The Labour Standards Code gives employees who qualify six holidays with pay: New Year’s Day, Nova Scotia Heritage Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Christmas Day.
Note: A separate law covers Remembrance Day; it is explained at the end of this information sheet.
Qualifying for Paid Holidays
To qualify for these holidays, 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
First, during the 30 calendar days right before the holiday, the employee must be entitled to receive pay for 15 of those days. This does not mean that the employee must have worked 15 out of 30 days. The important words to remember are “entitled to receive pay.” For example, if an employee is sick and the employer has a paid sick time policy, or if the employee is attending a course and is being paid wages for attending, or if the employee has recently taken vacation time, the employee may still qualify for the paid holiday.
Second, the employee must have worked on his/her last scheduled shift or day before the holiday and on the first scheduled shift or day after the holiday. The important word to remember is “scheduled.” Many people believe this means that if the employee does not work the day after the holiday then the employee does not qualify to receive holiday pay. If the day is one when the employee is not scheduled to work, then he/she may still qualify for the paid holiday.
Note: If an employer tells an employee not to report for work on his/her last scheduled work day immediately before the holiday, or the next scheduled work day after the holiday, then the employee is still entitled to receive holiday pay if he/she meets the first qualification.
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Paying an Employee for a 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 the 30-day period immediately before the holiday to calculate what to pay the employee for the holiday. For example:
- if an employee worked 20 of the 30 calendar days before the holiday for a total of 170 hours, the calculations could be as follows: 170 ÷ 20 = 8.5 average hours worked per shift
- if an employee worked 17 of the 30 calendar days before the holiday and earned a total of $2040 in wages (including commissions), the calculation could be as follows:
$2040 ÷ 17 = an average day’s pay of $120
Note: Employees earn vacation pay on the wages they receive for a holiday.
When the Holiday Falls on an Employee’s Regular Day Off
If the employee qualifies for the holiday and the holiday falls on the employee’s regular day off, the employer must give the employee a different day off with pay. The employer can give the day off with pay on the working day immediately following the holiday, the working day immediately following the employee’s vacation, or another day agreed upon by the employee.
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Calculating Holiday Pay When the Employee Works on a Holiday
An employee who works on a holiday and who qualifies to be paid holiday pay is entitled to receive both of the following:
- a regular–or average–day’s pay (see Paying an Employee for a Holiday, previous section), and
- one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of wages for the number of hours worked on that holiday
When the Employee Works on a Holiday in a Continuous Operation
Employees who work in a continuous operation can be paid for holidays in a different way. A continuous operation is:
- any industrial establishment in which production continues without stopping
- any service that runs trucks and other vehicles
- any telephone or other communications service
- any service or production in which employees normally work on Sundays or public holidays
In a continuous operation, the employer can pay for holidays worked in one of two ways:
- according to the calculation already described, or
- by paying straight time for the hours worked and giving the employee a different day off with pay (the employer can give the day off with pay on the working day immediately following the employee’s vacation or another day agreed upon by the employee)
Note: An employee in a continuous operation will not be entitled to holiday pay if they do not report for work on the holiday after being called upon to work that day.
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Employees Not Covered by the Rules
The holiday pay rules do not apply to the following employees:
- employees who work under a collective agreement
- most farm employees
- real estate and car salespeople
- commissioned salespeople who make sales at locations other than at the employer’s premises, except those on an established route
- employees who work on a fishing boat
- employees who work in the manufacturing or refining processes of the petrochemical industry
- employees who do domestic service for or give personal care to an immediate family member in a private home and are working for the householder
- employees who do domestic service for or give personal care in a private home and are working for the householder for 24 hours or less per week
- athletes while engaged in activities related to their athletic endeavour
Can an employer say that the employee will not receive holiday pay until after the employee has completed a probation period of, for example, 3 months?
No. Employers and employees cannot contract outside of the minimum standards of the Code. If an employee meets the qualifications for holiday pay, the employee is entitled to receive it regardless of how long the employee has been employed with the employer.
Can an employer require employees to work on the general holidays?
There are no provisions under the Labour Standards Code prohibiting employers from requiring staff to work on any of the general holidays. Some retail businesses are required to close while others are not. Employees in these business may have the right to refuse to work if they are scheduled to work on the holiday.
What happens if the holiday falls on a day I normally get off? Do I get a paid holiday anyway? If so, when?
If you qualify for paid holiday, you would get another day off with pay. Here are the options:
- Your employer can decide that you would get your next scheduled work day off with pay
- Your employer can decide that you would get an extra day off with pay added to your annual vacation
- You and your employer can agree that you would get any other day off with pay.
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Remembrance Day is not a general paid holiday under the Labour Standards Code and it is not a designated closing day under the Retail Business Designated Day Closing Act. It has its own legislation, the Remembrance Day Act, which includes rules prohibiting many businesses from operating on November 11 and rules about holiday pay for employees who work on that day.
An employee who works on Remembrance Day and who is entitled to receive wages for at least 15 of the 30 calendar days immediately before Remembrance Day may be entitled to receive another day off with pay. That day with pay may be taken at the end of the employee’s vacation or any other day the employee and employer may agree upon.
Please refer to the Remembrance Day Holiday for further information.
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