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Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday – are they public holidays?

With the collaboration of Yosie Saint-Cyr

easter holidays ontario canada provincial quebec good friday easter sunday easter monday

This year, Good Friday falls on April 22, 2011; April 24 is Easter Sunday; and April 25 is Easter Monday. These holidays are also Christian holidays. Orthodox Easter usually falls on dates different than the Western Christian Easter because the Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian Calendar. However, this year, it falls on the same day, a phenomenon that will next occur in 2014.

Easter, also called Pascha, is the most important religious feast in the Orthodox and Western Christian liturgical year.

In addition, the Jewish holiday Passover began at sunset Monday, April 18, and continues through April 26. The first two days (April 19–20) and last two days (April 25–26) are holy days. During these days (starting from the previous sundown), observant Jews are prohibited from doing “melacha”, which translates roughly as “creative accomplishment”, and includes turning lights on or off, driving, writing, using the telephone, handling money or using a computer. The days are spent in synagogue prayer and family meals. Employers must accommodate Jewish employees by giving them time to leave work early to prepare for the holiday, and to take the holy days off. In the intermediate days work is permitted.

Employers, do you know what the law requires?

Good Friday

This day is a public (statutory) holiday and also a retail holiday. That means employees get a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay (depending on the jurisdiction). If the employee is required to work on the holiday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date (depending on the jurisdiction). In addition, the Retail Business Holidays Act and other similar legislation (depending on the jurisdiction) states Good Friday is to be observed as a holiday and all shops, other than those defined as exempt, are required to be closed on this day. For specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

To Christians, be they Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant, Good Friday is a movable religious holiday falling on Friday before Easter Sunday. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, whom Christians believe to be their Messiah and the son of the Most High. According to the Gospels, Jesus was put to death on the Friday before Easter Day to save mankind.

Easter Sunday

Under the authority of the Shops’ Closing Act, the Retail Business Holidays Act and other similar legislation (depending on the province or territory of employment), Easter Sunday is to be observed as a holiday and all shops, other than those defined as exempt, are required to be closed on that day. For specifics for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

This day celebrates the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion on Good Friday. For two millennia, the Christian Church has held that Jesus was crucified, died and three days later was bodily resurrected (i.e., returned to life in his original body). This is the church’s foundational belief. Many Christians attend morning or evening church services and may ask some time off but not the whole day off.

Orthodox Christians celebrate this day in observance of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. The Paschal Service consists of Paschal Matins, Hours and Liturgy, which traditionally begins at midnight of Pascha morning. Immediately after the Liturgy, it is customary for the congregation to share a meal. Traditionally, Easter eggs, hard-boiled eggs dyed bright red to symbolize the spilt Blood of Christ and the promise of eternal life, are cracked together to celebrate the opening of the Tomb of Christ.

Easter Monday

In Quebec, if an employer has not accommodated employees on Good Friday, the employees get a day off with regular pay on Easter Monday. The employer may choose which day off it prefers. If the employee is still required to work on Easter Monday and did not receive a day off on Good Friday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date. Note that some federally regulated companies recognize Easter Monday as a holiday.

Early Christians celebrated the days immediately following Easter—the most important holy day in the Christian church—by telling jokes, playing pranks and feasting on lamb. On Easter Monday morning, men would wake their wives with a spritz of the perfumed Easter water as they whispered, “May you never wither”. On Easter Tuesday, women would return the favour as they awakened their husbands with a bucketful of the scented water! This is not a religious holiday that requires accommodation.

Floater days and greater benefits

Easter Sunday and Monday are not public (statutory) holidays requiring the employer to give a day off with public holiday pay. However, some employers may provide these days as public holidays or allow employees to use them as floater days.

Christina Catenacci and Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editors

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, B.A., LL. B., LL.M.,has been the content editor to The Human Resources Advisor Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions (print and electronic) published by First Reference Inc. since February 2005. Christina obtained her Professional LLM specializing in Labour Relations and Employment Law from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in 2013. Read more
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