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Labour Day, national public holiday in Canada

Sept7Labour Day originated in the labour union movements of the 1800s as a way to celebrate the social and economic advancements and to pay tribute to the driving force of our economy. The history of Labour Day continues to be connected with organized labour. Initially, the first unofficial “Labour Days” in Canada were actually protests against a law that made it a crime to be a member of a union. In 1872, this law was abolished, but various union protests and parades continued, and there was pressure to make Labour Day a national holiday. In 1894, the federal government declared Labour Day a national day of recognition for workers across the country.

This year, Labour Day falls on Monday September 7, 2015. All provinces and territories in Canada observe this public holiday. Government bodies and agencies as well as many businesses are closed on Labour Day.

Employees are given a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay (depending on the province or territory of employment). 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 province or territory). For specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

Note that there are some exemptions, variations and special rules under each jurisdictions employment/labour standards legislation and regulations. It is important that employers, human resources and payroll practitioners understand these rules to avoid violating the law and minimize costs. For example, can you substitute the day of the holiday for another day? What retail or continuous businesses are required to close or may remain open on a public holiday? Are there any qualifying criteria an employee must meet to be entitled to the public holiday with pay? What earnings are included when calculating holiday pay? How is overtime affected by the holiday? For specific requirements for your jurisdiction, consult the Library section of HRinfodesk.

We should also note that Labour Day is also celebrated in other countries. Labour Day is an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights during parades and picnics organized by trade unions.

Happy Labour Day! Enjoy your day off, and the last long weekend of the summer.

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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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