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Holiday bonuses top employee wish list, employers say ‘bah humbug’: Study

December 5, 2019
By Talent Canada Staff

There is a clear disconnect between the gifts workers want this holiday season and what they are expecting their employers to provide. Photo: Getty Images

What do Canadian workers want from their employers this holiday season? The answer is, overwhelmingly, a bonus.

But the number of employees actually expecting to receive one is underwhelming, showing a clear disconnect between the wish list of workers and the gifts bosses will be handing out, according to a new study from ADP Canada conducted by Leger. More than one-half of workers (54 per cent) want a bonus yet only 15 per cent expect to get one, it found.

So what are employers offering? The most common perks are:

  • Holiday party (40 per cent)
  • Holiday gifts (16 per cent)
  • Additional time off (14 per cent)

Employees certainly appreciate the additional time off – it’s on the wish list for 33 per cent of staff – and nearly one-quarter want a gift. The shine has come off the annual holiday party, though, with barely one-in-five (22 per cent) indicating a desire to go to a company shindig.


“This study highlights the importance of having open conversations with employees regarding holiday rewards and incentives to manage employee expectations,” said Heather Haslam, vice-president of marketing at ADP Canada. “By taking the time to gain a better understanding of what employees want and how they prefer to be rewarded, employers can help increase employee satisfaction and engagement.”

Interesting, 11 per cent of respondents would actually prefer their employer do nothing for them to mark the holidays. Charitable donations and activities ranked at the bottom of what employees want and what employers are doing – only seven per cent of employers plan to participate in a charitable activity and just eight per cent of employees are interested.

Regional results 

Atlantic Canada

  • Most likely to get a financial bonus (23 per cent versus a 15 per cent national average)
  • Highest percentage of respondents who indicated they would prefer a financial bonus (63 per cent versus a 54 per cent national average)
  • Most likely to say they’d love a little more vacation time (37 per cent versus a 28 per cent national average)


  • Most likely to receive a reward during the holidays (69 per cent versus a 61 per cent national average)
  • Quebec employers were most likely to throw a holiday party (51 per cent versus a 40 per cent national average) and most likely to close their offices over the holidays (50 per cent versus a 45 per cent national average)

Manitoba and Saskatchewan

  • Most likely to be expected to come into the office (52 per cent versus a 39 per cent national average)
  • Most likely to indicate their employer does nothing for the staff over the holidays (45 per cent versus a 32 per cent national average)


  • Highest percentage of participants were expected to work over the holidays (59 per cent versus a 51 per cent national average)

British Columbia

  • Participants in British Columbia were most likely to get extra vacation time as a reward (21 per cent versus a 14 per cent national average)
  • B.C. residents were most likely to be expected to check email over the holidays despite their office being closed (17 per cent versus a 12 per cent national average)

The survey was conducted online between Nov. 1 and Nov. 4, 2019. It attracted 1,562 responses from Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this sample size is plus or minus 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20. The percentages above are drawn from the 906 respondents who were employed.

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