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Ten things Ontario employers need to know about statutory holidays

Statutory holiday rules in Ontario

Statutory holidays, also known as public holidays or “stat” holidays, are days designated by government to mark special occasions or events. In Canada, there are several statutory holidays. Some are national and every province and territory observes the public holiday; some are provincial/territorial holidays, unique to a particular jurisdiction. Typically, a statutory holiday means that workers are entitled to take the day off without losing pay. But this is a general entitlement, with several exceptions and qualifications.

In Ontario, there are nine legislated paid statutory holidays, including New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Boxing Day and Christmas Day. Certain statutory holidays always take place on the same day of the month each year, regardless of the specific date. For example, many stat holidays are defined as a specific Monday of a month. However, others are recognized on specific numerical days of the month.

Here are 10 key aspects of statutory holidays that employers need to know, from the new First Reference compliance and best practice guide Statutory Holiday Rules in Ontario:

  1. Some employees are not entitled to public holidays. Certain groups of employees do not receive stat holidays because the law exempts the kind of work they perform, their profession or the industry or sector they work in. Employers can find a detailed list of the types of employees that are exempt from receiving public holidays in the Statutory Holiday Rules in Ontario guide.
  2. Some employees are subject to special rules. For example, there are special rules for employees who work in the production of women’s coats, dresses, sportswear and suits. There also special rules for the calculation of holiday pay for these employees. The rules depend on whether such employees are paid by the piece or not.
  3. Unique rules apply to temporary help agency assignment employees. For assignment employees, public holiday entitlement depends on whether the holiday falls on a day that is ordinarily a working day for the employee and whether the employee is considered to be on a temporary layoff on that day. A public holiday is considered to fall on a day that is ordinarily a working day for an assignment employee only if the assignment employee is on assignment and the day is normally a working day under the assignment. An assignment employee who is not on assignment on the day the holiday falls is treated as if he or she were on temporary layoff on that day.
  4. Employees who are entitled to a public holiday must receive a day off work and public holiday pay for that day. Public holiday pay is typically the total amount of regular wages earned and vacation pay in the four weeks before the workweek in which the holiday occurred, divided by 20. This is meant to reflect an average day’s pay for the employee.
  5. Employees who work on a statutory holiday must be paid accordingly. Some employees must work or can agree to work on statutory holidays. Employees in this situation are entitled to a premium rate for performing work on the public holiday, in the amount of at least one-and-one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay. This is in addition to the public holiday pay.
  6. Employees who experience a public holiday on a non-working day are entitled to the public holiday. This means that an employee who works normally from Monday to Friday still receives the statutory holiday when the statutory holiday falls on a weekend. It is regular business practice to have the next business day (for instance, Monday) set as the statutory holiday.
  7. Employers and employees can agree to substitute statutory holidays. This could occur so that employees can work on the holiday, because the statutory holiday falls on what would not ordinarily be a work day, or the employee is away from work on vacation or another form of leave. In Ontario, employers and employees can agree that the employee will work on a public holiday, where the employer must pay the employee’s regular wages for the hours worked on the public holiday and substitute another day that would ordinarily be a working day for the employee to take off work and receive public holiday pay. Essentially, there is a complete transfer of all employment standards requirements from the statutory holiday to the substituted day. This requires employee consent with two specific exceptions, detailed in the Statutory Holiday Rules in Ontario guide.
  8. Employees can be disqualified from receiving public holiday pay. For instance, in Ontario, employees can be disqualified if, without reasonable cause, they fail to work all of their last regular scheduled day of work before the public holiday or all of their first regular scheduled day of work after the public holiday, or if they fail to work on a public holiday after having agreed to do so.
  9. Some employees may be required to work on public holidays. Certain groups of employees may be required to work on statutory holidays, including employees who work in a hospital, a continuous operation, a hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant or tavern, if this day would ordinarily be a working day for the employee. The employee could lose the right to substitute a day off work where the employer decides to pay the employee public holiday pay plus premium pay for work on the statutory holiday rather than offering another day off, or if without reasonable cause the employee does not work all of the hours on the statutory holiday as required by the employer.
  10. Some employers provide a greater right or benefit to employees. For example, some employers provide floater days, which are extra holidays that are treated as public holidays. In Ontario, these are typically viewed as non-statutory benefits set out in an employment agreement. This is viewed as providing a greater benefit and the agreement supersedes the legislation. To determine whether they provide a greater right or benefit, employers are recommended to take a look at how many holidays they grant per year, the earnings on which holiday pay is calculated, the period of time over which earnings are averaged, how much time off in lieu employees receive for substituted holidays, and how much employees are paid for working on statutory holiday. Details are found in the Statutory Holiday Rules in Ontario guide.

Employers can learn all about these key elements of Ontario’s employment law with respect to stat holidays and more, in the First Reference Statutory Holiday Rules in Ontario guide. Find out about this and our other handy and easy-to-understand compliance and best practices guides at the First Reference website.

Christina Catenacci
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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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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3 thoughts on “Ten things Ontario employers need to know about statutory holidays
  • Sarah W. says:

    Corlynn, the way I would think it works in most Ontario offices is that you would not have to use a vacation day for July 1 since it’s a stat holiday. For instance, my office closes from Christmas Day until Jan 2. We log our vacation days minus the stat holidays since we get paid for those anyway. We do not get three lieu days for Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.
    This is not official advice, just mentioning how it works here.

  • These blog posts are not meant to provide answers to question specific to a case, but to provide general information on certain issues of interest to employers. Nor are they written on the perspective of employees. There are certain variables a person would need to know before they can answer such a question that are specific to the jurisdiction you are in. But in general, and depending on the jurisdiction, yearly vacation time is exclusive of public holidays that an employee is entitled to. This means, if a public holiday falls during an employee’s vacation, the employee is entitled to be treated the same way for their statutory holiday entitlement as they would be if they were not on vacation. I would suggest you talk to your employer about your rights and to make arrangements about if and when you can substitute the public holiday at a later day or be paid for it, or call the Ministry of Labour in your jurisdiction for more details on your rights.

  • Corlynn O'Brien says:

    This is all very helpful but I can’t find an answer to my dilemma! I will be on vacation June 30-July 4 and will therefore be away for the canada day stat! I am a full time employee on salary working 40 hours per week. My question is, am I entitled to take a day off the following week in lieu of Canada day?