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Statutory Holidays

Statutory holidays are days designated by government to mark or commemorate some special occasion or event. Canada has several statutory holidays; some are national, and every province has some designated statutory holidays as well through labour standards laws. Employees who meet qualifying requirements are entitled to a paid holiday or, if they are required to work, wages paid at a premium rate for work performed. Statutory holidays provide workers with workdays off to enjoy leisure time or engage in other activities without being hurt financially for doing so. Employees who qualify for statutory holidays and holiday pay, but who work on a statutory holiday normally receive a premium wage for the time worked.

What are the statutory holidays in Canada?

Statutory holidays vary by province and territory. There are five statutory holidays that apply to all jurisdictions: New Year's Day, Good Friday (or Easter Monday in Québec), Canada Day (Memorial Day in Newfoundland), Labour Day, and Christmas Day.

In the federal jurisdiction, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the three territories employees who qualify are entitled to nine statutory holidays. Eight statutory holidays are provided in Ontario and Québec, seven in Manitoba, six in New Brunswick, and five in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Do I have to work on a Statutory Holiday if my employer asks me to?

Yes, very few jurisdictions allow employees to refuse to work on a public holiday if their employer requests that they do so. One example of a law that gives some employees the right to refuse to work on a statutory holiday is the Newfoundland Labour Standards Act, which says, "an employer shall not require an employee to work under a contract of service on a public holiday".

Am I eligible for a paid Statutory Holiday?

Every jurisdiction, except Saskatchewan, has rules to establish the conditions an employee must meet before they can get a paid statutory holiday. There are different variations in each jurisdiction, but they fall in five general categories:

  • Length of service – in six provinces and all three territories employees must have been in the service of their employer for a period of 30 days to three months to be entitled to holiday pay.

  • Obligation to work on the holiday if required – in five provinces and all three territories an employee requested to work must do so, or if they do not report to work they forfeit their holiday pay.

  • Obligation to work on the working day preceding/following the holiday – in most jurisdictions employees are required to work on their regularly scheduled working day immediately before and after the statutory holiday in order to get holiday pay.

  • Requirement to have earned wages for a number of days in the period preceding the holiday – in a number of jurisdictions employees are required to have been earning wages for a certain number of days leading up to the holiday in order to qualify for holiday pay.

  • Specific work arrangements and casual employees – in three jurisdictions no holiday pay is owed to employees who can choose whether or not they work when requested to do so by an employer.

These eligibility requirements vary by jurisdiction, please check the provincial or territorial link that is appropriate to you.

What should I be paid if I work on a statutory holiday?

Normally, you should be paid you regular daily wages, plus a premium of time and half for the hours worked on that day. In the federal jurisdiction, New Brunswick, and Ontario, employees who do not qualify for holiday pay must still be paid time and a half for all hours worked on a statutory holiday.

In some jurisdictions an employer may offer their employees another day off with pay instead of time and a half for working statutory holidays. In most jurisdictions where this is the case, the decision is at the discretion of the employer and the day off must be taken at a time mutually convenient to both the employer and the employee.

Do I get paid if I don't work on a Statutory Holiday?

If you meet the eligibility requirements for holiday pay in your jurisdiction then you would be paid an amount that is equivalent to your normal wages for a statutory holiday on which you do not work. In certain circumstances holiday pay may also be paid as a lump sum at the end of the year, based on a percentage of gross annual earnings (usually around 4%).

What if you work a normal day off in the same week as a statutory holiday?

In four jurisdictions (Manitoba and the three territories), employees who have not worked on a statutory holiday, but are required to work on a day that would normally be a day off, in the same week as a statutory holiday are entitled to a premium wage. This is to prevent employers from simply shifting works days, ensuring the intent of the holiday is respected.

What if a statutory holiday occurs on a non-work day?

Most laws regarding statutory holidays say that if the holiday falls on a non-work day that another day off with pay will be provided. There are some exceptions: in Alberta employees are not entitled to any compensation if a holiday falls on a non-work day, in Québec the obligation on the employer is only applied to the National Holiday. Some jurisdictions provide that if specific holidays fall on a Sunday they must be observed the following day.

In all jurisdictions employees are entitled to a compensatory day off if a statutory holiday coincides with their annual vacation. Some jurisdictions give employers the right to pay the employee their normal wages instead of giving them a compensatory day off.

Is it possible to substitute a holiday for another day during the year?

Yes, generally an employer and their employees (or union) must agree to the substitution in writing. In the absence of a union the employer must have the agreement of a majority of the affected employees (70% in the federal jurisdiction).

How do I make a complaint about my work situation?

Learn more about making a complaint in your jurisdiction

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