Happy Boxing Day everyone! Holidays and vacations are interesting topics for us employment lawyers. We have blogged about Public Holidays under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and in the past. Check out our posts on this topic here.

For workplaces in Ontario, governed by provincial law, there are nine Public Holidays. These are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

Working on a Public Holiday

A designation as a public holiday does not mean that employees cannot work on that day. Obviously, lots of people are working and selling us stuff today!

Under the ESA an employee can agree to work on a Public Holiday. If they do so, they can take another day off, which will be paid, or they can be paid premium pay for the Public Holiday worked. Section 73 of the ESA allows retail employees to refuse to work on a Public Holiday or a Sunday, but they do so at the risk of losing hours.

Employees who do not work on Public Holidays generally need to be paid Public Holiday Pay. See our posts on the drama swirling around Public Holiday Pay for more on this topic.

Holidays that are Not Public Holidays

You’ll notice that three of the Public Holiday days listed above fall around this time of year. Many workplaces are shut down around now, for more than these three days. It is certainly not uncommon for offices to be closed from Christmas to January 2. But these extra days off, December 27 – 31, are not Public Holidays.

This raises the question, what is an employee’s entitlement to these unofficial holiday days?

Falling into the same curious category are Easter Monday, Easter Sunday and Civic Holiday. Many employees expect these days off with pay, but employers are not required by the ESA to give them.

This does not mean that employers who have historically provided these days off as paid days can, upon reading this post, take them away. Like any change to the terms of employment, employers must tread carefully or risk constructive dismissal claims, or at the very least, a disgruntled workforce. Generally, some changes can be made upon providing sufficient notice but we recommend getting legal advice about your particular situation before any action is taken.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss Public Holidays or making changes in your workplace.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!