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Ten things Canadian employers need to know about statutory holidays

Statutory/public holiday rules in Canada

*Updated November 28, 2017

Statutory holidays, also known as public holidays and stat. holidays, are days designated by government to mark special occasions or events. In Canada, there are several statutory holidays. Some are national and every province and territory observes the public holiday; some are unique to a particular jurisdiction.

Typically, a statutory holiday means that workers are entitled to take the day off without losing pay. But this is a general entitlement, with several exceptions and qualifications, such as what happens when a stat. holiday falls on a weekend or other non-working day. The rules for public holidays—like how you calculate stat. holiday pay—also differ depending on your jurisdiction. I’ll outline these exceptions and some others below.

How many statutory holidays are there in Canada?

There are several statutory holidays across Canada under employment/labour standards. There are also holidays that are celebrated provincially or regionally, but are not statutory holidays. For example, Discovery Day is a paid holiday for government employees in Newfoundland and Labrador, but not a public holiday under employment standards. July 9 is Nunavut Day and is a paid holiday for government employees only.

The holidays that are actually observed as statutory holidays under employment/labour standards will vary depending on your jurisdiction, and include:

paid public/statutory holidays Canada

1. In Quebec, employees in the clothing industry (but not those who work in clothing stores) are entitled to also receive January 2 as a statutory holiday. Though not a legal requirement, it has become customary to give this day off to team members.
2. Known as Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, Heritage Day in Nova Scotia and Islander Day in Prince Edward Island.
3. In Quebec, employers may choose to observe either Good Friday or Easter Monday. Employees in the clothing industry (but not those who work in clothing stores) receive both.
4. Known as Patriots’ Day in Quebec
5. Known as Quebec’s National Day
6. Known as Memorial Day in NL
7. Several jurisdictions observe this day as a municipal holiday, not a statutory holiday (e.g., Ontario observes it as a municipal day called Civic holiday or Simcoe Day).

In addition, certain statutory holidays always take place on the same day of the month each year, regardless of the specific date. For example, Labour Day is always the first Monday of September. Others are recognized on specific numerical days of the month. For instance, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are always December 25 and 26, respectively.

Most employees who qualify are entitled to take these days off work and be paid public holiday pay.

10 key aspects of statutory holidays that employers need to know

These tips come from the First Reference compliance and best practice guide Statutory Holiday Rules across Canada:

  1. What happens when a stat. holiday is on a weekend or other non-working day?

    It depends on the jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, an employee who works normally from Monday to Friday still receives a day off when the statutory holiday falls on a weekend. It is regular business practice to have the next business day (e.g., Monday) set as the public holiday.

    In other jurisdictions, British Columbia for example, when a public (statutory) holiday falls on a non-working day, an eligible employee is entitled to an average day’s pay and the employer does not have to provide another day off.

  2. Can employees and employers agree to substitute statutory holidays?

    Not all provinces require that an employer provide a substitute holiday with pay or holiday pay in lieu. Alberta does not require either when a holiday falls on a day that is not normally a working day for an employee and the employee does not work on that day. In some provinces, a substitute holiday with pay must be provided if the holiday falls during the employee’s vacation. In Quebec, for example, even though a substitute holiday is not required for most holidays that fall on a non-working day, the employer and employee must agree on a substitute holiday if the public holiday occurs during the employee’s vacation.

    In some cases, the day the holiday is legally celebrated will actually change when it is scheduled on a weekend. Under the federal Holidays Act, when July 1 is a Sunday, Canada Day is deemed to be celebrated on July 2 (i.e., the following Monday), meaning that employers do not need to determine whether they need to provide a substitute holiday.

    Essentially, there is a complete transfer of all employment standards requirements from the statutory holiday to the substituted day. This requires employee consent with two specific exceptions, detailed in Statutory Holiday Rules across Canada.

  3. How to calculate statutory holiday pay

    How you calculate statutory holiday pay will depend on the jurisdiction in which the employee works, since stat. holidays are covered under the Canada Labour Code (for federally regulated employees) and provincial/territorial employment and labour standards laws.

    For example in Ontario, “statutory holiday pay” refers to the total amount of regular wages earned and vacation pay payable to the employee in the four work weeks before the work week that contains the statutory holiday, divided by 20. But in Manitoba, statutory holiday pay must be at least the same amount as the employee’s wages for regular hours of work on a regular workday in the pay period in which the employee receives a day off for the holiday or, in which the holiday occurs, if the employee doesn’t receive a day off. If the employee’s wages vary, statutory holiday pay is calculated as five per cent of the employee’s gross wages in the four weeks right before the holiday.

  4. When do overtime rules apply to a week with a public holiday?

    Depending on the jurisdiction, statutory holidays may in fact make it more difficult for some employees to qualify for overtime calculated on a weekly or workweek basis. There are specific rules in each jurisdiction for when and how to calculate overtime pay during a pay period with a stat. holiday.

    For example, in British Columbia, when the statutory holiday is not worked, the statutory holiday hours are excluded from the calculation of overtime. However, when the statutory holiday is worked, the hours worked are included in the calculation of overtime for that week. In federally regulated workplaces, the maximum hours required for overtime are decreased by one average working day of the employee and the statutory holiday is not included in overtime calculation.

  5. Some employees are subject to special rules, while some are not entitled to public holidays

    For example, in Ontario there are special rules for the calculation of holiday pay for employees who work in the production of women’s coats, dresses, sportswear and suits. The rules depend on whether such employees are paid by the piece or not.

    Meanwhile, certain groups of employees do not receive stat. holidays because the law exempts the kind of work they perform, their profession or the industry or sector they work in.

  6. Employees who are entitled to a public holiday must receive a day off work and public holiday pay for that day

    Holiday pay is pay for days that an employee doesn’t have to work, because they are public holidays. How the employee is compensated for the day off varies by jurisdiction. Employees will receive general holiday pay depending on the method that they earn their wages.

    For example, in Ontario, the calculation is (regular wages from 4 weeks previous + vacation pay from 4 weeks previous) / 20. You add up the last month of earnings and divide by 20 because there are 20 working days in a normal month. In federally regulated workplaces, for most employees, their holiday pay will be equal to at least one twentieth (1/20th) of the wages, excluding overtime pay that they earned in the four-week period immediately before the week in which the general holiday occurs.

  7. Employees can be disqualified from receiving public holiday pay

    However, this also depends on the jurisdiction. In certain jurisdiction, an employee must have worked for the employer for a certain number of days or months to qualify for public holiday. In federally regulated workplaces, for example, an employee must be employed for a minimum of 30 days in order to be eligible for holiday pay. In British Columbia, the employer must have worked or earned wages (including vacation pay) on at least 15 of the 30 days before the statutory holiday (unless under an averaging agreement or other variance in the 30-day period).

    In some jurisdiction for instance, employees can be disqualified if, without reasonable cause, they fail to work their last regular scheduled day of work before the public holiday or their first regular scheduled day of work after the public holiday. This applies in Ontario and Manitoba for example.

  8. Some employees may be required to work on public holidays

    Employment/labour standards legislation does not prohibit work on a statutory holiday, but how employees are compensated for working on a statutory holiday varies between jurisdictions.

    For example, in Nova Scotia, the employee would receive statutory holiday pay plus 1.5 times their regular rate for hours worked. In Prince Edward Island, the employee would receive statutory holiday pay, plus 1.5 times the regular rate for hours worked or regular wages, plus a day off with pay (with the equivalent number of hours worked), taken no later than the next vacation.

  9. Some employers provide a greater right or benefit to employees

    For example, some employers provide floater days, which are extra holidays that are treated as public holidays. This is viewed as providing a greater benefit and the agreement could supersede the legislation.

    To determine whether you provide a greater right or benefit, you can review how many holidays you grant per year, the earnings on which holiday pay is calculated, the period of time over which earnings are averaged, how much time off in lieu employees receive for substituted holidays, and how much employees are paid for working on statutory holiday.

  10. Does shift work impact statutory holiday pay?

    Again, it depends on the jurisdiction. In Ontario, for instance, if the shift begins on a holiday, the entire shift—regardless of end time—is considered for holiday pay. If the shift begins on a non-holiday, no hours in the shift should be considered for holiday pay. In Nova Scotia, on the other hand, only hours worked on the holiday are considered as having been worked on the holiday, regardless of the start or end of the shift.

I hope you find this information helpful to manage public holidays at your workplace!

Feel free to leave a comment with any questions.

Get all the details plus a sample stat. holidays policy you can use right away in Statutory Holiday Rules across Canada, a First Reference Compliance and Best Practice Guide.

Purchase the guide here.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

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 18 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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14 thoughts on “Ten things Canadian employers need to know about statutory holidays
  • Without providing a specific answer to your question, but relying on the law, in Ontario, under the Employment Standards Act, when the employee has agreed electronically or in writing that their vacation pay will be paid on each paycheque as it accumulates. In this case, the employee’s wage statement must show clearly the amount of the vacation pay being paid. This amount must also be shown separately from any other amounts paid. Alternatively, the employer can provide a separate wage statement for the vacation pay being paid.

    As for public holiday, the ESA does not mention the employer being allowed to pay it on each pay cheque. Due to the formula to calculate public holiday and the how employees qualify for public holiday pay (an employee must work their last regularly scheduled day before and first regularly scheduled day after the public holiday, or have reasonable cause for failing to do so), for example, if the employee does not qualify, in some situations, the public holiday pay entitlement might work out to be zero.

  • J. Anderson says:

    My employer pays out a combined 8% vacation & stat pay on each pay cheque, as well as 2 paid personal emergency days if needed. Though we don’t make as much on pay cheques that have stat holidays on them, and we don’t make anything when any of us take an actual vacation, overall it work out better for us. Instead of being paid 9 Ontario stat holidays, it works out to 10 stats, and the percentage goes on both regular pay as well as overtime. In May of next year, we will have one employee who has been with the company for 5 years. Since bill 148 forces employers to pay out 3 weeks vacation to employees who have been with the company for 5 years or more, the boss is just going to bump everyone up to 10% starting January.

    My question is whether or not paying out both vacation & stat on each pay cheque is legal. All of us are happy with it, but I’m not sure if it’s legal or not. We’re a non-unionized plumbing company. I know in the construction field a lot of unionized companies pay out their employees this way, but since we’re not unionized, we don’t have any type of collective agreement for this.

  • Public holiday pay is based on the regular wages the employee earned in the pay period prior to the public holiday, divided by the number of days the employee worked in that period. Regular wages are wages other than overtime pay, public holiday pay, vacation pay, domestic or sexual violence leave pay, personal emergency leave pay, termination pay, severance pay and termination of assignment pay. Due to the nature of the calculation for public holiday pay, public holiday pay amounts to an employee’s average daily earnings.

    Here is an example provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour:

    Example 1: A typical case
    Iryna works five days a week and earns $100 a day. She has a bi-weekly pay period. She worked her last regularly scheduled work day before the public holiday and her first regularly scheduled day after the holiday. She was not on personal emergency leave or vacation during the pay period before the public holiday.

    Calculating her public holiday pay:

    Iryna’s regular wages are calculated:
    $100 per day × 5 days = $500 per week
    $500 per week × 2 weeks in the pay period = $1,000
    Iryna earned $1,000 of regular wages in the pay period before the public holiday.

    Her total wages earned is divided by 10 (the number of days she worked in the pay period before the public holiday).
    1,000 ÷ 10 = $100
    Therefore, Iryna is entitled to $100 in public holiday pay.

  • Jim as I have said in a previous comment… it is being updated… work in progress!

  • jim anderson says:

    You need to update this for Ontario under the newly amended ESA per Bill 148. The calculation is no longer over a 20 day period and their us provision for employees who were employed beginning in the week of tge publuc holiday

  • Please refer to the Ontario Employment Standards Branch for answers to this question. We do not provide advice specific to a case. or you can call them at GTA: 416-326-7160
    Canada-wide: 1-800-531-5551.

  • Monica… look at the date of the post. This post and guide were written before changes to Bill 148 came into force thus, since public holiday has changed effective January 1, 2018, you won’t find reference to how it was calculated prior to January 1, 2018 on the Ontario Ministry of Labour website. We are updating the guide to include Bill 148 changes, so the post will be updated at that time.

  • Monica says:

    According to the Ontario website, the stat holiday pay is based on the amount of pay for the payperiod previous to date divided by the days worked. I cannot find any reference to the monthly pay divided by 20 day scenario on their website. Where is the information that you have referenced located? I have gotten my information from

  • Laura Mitchell says:

    Can an employer force you to work a stat holiday if you are a full time 40 hour a week employee who does not want to work that day

  • Nowhere in the Ontario Employment Standards Code does it say you have to provide a doctor’s note when you call in sick before a stat holiday. The law establishes rules that could disqualify you from getting a paid stat holiday. Generally, employees qualify for the public holiday entitlement unless they:

    • fail without reasonable cause to work all of their last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday or all of their first regularly scheduled day of work after the public holiday (this is called the “Last and First Rule”);
    • or

    • fail without reasonable cause to work their entire shift on the public holiday if they agreed to or were required to work that day.

    As stated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, “an employee is generally considered to have “reasonable cause” for missing work when something beyond his or her control prevents the employee from working. Employees are responsible for showing that they had reasonable cause for staying away from work. If they can do so, they still qualify for public holiday entitlements.” Reasonable cause can be an illness but the law does not say you have to have a doctor’s note to show reasonable cause.

  • Donald Weatherill says:

    In Ontario, starting in 2018, an employer can no longer ask for a doctors note if an employee calls in sick. If an employee calls in sick the day before a stat you do not get paid unless you provide a doctors note. How does that work if an employer can not ask for a doctors note?

  • Sarah W. says:

    Corlynn, the way I would think it works in most Ontario offices is that you would not have to use a vacation day for July 1 since it’s a stat holiday. For instance, my office closes from Christmas Day until Jan 2. We log our vacation days minus the stat holidays since we get paid for those anyway. We do not get three lieu days for Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day.
    This is not official advice, just mentioning how it works here.

  • These blog posts are not meant to provide answers to question specific to a case, but to provide general information on certain issues of interest to employers. Nor are they written on the perspective of employees. There are certain variables a person would need to know before they can answer such a question that are specific to the jurisdiction you are in. But in general, and depending on the jurisdiction, yearly vacation time is exclusive of public holidays that an employee is entitled to. This means, if a public holiday falls during an employee’s vacation, the employee is entitled to be treated the same way for their statutory holiday entitlement as they would be if they were not on vacation. I would suggest you talk to your employer about your rights and to make arrangements about if and when you can substitute the public holiday at a later day or be paid for it, or call the Ministry of Labour in your jurisdiction for more details on your rights.

  • Corlynn O'Brien says:

    This is all very helpful but I can’t find an answer to my dilemma! I will be on vacation June 30-July 4 and will therefore be away for the canada day stat! I am a full time employee on salary working 40 hours per week. My question is, am I entitled to take a day off the following week in lieu of Canada day?