we would have liked to see this statistic make movement in 2020. Our data confirms that there is still work to do to increase the representation of women in tech.

Generational Employee Retention

Generational differences with employee retention

In the workplace, we’re seeing a shift in mentality in terms of what's valuable to workers. There was an evolution in the workplace during the 80s, 90s, and 00s that highlighted the importance of tenure. One reason for this is due to the increase in popularity of unions in the workforce. Because employees were rewarded for time served (in both unionized and non-unionized environments) during the Baby Boomer generation, an emphasis on tenure at a company was created. This is also represented in our retention data.

It's becoming more evident that the next generation of workers care more about the experience gained in a role than tenure with an employer.

We're also learning that employer brand matters now more than ever. How an organization lives its values, its emphasis on work-life balance, and celebrating individuality are all important elements to Gen Z and impact decisions to choose to work at an organization.

Bar chart of average time in role where Millennials are 24% shorter than Baby Boomers, and Gen Z is 15% shorter than Baby Boomers.

Advice for employers

The pandemic has impacted those in the workplace with less work experience, more precarious work (e.g. contract workers), and those who work in industries adversely affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality & tourism, food & beverage, or entertainment. Employers who are in a position to hire should consider opportunities such as paid internship programs or rotational programs to provide opportunities to the next generation of workers who have less work experience but relevant skills to their business. 

Digital HR

Why should employers digitize employee onboarding?

Poor employee onboarding can be extremely costly, especially when organizations spend a ton of time on administrative work. There are also other potential repercussions of poor employee onboarding – slower time to productivity and early loss of a new hire.

That's why it's vital for HR leaders to digitize employee onboarding, especially now, enabling them to focus on getting their new hire up-to-speed and retaining them.

Digitizing employee onboarding also enhances communication and “pre-boarding” experiences with other colleagues, and creates better compliance practices by saving time and headache of tracing physical documents.

Bar chart of most common digital custom reports where the top 3 report types are Time off taken on a per period basis, Payroll month end accruals, and Document signature log.

Bar chart of most common document types where employee handbooks, health and safety policies, and confidentiality agreements are the top 3 document types.

It’s more important than ever that employees have access to the documents they need to make decisions related to employment. In addition to the standard documents (employee handbooks, health and safety, etc), it’s clear that there’s a demand for a new kind of policy surrounding COVID-19.

It’s also important to highlight that there’s an ever-increasing need for organizations to focus on diversity and inclusion policies, as we reported that only 1% of companies have a digital diversity and inclusion policy.


The average Canadian salary dropped during the start of the pandemic.

The average Canadian salary dropped 4.5% during the COVID-19 pandemic, from $61,212 in January to $58,428 in July.

This could be a result of employees taking a pay cut to stay employed when their workplace is struggling financially, high-paying employees are were laid off, or employers on average could be paying less than they normally would for a role due to budget limitations.

Illustrative graph of salary change where the average Canadian salary dropped 4.5% during the pandemic.


A message from Humi's Director of HR

When we look at what changed in the workplace this year, one thing is astoundingly clear: the digital experience matters. We’ve seen an overwhelming need for digital HR tools to drive impactful work and better decision-making across all areas of human resources and people operations.

Our data confirms that representation makes a difference when considering gender diversity in the workplace, and that vacation requests have drastically changed in the face of the global pandemic, which has a big impact on both the employer and the employee. 

COVID-19 has brought on drastic changes for Canadian businesses and employees. In order to adapt to the change and stay connected with teams, it’s crucial that businesses and leaders alike are prepared with the proper workplace policies, paired with digital HR tools, to support the workforce during the pandemic and beyond. HR leaders have the opportunity to use workplace data to be a true business partner and shape positive change at work.

– Andrea Bartlett, Director of HR @ Humi

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About the People Report

This is an annual Canadian HR benchmark report created by Humi, who serves thousands of businesses across the country. The report's mission is to educate and inspire Canadians in creating great workplaces by providing relevant data and insight.

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