Public holidays in Canada, known as “statutory holidays”, “stat holidays”, or simply “stats”, are legislated at the national, provincial and territorial levels. Many of these holidays are observed nationwide, but each province and territory has its own holidays as well. While major Christian holidays such as Christmas and Good Friday are officially observed, other religious holidays are widely accepted as well.
For example, some school children and employees take days off for Jewish holidays, Muslim holidays, or Eastern Orthodox observances according to the Julian calendar. While not normally taken off work, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are traditionally observed by Canadians.
Ontario has nine public holidays:
- New Year’s Day
- Family Day
- Good Friday
- Victoria Day
- Canada Day
- Labour Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day (December 26).
Most employees who qualify are entitled to take these days off work and be paid public holiday pay. Alternatively, they can agree in writing to work on the holiday and they will be paid:
- public holiday pay plus premium pay for the hours worked on the public holiday; or
- their regular rate for hours worked on the holiday, plus they will receive another day off (called a “substitute” holiday) with public holiday pay. If the employee has earned a substitute day off with public holiday pay, the public holiday pay calculation is done with respect to the four work weeks before the work week in which the substitute day off falls.
Some employees may be required to work on a public holiday. While most employees are eligible for the public holiday entitlement, some employees work in jobs that are not covered by the public holiday provisions of the ESA. To determine whether a job is covered, or if special rules apply, refer to the Special Rule Tool.
The amount of public holiday pay to which an employee is entitled is all of the regular wages earned by the employee in the four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday plus all of the vacation pay payable to the employee with respect to the four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday, divided by 20.
Regular wages does not include any overtime or premium pay payable to an employee.
While some employers give their employees a holiday on Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, or Remembrance Day, the employer is not required to do so under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
Performing both Covered and Exempt Work
Some employees perform more than one kind of work for an employer. Some of this work might be covered by the public holiday part of the ESA, while another kind of work might be exempt from public holiday coverage.
If an employee performs both kinds of work, exempt and covered, he or she is eligible for the public holiday entitlement with respect to a particular public holiday if at least half of the work performed in the work week of the public holiday is work that is covered.
Here is an example:
Rupert works for a taxi company as both a taxi cab driver (work that is exempt from public holiday coverage) and a dispatcher (work that is covered by the public holiday part of the ESA). In the work week that Canada Day fell, at least half of Rupert’s work was as a dispatcher. Because this work is covered by the public holiday part of the ESA, he is eligible for the public holiday entitlement for Canada Day.
Qualifying for Public Holiday Entitlements
Generally, employees qualify for the public holiday entitlement unless they:
- fail without reasonable cause to work all of their last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday or all of their first regularly scheduled day of work after the public holiday (this is called the “Last and First Rule”); or
- fail without reasonable cause to work their entire shift on the public holiday if they agreed to or were required to work that day.
Most employees who fail to qualify for the public holiday entitlement are still entitled to be paid premium pay for every hour they work on the holiday.
Qualified employees can be full time, part time, permanent or on contract. They can also be students. It does not matter how recently they were hired, or how many days they worked before the public holiday.
The “Last and First Rule”
The “last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday” and the “first regularly scheduled day of work after the public holiday” do not have to be the days right before and right after the holiday.
For example, an employee might not be scheduled to work the day right before or after the holiday. As long as the employee works all of his or her last regularly scheduled shift before the holiday and all of the first one after it, or provides reasonable cause for not working either of those days, he or she meets this qualifying criterion.
An employee is generally considered to have “reasonable cause” for missing work when something beyond his or her control prevents the employee from working. Examples include, but are not limited to: absences related to personal emergency leave (i.e. personal illness, injury or medical emergency, and the death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to certain family members and dependent relatives) as well as absences for family medical leave. Employees are responsible for showing that they had reasonable cause for staying away from work. If they can do so, they still qualify for public holiday entitlements.