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Family Day February 18: Which provinces have a day off with pay?

Family Day, Monday, February 18 is celebrated in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Family Day (may have a different name depending on the jurisdiction) is recognized as a public (statutory) holiday in these provinces and employees get the day off with pay, if eligible.

Statutory (public) holiday

Although the above noted provinces celebrate Family Day on the same day (the third Monday in February), an employee’s entitlement is governed by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the employee works. Employment standards legislation and regulations establish minimum standards of employment for most employers and employees working in a specific jurisdiction. However, employers and employees (or their agents, such as unions) may agree to more favourable (and different) terms in their employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.

To be eligible for a public holiday, employees typically need to meet certain requirements, such as working a minimum number of hours or days in a given period prior to the holiday. The rules regulating the treatment of public holidays are different in each province.

Below is a brief overview of legal requirements and issues surrounding Family Day in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba (known as Louis Riel Day), Nova Scotia (known as Heritage Day), Ontario, Prince Edward Island (known as Islander Day), Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Note: This blog post is just a reminder. There are exemptions, special rules, greater benefits and additional requirements found in the law and accompanying regulations. Such information can be found in our payroll publication PaySource, which is a comprehensive source for Canadian payroll compliance information. Click here to try PaySource free for 30 days!

Information can also be found in The Human Resources Advisor, Ontario, Western and Atlantic Editions. Click here to try HRA online free for 30 days.

1. Alberta

In Alberta, to qualify for the day off with general holiday pay, employees must:

  • work their scheduled shift before and after the holiday (unless employer consent is given for the absence)
  • work on the general holiday if required and scheduled to do so

If an eligible employee doesn’t work on Family Day, then they are entitled to general holiday pay of an amount that is at least their average daily wage. Average daily wage is calculated as 5% of the employee’s wages, general holiday pay and vacation pay earned in the four weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

If an employee works on Family Day, then the employee is entitled to general holiday pay of an amount that is equal to:

  • at least their average daily wage, and at least 1.5 times their wage rate for each hour worked on that day, or
  • the standard wage rate for each hour worked on the general holiday and a day off with pay where the pay is at least as much as their average daily wage

2. British Columbia 

To qualify for this statutory holiday, an employee must have been employed for 30 calendar days before the statutory holiday, and must have worked or earned wages on 15 of the 30 days immediately before the statutory holiday. Note: Employees who work under an averaging agreement or variance at any time in the 30 days before the holiday do not have to meet the 15-day requirement.

An employee who is entitled to a statutory holiday must be paid at least an “average day’s pay”. An eligible employee is entitled to be paid an average day’s pay when the employee is given a day off on a statutory holiday, or it falls on a regular day off. When an eligible employee works on a statutory holiday, they are entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for the first 12 hours worked and double-time for any work over 12 hours, plus an average day’s pay.

To calculate an average day’s pay: Divide “total wages” earned in the 30 calendar days before the statutory holiday by the number of days worked. Note: Vacation days taken during this period count as days worked.

“Total wages” include wages, commissions, statutory holiday pay and vacation pay but not overtime pay.

Where an employee is not eligible for statutory holiday pay, they are not entitled to be paid an average day’s pay. If an ineligible employee works on a statutory holiday the employee may be paid as if it were a regular workday.

3. Manitoba

In Manitoba, employees do not have to work a certain length of time before they qualify for general holiday time and pay. All employees receive general holiday and pay unless:

  • They are scheduled to work on a general holiday, but are absent without the employer’s permission
  • They are absent without the employer’s permission from their last scheduled workday before the holiday, or their first scheduled workday after the holiday.

General holiday pay can be calculated in two ways:

  1. Employees who consistently work the same number of hours get one regular workday’s pay as general holiday pay.
  2. For employees whose hours of work or wages vary, general holiday pay is calculated at 5% of the gross wages (not including overtime) in the four-week period immediately before the holiday.

Employees who work on a general holiday are usually entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for the hours worked on that day, in addition to their general holiday pay.

When a general holiday falls on a weekday that the employee does not usually work, the employer is required to give the employee a normal workday off with general holiday pay. This must be given prior to the employee’s next vacation, or at another time agreed to by the employee.

4. Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, to have a day off with pay, employees must:

  • be entitled to receive pay for at least 15 of the 30 calendar days before the holiday; and
  • have worked on their last scheduled shift or day before the holiday and on the first scheduled shift or day after the holiday.

If an employee qualifies for the holiday and is given the day off, the employer must pay a regular day’s pay for that holiday. If the employee’s hours of work change from day to day, or if wages change from pay to pay, the employer should average hours or wages over 30 days to calculate what to pay the employee for the holiday.

Note: If the holiday falls on an employee’s regular day off, the employee is entitled to another day off with pay.

An employee who works on the holiday and who qualifies to be paid holiday pay is entitled to receive both of the following:

  • the amount the employee would have normally received for that day; and
  • 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of wages for the number of hours worked on that holiday.

Family Day is also a designated retail closing day in Nova Scotia under the Retail Business Designated Day Closing Act and the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act.

5. Ontario

In Ontario, most employees who qualify for Family Day are entitled to take the day off work and be paid public holiday pay. Generally speaking, most employees will get a public holiday off with pay, however, employees may not automatically be entitled to Family Day. There are certain categories of employees who may not have the right to the day off. Therefore, it would be important to communicate entitlement to employees through a policy.

It does not matter how recently employees were hired, or how many days they worked before the public holiday (although that can affect the amount of their public holiday pay).The employee would not be entitled to Family Day if he or she failed, without reasonable cause, to work all of his or her last regularly scheduled day of work before Family Day or all of his or her first regularly scheduled day of work after Family Day or failed without reasonable cause to work his or her entire shift on the public holiday if the employee agreed to or was required to work that day.

The amount of public holiday pay that an employee is entitled to effective July 1, 2018, and confirmed in law January 1, 2019, is: The total amount of regular wages earned and vacation pay payable to the employee in the four workweeks immediately before the workweek in which the holiday occurred, divided by 20.

If an employee agrees electronically or in writing to work on the public holiday, there are two options:

  1. the employee is entitled to receive regular wages for all hours worked on the public holiday, plus a substitute day off work with public holiday pay; or
  2. if the employee agrees electronically or in writing, they are entitled to public holiday pay for the public holiday plus premium pay for all hours worked on the public holiday. In this case, the employee will not be given a substitute day off.

Family Day was also made a public holiday under Ontario’s Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA). Most retail outlets must close on a day that is a holiday under that RBHA (with exceptions, i.e., the City of Toronto).

6. Prince Edward Island

In Prince Edward Island, in order to qualify for the day off, with pay, employees must:

  • be employed at least 30 calendar days prior to the holiday;
  • have earned pay on at least 15 of the 30 calendar days prior to the holiday; and
  • have worked their last scheduled shift prior to the holiday and first scheduled shift after the holiday.

An employee who qualifies for the paid holiday, but is not scheduled to work on that day, is entitled to the day off with the employee’s regular day of pay.

An employee who qualifies for the paid holiday, but is not scheduled to work on that day because the paid holiday falls on a day that is not the employee’s normal workday, is entitled to another day off with the employee’s regular day of pay.

An employee who qualifies for the paid holiday and who also works on that day, must be paid either:

  • the regular pay received for that day plus 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for the hours worked on the paid holiday; or
  • the regular pay received for that day plus another day off with the employee’s regular day of pay on a date agreed upon by the employer and employee before the employee’s next paid vacation.

Note: An employee who has an arrangement with his or her employer where the employee may elect to either work or not work when requested, does not qualify.

7. Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, an employee who normally works Mondays and is given Family Day off, is entitled to public holiday pay. It does not matter how recently employees were hired, or how many days they worked before they are entitled to public holidays. All employees qualify for public holidays, unless they work in jobs exempt from the public holiday provision of the Employment Act, or work in businesses with special rules.

Most employees’ public holiday pay will equal to 5% of their wages, not including overtime, bonuses and gratuities, earned in the four weeks before the public holiday. Employees earn this pay whether or not they work on the public holiday. It is paid out in the pay period the holiday occurs in.

If employees work on a holiday, including managers, except those engaged in the operation of a well-drilling rig, they are entitled to both public holiday pay and premium pay of 1.5 times their hourly wage for each hour or part of an hour worked. This premium is paid on top of the employee’s public holiday pay for that day.

Employers can apply for a permit from the Director of Labour Standards allowing the public holiday to be observed on another day. If a majority of the employees agree, the director may order that the holiday be observed on another day. If the employees are represented by a trade union, the trade union and the employer may agree, in writing, to observe the public holiday on another day.

8. New Brunswick

To qualify, an employee must:

  • be employed by the employer for at least 90 calendar days (not only workdays) during the 12 months before the public holiday;
  • have worked his or her scheduled regular day of work before and after the holiday (this is not necessarily the day immediately before or after the holiday), unless there is a good reason for not doing so (most reasons related to illness are considered acceptable);
  • if he or she has agreed to work on the public holiday, report for work and work his or her scheduled shift unless there is a good reason for not doing so;
  • not be employed under an arrangement where he or she can decide when to work or not to work; and
  • not be employed in specific occupations exempted by regulation.

An employee who qualifies and does not work on the public holiday must receive his or her regular day’s pay for that day.

An employee who qualifies and works on the public holiday must receive his or her regular day’s pay plus one and one-half times his or her regular wage rate for the hours worked on that day.

All employees are entitled to receive one and one-half times their regular wage rate for each hour worked on a paid public holiday.

How about federally regulated workplaces?

Provincial employment standards legislation does not apply to employees of federally regulated businesses (i.e., banks, telecommunications companies, railways and airlines) or to federal civil servants. These employers are covered by the Canada Labour Code, which does not provide for Family Day. However, federally regulated employers can, at their discretion, add Family Day as a public holiday or floater day in workplace policies.

The other provinces and territories

Employment/labour standards legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon does not provide for Family Day as a public (statutory) holiday. So employees in those provinces and territories do not get a day off with pay. However, employers can, at their discretion, add Family Day as a public holiday or floater day in workplace policies.

Advantages of providing Family Day

It is a relatively easy and cost-efficient way for workplaces to become more family-friendly. It will provide employees the opportunity to spend more time with their families and an additional day to look after household responsibilities.

Have a safe and enjoyable Family Day!

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

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 18 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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