Public Holidays

If you work for a company, which is governed by the provincial legislation, you may be qualified for a public holiday. There are nine public holidays under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. In other words, you get paid your normal wages even when you don’t work on these days. The public holidays are New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Some employers may pay for more holidays than required under the said Act such as Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Civic Holiday or Remembrance Day.

Employees are entitled to public holiday whether they are full-time, part-time, permanent or on a limited term contract. It does not matter how long they have been employed with the company or how many days they have worked. Even if you are not entitled to public holiday, you may still be entitled to 1.5 times the hourly rate for hours worked on public holiday.

The employee may agree to work on a public holiday and receive another day off in lieu of public holiday in addition to normal wages for that day. The employer also pays for the substituted day for the public holiday or if the employer chooses may pay the employee at the rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate for the hours worked on public holiday in addition to normal wages for that day.

Some employees are exempted from the provision of public holiday. If the employer claims that the employee is exempted, the employee may confirm with the Ministry of Labour or by contacting the writer.

Generally, the employees are entitled to public holiday unless they fail to work on a day before or after the public holiday without reasonable cause or fail to work entire shift on a public holiday without reasonable cause if they agreed to do so.

Reasonable cause is defined as circumstances beyond the control of an employee such as illness or family emergency. The employer may request evidence to support such a claim. In order to qualify for a public holiday, the employee must work on a scheduled day before the public holiday and the day after the public holiday unless he/she was unable to do so because of circumstances beyond his/her control. It does not mean that they must work on a day before the public holiday but that whatever day they were supposed to work before the public holiday, they must work that day. Likewise, they must work whatever day they were supposed to work after the public holiday.

Public holiday pay is calculated by adding wages earned in four weeks prior to public holiday divided by twenty. Four weeks are not necessarily four calendar weeks prior to public holiday but rather four weeks based on the employer’s workweek. If the public holiday falls on a day, which is not his/her normal working day or when the employee is on vacation, the employer will substitute the public holiday with another day off.

Most employees have a right to refuse to work on a public holiday. If the employee agrees in writing to work on a public holiday, he/she can change his/her mind by giving the employer at least 48 hours written notice. By doing so, he/she still retains the right to public holiday. However, if he/she fails to do so, he/she may be entitled to 1.5 times the hourly rate if he/she works only partial hours on public holiday. He/She is not entitled to public holiday.

Some employees are required to work on a public holiday if they work in hotels, motels, tourist resorts, restaurants and taverns, hospital and nursing homes and continuous operations.

If the employment relationship ends before the employee has taken a substitute day off, the employer must pay public holiday pay in addition to other wages on the scheduled day.

This information is provided only for guidance and may not be considered as a legal advice.

This article is provided by Rajinder K. Batra, who is a retired Employment Standards Officer with the Ministry of Labour with 15 years experience in these matters.

If you have any questions regarding your employment, please contact the writer by e-mail at esaconsulting@hotmail..com.

If you don’t have access to e-mail; you can fax your question at (905) 331-1805.

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