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The holiday season is upon us. Many people use this time to take a break from work, to travel and to visit with friends and family. If you are an employee in Ontario, you may be wondering whether your employer is respecting the rules around public holidays when providing you with time off.

The summary below will help to explain your rights under Ontario’s employment standards legislation.

Public Holidays

Three of Ontario’s annual public holidays (often referred to as “statutory holidays”) will take place within the next two weeks. These are:

  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Boxing Day (December 26)
  • New Year’s Day (January 1)

In accordance with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) most employees are entitled to take these days off work and be paid public holiday pay. While your employer cannot compel you to work on these days, you can agree electronically or in writing to work on the holiday, in which case you would be paid as follows:

  • public holiday pay plus premium pay (1.5 times the regular rate of pay) for all hours worked on the public holiday and not receive another day off;
    or
  • be paid your regular wages for all hours worked on the public holiday and receive another substitute holiday for which you must be paid public holiday pay.

Public Holiday Rules Do Not Apply to All Industries

If you work in one of the following types of businesses, your employer can require you to work on a public holiday, but only if the holiday falls on a day that you would normally work and if you are not on vacation:

  • hotels, motels and tourist resorts;
  • restaurants and taverns;
  • hospitals and nursing homes;
  • continuous operations (which are operations that do not stop or close more than once a week (Example: an oil refinery or an alarm-monitoring company).

In most of these cases, your employer would elect either of the following

  • pay you public holiday pay plus premium pay (1.5 times the regular rate of pay);
    or
  • pay you your regular wages for all hours worked on the public holiday andreceive another substitute holiday for which you must be paid public holiday pay.

However, some employees work in jobs that are not covered by the public holiday provisions of the ESA. To determine whether your job is covered, or if special rules apply to your situation, check out the Guide to employment standards special rules and exemptions.

If a Public Holiday Falls on a Weekend

If the public holiday falls on a day that you would normally not work or on a day when you are on vacation, your employer must provide you with another day off with public holiday pay.

However, contrary to common belief, this day does not need to be the working day immediately preceding or following the public holiday. In fact, your employer can schedule this substitute day off any time within the three months following the public holiday. In this case, your employer would need to provide you with a written statement before the public holiday which sets out the day that is substituted for the public holiday.

General Holidays for Federally Regulated Employees

The rules regarding public holidays (or “general holidays”) differ slightly for employees who work in federally regulated workplaces. For instance, if you work in a federally regulated industry and if Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday or a Sunday that is a non-working day for you, you are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday.

Takeaways and More Information

For information regarding the formula for calculating public holiday pay, or if you have any questions about how public holiday rules apply in your situation, please contact Sultan Lawyers PC by telephone at 416-214-5111 or by email at mlahert@sultanlawyers.com. Our team of knowledgeable employment lawyers regularly helps employees navigate the legal aspects of their employment relationship.

 


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