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Pay for public holidays

Region: Ontario Answer # 587

Most employees in Ontario are entitled to paid time off for public holidays. There are nine public holidays for employees under the Employment Standards Act. They are:

  1. New Year’s Day
  2. Family Day
  3. Good Friday
  4. Victoria Day
  5. Canada Day
  6. Labour Day
  7. Thanksgiving Day
  8. Christmas Day, and
  9. Boxing Day.

To be paid for the holiday, an employee must have worked the entire shift on their regularly scheduled days before and after the statutory holiday. The employee must work the public holiday if they agreed to work or were required to work that day or they must provide reasonable cause for missing the work if something beyond their control prevents the employee from working.

Time-off or extra pay – holiday pay

If an employee works on a public holiday, they normally will be paid either:

  • their regular wages plus one day off with public holiday pay, or
  • public holiday pay plus premium pay (no day off).

The employer chooses which of these payment options will apply.

Public holiday pay is equal to the total amount of regular wages earned in the four weeks before the work week with the public holiday, plus all of the vacation payable, if any, owed to the employee for those four weeks, divided by 20. For most employees working a five-day work week, holiday pay will equal about one day’s pay (including pro-rated vacation pay).

Premium pay is one and a half times an employee’s regular rate of pay.

Religious holidays

Under the law, the rules for public holidays do not apply to religious holidays that are not included in the legislation. Therefore, employees do not have the right to refuse work on such religious holidays. However, if they do and are punished or fired for not working on their religious holiday, it may be considered discrimination under human rights laws and they may be able to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Get help

For additional information about public holidays, contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. For legal help and assistance, contact an employment lawyer.

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