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Civic Holiday/Simcoe Day/First Monday in August: public holiday or not?

aug-holidayEvery year we are asked if the first Monday in August (also referred to as Civic Holiday or Simcoe Day in some jurisdictions) is a public holiday under Employment Standards legislation. Well it depends.

This year, Civic Holiday/Simcoe Day/First Monday in August falls on August 2, 2010.

In British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and the Northwest Territories, the first Monday in August is considered the province’s national day and is a public (statutory) holiday under employment/labour standards legislation. Employees get a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay, depending on the province or territory. 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. For specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

However, in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and federally regulated companies, the first Monday in August may be a discretionary day off with or without pay, but is not a recognized paid public (statutory) holiday under employment/labour standards legislation. Please note, in some provinces such as Manitoba and Alberta, a discretionary holiday must be subject to the same rules as all other public (statutory) general holidays. For specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk. Quebec doesn’t recognize the first Monday of August as a holiday, statutory or otherwise.

For example, in Ontario, Civic Holiday/Simcoe Day/First Monday in August is a municipal holiday that the province generally observes. The holiday is mentioned in a number of Ontario statutes (e.g., The Municipal Act provides that municipal councils can make by-laws proclaiming a civic holiday and requiring the closing of shops on such a day) within the context of giving time off for specific types of employees or of regulating business hours, etc. However, because it is not designated as an official public (statutory) holiday in provincial employment standards or retail business holiday legislation, the Civic Holiday is a workday like any other for thousands of Ontario employees. As a result, public (statutory) holiday rules do not apply.

The concept of a midsummer holiday for a “day of recreation” in Toronto dates as far back as 1869. the House of Commons in England first established it as a Canadian version of a bank holiday in1871. In 1875, the Toronto City Council fixed the first Monday in August as a Civic Holiday. Toronto City Council officially called the holiday “Simcoe Day” after John Graves Simcoe, who was appointed the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada on September 12, 1791. He convened the first legislative assembly and established York (now Toronto) as the capital of the province. Several other Ontario municipalities have chosen to honour a significant local person or organization to help focus the celebration.

Accordingly, in Ontario, the decision to give employees the civic holiday off rests with employers. When employees are given the day off, their employers also decide whether it should be a paid holiday. Governments, banks and unions that have negotiated the vacation into collective agreements or employment contracts enjoy the August civic holiday as a public holiday or floater holiday. Many non-union employers voluntarily treat this as a holiday in the same way that they treat a paid public holiday.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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One thought on “Civic Holiday/Simcoe Day/First Monday in August: public holiday or not?
  • Dunro says:

    Great explanation of the various jurisdictional statutes. At my previous employer (municipality in Ontario), contract staff were not paid for the Civic holiday unless it was included as a benefit. It was in effect an unpaid work closure.