Good Friday and Easter Sunday coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover in 2021. Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, their dates are determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. It has come to be the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations vary in East and West.
Even in the COVID-19 era, these holidays are not put on hold. The spread of the virus in Canada and around the world continues to be a matter of grave concern for all of us. As the spread of the virus moves into its third wage, federal, provincial and territorial health authorities and governments continue to respond by issuing strong directives and advice. COVID-19 pandemic precautions will continue. Those include banning or restricting all gatherings of more than 2 or 5 or 10 people (depending on the jurisdiction) and requiring individuals to keep a social distance of at least two metres away from one another.
Families will continue to celebrate, as they did last year, Good Friday, Easter and Passover at home alone with their immediate family members living with them in the same house, or on their own, or by live streaming online with family or extended family and friends.
Employment standards requirements for Good Friday and Easter
Good Friday, observed on April 2 this year, is a statutory (public) holiday recognized across Canada. This continues to be so, even if employees are working remotely from home. Depending on the jurisdiction, most employees are entitled to a day off with regular pay or public holiday pay. If an employee is required to work on Good Friday, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off with pay at a later date, again, depending on the jurisdiction.
Easter Sunday, observed on April 4 this year, is a retail holiday in some provinces and territories. Under the authority of the Shops’ Closing Act, the Retail Business Holidays Act and other similar legislation, depending on the jurisdiction, all shops or retail businesses, other than those defined as exempt, are required to be closed.
Regarding Easter Monday (April 5), the Federal Government, as well as certain federally regulated workplaces, recognize the day as a statutory holiday (e.g., Canada Revenue Agency). This may not necessarily be the circumstance for the provinces and territories.
That said, unless specified otherwise under employment standards legislation or any other applicable laws, Easter Sunday and Monday are not considered public holidays requiring the employer to give a day off with public holiday pay. Although employers can provide such days as public holidays or allow employees to use them as floater days if they choose to do so.
In Quebec, however, if employers have not accommodated their employees on Good Friday with a day off with pay, they are required to provide employees with a day off with regular pay on Easter Monday. The employer may choose which day off it prefers, the Friday or Monday. If an employee is required to work on Easter Monday and did not receive Good Friday off, the employee must be paid regular wages and get a substituted day off, with pay, at a later date. Note: This blog post is just a reminder. There may be exemptions, special rules and additional requirements that may be found in the law and accompanying regulations of your jurisdiction. Consider consulting our payroll publication PaySource, which is a comprehensive source for Canadian payroll compliance information. Click here to try PaySource free for 30 days!
Religious observances and human rights law
Easter is a holiday that is widely considered the most important day of the Christian calendar, marking the resurrection of Jesus. Usually, Christians head to church to celebrate. However, this year they will have to celebrate by live streaming church services online. While some area churches are able to offer services online, it won’t be the same annual Easter celebration for those who looked forward to celebrating together.
Passover (Pesach), a Jewish holiday, is an eight-day holiday that commemorates the deliverance of Hebrew slaves and exodus out of Egypt. In 2021, Passover begins sunset on Saturday, March 27 and ends in the evening of Sunday, April 4. During this time, work is forbidden on the first two days (March 28-29) and the last two days (April 3–4). Work is permitted only from March 30 to April 2, with certain restrictions. (source). COVID-19 is also having a huge impact on Passover celebrations for 2021. The seder is typically a large gathering of friends and families. However, this year, Rabbis are encouraging people again, to restrict the number of people at their seders or to live stream the event to stop the spread of COVID-19. “People should only share their seder with those people with whom they live.”
Under human rights legislation, employers must accommodate Jewish employees by giving them the days off they require to observe their holiday. Some employers provide non-Christian employees with at least the same number of paid religious days as are provided for Christians by way of statutory (public) holidays (Good Friday and Christmas, which are based historically on Christian holy days). Many collective agreements require employers to provide Easter Monday as a paid holiday. Requests for paid leave days for religious holidays may also be accommodated by providing flexible work schedules, floating leave days or unpaid leave.
This accommodation is still required when employees are working remotely from home.
Many employees may experience a sense of loss … They’re going to feel that most keenly on the night of the seder or on the day of Easter. Remind employees that their health and the health of their family is a priority over holiday celebrations. As you wish them a great long weekend, reinforce the social distancing guidelines!
We may have to overcome that challenge this year in order to ensure that we can have many public holidays, Easters and Passovers together in years to come.
Have a safe and happy long weekend!