With the long weekend coming up this Monday, May 18, it’s a good time for a refresher on employee holiday pay. So before you pack up your things and shut down your email, take a moment to remind yourself of the responsibilities of employers and entitlements of employees for this upcoming weekend. Please note that the below is specific to Ontario, and the requirements may differ by Province.

What is Public Holiday Pay and When is it Paid?

Public holiday pay is given to employees regardless of whether they work on a public holiday.

On a public holiday, employees have two options:

  1. Work: most employees have the right to refuse to work a paid holiday, but if an employee agrees in writing to work, s/he must be paid premium pay plus holiday pay OR s/he must be paid regular pay and given another day off as a substitute.
  2. Do not Work: where an employee does not work a public holiday s/he is entitled to paid holiday pay.

Who Qualifies for Public Holiday Pay?

In order to qualify for public holiday pay an employee must:

  1. Satisfy the First and Last Rule: employees must not miss (without reasonable cause) the next day before and after the holiday that they are scheduled to work
  2. Work the entire shift (if choosing to work the holiday): the employee must work the agreed-upon time unless there is reasonable cause

Note: Reasonable cause is generally established where work is missed because of an event that was beyond the control of the employee; employees bear the burden of proving a reasonable cause

  1. Not be exempt: Some industries are exempted from holiday pay; see the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s website for more information on which employees do not qualify for holiday pay

How is Public Holiday Pay Calculated?

Holiday pay is calculated by taking the regular wage (not including overtime or premium pay) payable to the employee for the previous four weeks divided by 20. The four weeks is based on the work weeks completed by the employee not based on calendar weeks. Premium pay is calculated by multiplying regular wage by 1.5.

See the Ontario Ministry of Labor’s website for a calculator that can be used to determine employee holiday pay.

Other Issues

Public holiday pay can be confusing where an employee fails to meet all requirements. For example:

  1. If an employee is on vacation or doesn’t usually work on the holiday: the employee is entitled to either a substitute holiday day plus holiday pay or public holiday pay instead of the substitute day.
  2. If an employee fails to work the holiday: based on what was originally agreed to the employee is entitled to a substitute day off with holiday pay OR the employee is entitled to holiday but is only entitled to premium pay for the hours they actually worked.

Hopefully this refresher means that you can enjoy a relaxing and care-free long weekend.