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Family Day February 20: Which provinces have a day off with pay?

Family DayIn Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, Family Day is recognized as a public (statutory) holiday and employees get the day off with pay, if eligible. Each year, these provinces celebrate Family Day on the third Monday in February. In 2017, Monday, February 20 is Family Day.

Note: British Columbia celebrated Family Day on February 13.

Statutory (public) holiday

Although the above noted provinces celebrate Family Day on the same day, an employee’s entitlements must be governed by the laws of the jurisdiction in which they work. 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 between provinces.

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

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!


In Alberta, to be eligible for general holiday pay, employees:

  • must have worked 30 days for their employer in the preceding 12 months;
  • must work their scheduled shift before and after the holiday (unless employer consent is given); and
  • must work on the general holiday if requested.

Under Alberta’s Employment Standards legislation, and according to the Ministry of Labour, the following rules apply:

  • If an employee typically works Mondays and they are given Family Day off, then they are entitled to their regular daily wage.
  • If an employee typically works Mondays and works Family Day, then they are entitled to their regular daily wage plus time–and–a–half for all hours worked. Otherwise, they are entitled to their regular wage for each hour worked on the holiday, in addition to another regular work day off with pay.
  • If an employee typically has Mondays off but they work on Family Day, then they are entitled to pay at a rate of time–and–a–half of their regular wage for all hours worked.
  • If an employee typically has Mondays off and they do not work on Family Day, then they are not entitled to general holiday pay and are not entitled to an extra day off. However, the employee may receive general holiday pay or an extra day off if it is a part of their employment contract or a part of a union agreement. Employees should check with their employer.


In Manitoba, an employee does not have to work a certain length of time before they qualify for general holiday pay.

All employees receive general holiday 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.

According to the Employment Standards Branch of the Department of Labour and Immigration, general holiday pay can be calculated in two ways:

  • Employees who consistently work the same number of hours get one regular work day’s pay as general holiday pay.
  • 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 4 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.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, to have a day off with pay, an employee 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.


In Ontario, most employees who qualify for Family Day are entitled to take the day off work and be paid public holiday pay. See who is not eligible below.

The amount of public holiday pay that an employee is entitled is: all of the regular wages earned by the employee in the four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday plus all of the vacation pay payable to the employee with respect to the four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday, divided by 20.

Note: Regular wages does not include any overtime or premium pay payable to an employee.

Who is not entitled to take Family Day off? There are three categories of employees who may not have the right to the day off. These include:

  • Employees who are not covered by Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) (i.e., employees who work in federally regulated workplaces or who are federal civil servants).
  • Employees who are covered by the ESA, but fall within a special rule or exemption involving the ESA’s public holiday provisions. For a complete list of employees who fall under a special rule or exemption, consult the HRinfodesk Quick Reference Chart, Exemptions from Certain Parts of the Employment Standards Act and Special Rules.
  • Employees whose collective agreement or employment contract is more generous to them in relation to public holidays than the public holiday provisions in the employment standards legislation.

Typically, employees who do not qualify for public holiday entitlements must work on Family Day if asked by their employer. Most non–qualified employees are entitled to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for each hour worked on Family Day. There is no substitute day off. If a non-qualified employee is not asked to work on Family Day, they get the day off with no pay.

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

Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act, 2006 came into force in January 2007 and removed the RBHA’s application to the City of Toronto. This Act gives Toronto city council the authority to pass a by-law establishing closing requirements for retail businesses.

Prince Edward Island

In Prince Edward Island, in order to qualify for the day off, with pay, an employee 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 work day, 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 their employer where they may elect to either work or not work when requested, does not qualify.


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.

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.

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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Cristina Lavecchia

Cristina is an editor and researcher at First Reference. She is a licensed paralegal and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, Political Science major at York University. During Cristina's paralegal and undergraduate studies she studied employment standards, occupational health and safety, and workplace safety and insurance. Read more

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