Retail Closing Days and the Right to Refuse Work

Right to Refuse to Work on Sundays and Retail Closing Days : NS Labour and Advanced Education, Employment Rights

 

Retail Closing Days

Some retail businesses are not allowed to open on certain days of the year.  These days are:

  • New Year's Day
  • Nova Scotia Heritage Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

 

The Right to Refuse to Work

The Labour Standards Code gives employees of these retail businesses the right to refuse to work on the closing days listed above.  For example, if a retail business were to schedule an employee to stock shelves while the business was closed on New Year’s Day, the employee could refuse to work on that day.

The Labour Standards Code also gives employees of these same retail businesses the right to refuse to work on Sundays.

Employees who have agreed to work on Sundays or closing days must give their employer seven days’ notice of their intent not to work on Sundays or closing days in general or on a particular Sunday or closing day.  If an employer provides an employee with less than seven days’ notice that the employee is scheduled to work on a Sunday or closing day, the employee must notify the employer of his/her intent not to work that day, within two days of being informed of the schedule.

Employees who have the right to refuse to work are protected against retaliation and can be reinstated to their job with back pay if they are fired because they refused to work on Sundays or closing days.

 

Exceptions

Retail businesses that are not required to close and whose employees do not have the right to refuse to work on closing days and Sundays include:

  • grocery stores that at no time operate in an area greater than 4000 square feet (note if two or more stores selling groceries are owned by related persons and are in the same building or are adjacent or in close proximity to one another, they are considered to be one store for the purposes of determining whether the store must close and whether employees have the right to refuse to work)
  • drug stores if they do not have more than 2000 square feet dedicated to food items, are not larger than 20,000 square feet in total, and are not in a department store
  • farm sales of agricultural products
  • Christmas tree sales
  • retail gas stations (motor vehicle service stations)
  • restaurants, bars, taverns etc., and tourism/hotel services
  • confectionary stores
  • stores selling handicrafts and souvenirs to tourists
  • canteens
  • fruit and vegetable stands selling local produce
  • flea markets and rummage sales
  • retail fish stores
  • laundromats
  • billiard and pool halls
  • video or DVD rental places
  • modular (prefabricated) home sales
  • nursery and plant stores
  • art galleries
  • antique stores
  • the sale of books, newspapers, magazines
  • used clothing stores
  • private clubs, veterans and other clubs, but not clubs set up for the purpose of retail sales
  • public games for gain and reward
  • public performances, cinemas
  • excursions
  • car rental and boat rental operations
  • buses, trains and other modes of transportation
  • ferry operations
  • telephone and telegraph operations
  • broadcasting
  • newspaper publication
  • retail businesses providing goods and services on an emergency basis

 

Note:  The right to refuse to work on closing days and on Sundays does not apply to employees who work under a collective agreement.

 

Making a Complaint

If an employee feels he/she is not going to be given the right to refuse to work under these rules, contact the Labour Standards Division right away.  Labour Standards will try to resolve the matter. 

 

Remembrance Day Closing Rules

Remembrance Day has different closing rules.  Generally, retail businesses are required to close on Remembrance Day, with the following exceptions

  • drug stores, except those in department stores
  • service stations
  • the hospitality industry
  • stores with no more than three persons at any one time operating them
  • the operation of a bakery for the baking of products for sale on the next day
  • broadcasting
  • other retail businesses can remain open until 6am on Remembrance Day to finish a regular shift that started the previous day or to begin, after 9:00pm on Remembrance Day, a regular shift that continues into the following day

The Labour Standards Code does not give employees the right to refuse to work on Remembrance Day.

Note: To report a retail business that is operating on a day it is supposed to be closed, contact your local police agency.

 

FAQs

 

 

Since many retail business are required to close on the all the holidays except Sunday, why is the right to refuse to work an issue on those days?

Even though many retail businesses cannot open on these days, employees may still be scheduled to stock shelves, clean, etc. These employees have the right to refuse to work.

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Are there other retail employees who do not have a right to refuse to work on Sundays and closing days?

Unionized employees are also exempt from the right to refuse to work provisions of the Labour Standards Code.

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What protection does the right to refuse give employees?

Employees of retail businesses which are not exempted have the right to refuse to work on Sundays or closing days in general or on a particular Sunday or closing day.

Employees who have the right to refuse are protected against retaliation and can be ordered reinstated with back pay if their employment is terminated because they refuse.

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Does the employee need to give notice to refuse to work?

Yes, the employee must give her employer seven days notice of her intention to not work on Sundays and closing days in general or on a particular Sunday or closing day. If the employer gives less than seven days notice that the employee is scheduled to work on a Sunday or closing day, the employee must give notice of her intention not to work that day, within two days of receiving the notice.

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What if an employee who had agreed to work changes her mind?

The employee can change her mind by giving her employer notice, as detailed above, of her intention to not work on Sundays and closing days in general or on a particular Sunday or closing day.

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Can an employer ask an employee to sign an agreement waiving her right to refuse?

No. The right to refuse to work on Sundays and closing days cannot be waived.

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Are the closing days the same as the paid holidays listed under the Labour Standards Code?

Some of the days are the same. New Years Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day are closing days and paid holidays. However, Boxing Day, Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving Day are closing days but not paid holidays.

More information on paid holidays is available here.

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What about Remembrance Day?

Remembrance Day is a holiday under the Remembrance Day Act and is somewhat different than the 5 general holidays in the Labour Standards Code.

Employees required to work on Remembrance Day get an alternate day off with pay, unless they work for certain types of businesses that are exempt from the Act. Employees who do not work that day, do not get paid for the day, unless the employer offers pay as an added benefit - check with your employer. Remembrance Day must be observed on the actual date.

Some retail businesses must close on Remembrance Day. For more information about Remembrance Day, see here.

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I have other questions

If you have any questions, please contact Labour Standards.

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