The origin of Labour Day dates back to 1872; a time when workplace safety and unemployment insurance did not exist. Working 10 plus hours a day was the norm at that time, including many of Toronto’s print workers. It came to a point when the print workers had enough. The Toronto Typographical Union demanded a nine-hour workday from the city’s publishers. As a result of employers refusing their demand, printers walked off the job.
Although publishers hired replacement workers, the strikers had earned much support. Approximately 10,000 supporters attended a rally at Queen’s Park on April 15, 1872. However, since union activity was criminal at that time, the strike committee was arrested for criminal conspiracy the next day (at the request of then Toronto Globe publisher George Brown). Shortly thereafter, on April 18, 1872, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald introduced the Trade Union Act, legalizing and protecting unions.
Labour Day was officially made a statutory holiday in 1894, by Canadian Prime Minister John Thompson and his government.
What the law tells us
In all provinces and territories, Labour Day is a statutory (public) holiday. Government bodies and agencies, as well as many businesses, are closed on Labour Day.
Typically, employees are given Labour Day off with regular pay or public holiday pay (depending on the province or territory of employment). In the event an 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 (again, this depends on the province or territory of employment).
Note: There are some exemptions, variations and special rules under each jurisdictions employment/labour standards legislation and regulations. It is important that employers, as well as human resources and payroll practitioners, understand such rules to not only avoid violating the law but also to minimize costs. For instance, the following questions should be asked: “Can I 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 is required to 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 legislative requirements and entitlements to Labour Day in your jurisdiction, consult our payroll publication PaySource, which is a comprehensive source for Canadian payroll compliance information. Request a 30-day free subscription here!