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Public holiday reminders for the 2015-16 holiday season

statutoryholidayscanadaThe holiday season is often the happiest time of the year, because of time spent with family, gifts and many other things. However, it can also be the most stressful time of the year, especially at work. Deadlines are often tight because of shifting schedules, customers and workloads can be more demanding, and there may be pressure to increase performance to meet end-of-year business goals. Family demands, travel and employment standards public holiday (statutory holiday/general holiday) requirements can also take a toll. Management should not forget what employees are entitled to, and their responsibilities, under the law regarding time off during the holidays. Here is a brief summary:

Friday December 25, 2015, Christmas Day, public holiday across Canada: Christmas day is a statutory holiday in all Canadian provinces and territories. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, their Messiah, who they regard as the Son of God. The Christian tradition sees the conception and birth of Jesus as divine events. The festival involves spending time praying and giving thanks in church, and sharing special meals and gifts with family and friends.

Saturday December 26, 2015, Boxing Day, public holiday in Ontario and federally-regulated workplaces: Boxing day is a statutory holiday in Ontario and federally-regulated workplaces. Boxing Day, also known as the Feast of St. Stephen originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. It originated as a holiday for members of the merchant class to give boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to trades people and servants. The gifts were an expression of gratitude similar to the bonuses many employers offer their employees today. These gifts, usually given in boxes, gave the holiday it’s name, “Boxing Day”. Boxing Day falls on a non-working day this year. If Boxing Day falls on a Sunday or Saturday that is a non-working day for an employee, the employee is entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday or the holiday with pay may be added to the employee’s annual vacation or granted at another mutually convenient time.

Friday January 1, 2016, New Years Day, public holiday: According to the Gregorian calendar, used in Canada and many other countries, January 1 is the first day of a new year. This date is commonly known as New Year’s Day and is a statutory holiday in all Canadian provinces and territories. The New Year’s celebrations have roots in ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, both in Europe and by First Nation peoples in what is now Canada. Today, many parties are at people’s homes or in bars and clubs on the evening of December 31. However, in some rural areas, particularly in the province of Quebec, some people spend the night ice fishing with groups of friends. An important symbol of New Year’s Day is the fireworks that are set off to mark the beginning of the New Year at midnight as December 31 becomes January.

Saturday January 2, Bank Holiday in Quebec and some federally-regulated workplaces such as banks: January 2 is not a public holiday but a traditional holiday in the province of Quebec. It also commemorates when the Royal Bank of Canada took over the Quebec Bank. The day after New Year’s Day, which is on January 2 in the Gregorian calendar, is an annual traditional and has become a sort of public holiday for many banks, government offices and employees in the clothing industry in Quebec, Canada. According to the Quebec Labour Standards Code, January 2 is included in a list of holidays that are “non-juridical”. This means that the holiday does not relate to the law or jurisprudence. The day after New Year’s Day marks the end of the Christmas and New Year season. Those who observe the holiday may spend time with family or friends, or have a quiet day of rest. Some people take part in activities such as ice hockey or cross-country skiing. Others spend time ice fishing. Friday is a Saturday this year. If January 2 falls on a Sunday or Saturday that is a non-working day for an employee, the employee is entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday or the holiday with pay may be added to the employee’s annual vacation or granted at another mutually convenient time. Most businesses in Quebec and banks across Canada are closed on January 4, 2016.

On the above holidays, when applicable, employees get 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 of employment). Please remember, there are variations and exemptions and the above information is not meant to go into details, they are just reminders. For specific requirements for your jurisdiction (province or territory), consult the Library section of HRinfodesk and/or The Human Resources Advisor, Ontario, Western or Atlantic Editions.

Employers and human resources professionals should account for diverse religious beliefs. Chances are, employees at your company will celebrate a range of religious or non-religious holidays, and some people may not celebrate at all during this time. Be sensitive to the diverse religious beliefs of your employees. Learn which holidays each individual will celebrate, and adjust schedules and expectations to reflect your employees’ needs. For a list of religious holidays, consult the Calendar section of HRinfodesk.

Important note: These calendar events are not meant to go into details; they are just reminders. There may be exemptions and variations in law you need to account for.

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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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