Summer is almost over. I’m looking forward to kids going back to school and enjoying our last public holiday of the season. On the topic of public holidays; I’ve blogged about
Labour Day in the past and we have followed along with the various changes (and reversals of those changes) made by Bill 148 to the Ontario Employment Standards Act public holiday pay rules. You can read all about Bill 148 here and about public holiday pay specifically here.

There has also been talk from Ottawa in the past month about plans to introduce a national statutory holiday to mark the legacy of residential schools. The day will be called National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Negotiations about the date on which the holiday should be held are ongoing. June 21, which is National Indigenous Peoples Day, is reportedly too close to Canada Day and St. Jean Baptiste Day, a public holiday celebrated in Quebec. An alternative would be September 30, Orange Shirt Day.

One thing that a new public holiday can mean is more public holiday pay for employees. There are various employment standards around public holidays, as well as legal issues around what businesses can be open. Here is a quick primer.

The Retail Business Holidays Act

The Ontario Retail Business Holidays Act (the Act) says that a retail business must be closed on the following nine public holidays every year:

  1. New Year’s Day (January 1)
  2. Family Day (the third Monday of February)
  3. Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday – typically in March or April)
  4. Easter Sunday (typically in March or April)
  5. Victoria Day (the last Monday before or on May 24)
  6. Canada Day (July 1 – if July 1 is a Sunday, the mandatory closure moves to the following Monday)
  7. Labour Day (the first Monday in September)
  8. Thanksgiving Day (the second Monday in October)
  9. Christmas Day (December 25)

These means that a good chunk of the retail (and other) workforce gets the day off. However, municipalities can pass their own by-laws to circumvent the Act. The Act also explicitly states that it does not apply to the City of Toronto.

If a municipality does not pass its own by-law with respect to public holiday closures, there are some exceptions contained in the Act for small stores, pharmacies, tourist establishments, art galleries and others. For a complete list see section 3 of the Act.

All this to say, there are a lot of people who will be working on public holidays.

Working on a Public Holiday

In Ontario, if the employer and employee agree in writing, the employee may work on the public holiday at their regular pay rate and take another working day off with public holiday pay or, also only if agreed in writing, the employee may work on the public holiday at a premium rate for each hour worked, plus be paid public holiday pay for the day.

Check out the Ministry of Labour’s public holiday pay calculator to determine how much public holiday pay should be. The premium rate described in this section is 1.5 times the employee’s normal rate of pay.

Check out the Ministry of Labour’s handy guide on public holidays for more information about various options and scenarios. For example, what if the public holiday falls during an employee’s vacation or the employee is working but leaves early on the public holiday?

For help with the complexities of public holidays, or any other employment standards question 
get in touch!