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Public Holiday Pay

This workbook has been prepared to assist employers and employees in understanding some of their obligations and rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and its regulations. It does not take the place of the ESA and its regulations and it should not be considered to offer any legal advice on your particular situation.

Public holidays are days that most employees are entitled to have off work with pay under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). While most employees are eligible for the public holiday entitlement, some employees work in jobs that are not covered by the public holiday provisions of the ESA. The Special Rule Tool can help you find out if this exemption applies to your situation.


Public Holidays in Ontario

  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 (Dec 25)
  9. Boxing Day (Dec 26)

IMPORTANT NOTE: While some employers give their employees a holiday on Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, the first Monday in August or Remembrance Day, the employer is not required to do so under the ESA.


What is Public Holiday Pay?

Public holiday pay is the amount of money a qualified employee is entitled to receive for a public holiday. The amount of public holiday pay an employee is entitled to varies between employees, as it is based on the regular wages* the employee earned and any vacation pay that was payable in the four work weeks prior to the work week the public holiday fell in, divided by 20.

* Regular wages are wages other than overtime pay, public holiday pay, vacation pay, premium pay, termination pay and severance pay.

Public holiday pay does not necessarily amount to an employee's regular daily earnings, due to the nature of the calculation for public holiday pay. It is also important to note that receiving time off and receiving public holiday pay are separate considerations. One does not always guarantee an entitlement to the other.

Although vacation pay is not considered to be part of one’s regular wages, the calculation for public holiday pay includes any vacation pay that was payable to the employee during any of the four work weeks prior to the work week in which the public holiday fell.

How Employees Qualify for Public Holiday Pay

Entitlement to public holidays begins as soon as an employee starts working. Employees who qualify can take the day off work and be paid public holiday pay. To qualify, an employee must work his or her last regularly scheduled day before and first regularly scheduled day after the public holiday, or have reasonable cause for failing to do so. This will be explained in more detail in the examples presented below.

There is no waiting period for an employee to qualify for a paid public holiday (although in some situations, the public holiday pay entitlement might work out to be zero). It does not matter if an employee is full time, part time, permanent or on a time-limited arrangement when determining if he or she qualifies for the public holiday entitlements.

The ‘Day Before, Day After’ Rule

Employees who fail, without reasonable cause, to work all their last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday and all their first scheduled day of work after the public holiday are not entitled to public holiday pay. There is no requirement for these days to be the actual calendar days before and after the public holiday in order for the employee to qualify for the public holiday entitlements.

For example, an employee who has asked for and received approval to take off the day before the public holiday is still entitled. As the employer agreed to the employee being off the day before the holiday, it would not be considered a scheduled day of work. Also, employees on vacation, on leave, or on a layoff are also entitled as long as they work their last scheduled day before and their first scheduled day after the holiday.

If an employee fails to work his or her last scheduled day of work before the public holiday or his or her first scheduled day of work after but does have reasonable cause, he or she will still qualify for the public holiday entitlements. An employee is generally considered to have "reasonable cause" for missing work when something beyond his or her control prevents the employee from working. It is the employee’s responsibility to show he or she has reasonable cause for the absence.

How to Calculate the Four-Work Week Period Before the Work Week With a Public Holiday

The "four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday" mentioned earlier does not necessarily refer to the four calendar weeks immediately before the holiday. This period is based on the employer's work week.

A work week is a recurring period of seven consecutive days that the employer has established for the purpose of scheduling work. If you have not established a work week, the default will be Sunday to Saturday.

Example of Work Schedule

Suppose your work week runs from Thursday to Wednesday. Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday. The four work weeks you would use to calculate public holiday pay for Christmas Day are the four weeks counting backwards from the Wednesday before Christmas Day (December 25):

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
November
18
19 20 21 22

Week 1
23

Week 1
24

Week 1
25

Week 1
26

Week 1
27

Week 1
28

Week 1
29

Week 2
30

Week 2
December
1

Week 2
2

Week 2
3

Week 2
4

Week 2
5

Week 2
6

Week 3
7

Week 3
8

Week 3
9

Week 3
10

Week 3
11

Week 3
12

Week 3
13

Week 4
14

Week 4
15

Week 4
16

Week 4
17

Week 4
18

Week 4
19

Week 4
20 21 22
23

 
24 25 26 27 28 29
30

 
31          

In this example, the regular wages earned by the employee and the vacation pay payable to the employee with respect to the four work weeks indicated by the shaded area (November 22 to December 19) are used in the calculation of public holiday pay.

How to Calculate Public Holiday Pay

In this section, examples are given of holiday pay calculations. These descriptions and examples are intended to help you quickly determine the type of situation you have with your employees and how to calculate each type of public holiday payment arrangement. The “Public Holiday Pay Calculator” can address your questions.

View Example 1: A typical case

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Example 1: A typical case

Iryna works five days a week and earns $100 a day. She worked her last regularly scheduled work day before the public holiday and her first regularly scheduled day after the holiday. She receives her vacation pay when her vacation is taken. She was not on vacation during the four work weeks leading up to the public holiday.

Calculating her public holiday pay:

  1. Iryna’s regular wages are calculated:
    • $100 per day x 5 days = $500 per week
    • $500 per week x 4 work weeks = $2,000
  2. Iryna earned $2,000 of regular wages in the four work weeks before the public holiday.
    • Nothing is owed because she only receives vacation pay when she takes her vacation. Because she was not on vacation during the four-work week period, she is not entitled to vacation pay.
  3. Finally, her total wages earned and vacation pay payable are added together and divided by 20.
    • $2,000 + $0 = $2,000
    • $2,000 ÷ 20 = $100

Therefore, Iryna is entitled to $100 in public holiday pay.


View Example 2: When vacation time is involved

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Example 2: When vacation time is involved

Brock works five days a week and earns $100 a day. He was on vacation for two of the four work weeks before the work week in which the public holiday fell. He received $1,000 in vacation pay, along with his regular wages, in the four work weeks prior to the work week that the public holiday fell in. Brock worked his last regularly scheduled work day before the public holiday and his first regularly scheduled work day after the holiday.

Calculating his public holiday pay:

  1. Brock's regular wages are calculated:
    • $100 per day x 10 days = $1,000
  2. The amount of vacation pay payable is calculated:
    • $1,000 is owed because Brock was on vacation for two of the four work weeks prior to the work week with the public holiday. He was paid vacation pay within those 4 work weeks.
  3. Finally, his total wages earned and vacation pay payable are added together and divided by 20.
    • $1,000 (regular wages) + $1,000 (vacation pay payable) = $2,000.00
    • $2,000 ÷ 20 = $100.00

Therefore, Brock is entitled to $100.00 in public holiday pay.


View Example 3: Where vacation pay is included in every pay cheque

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Example 3: Where vacation pay is included in every pay cheque

Bert earns $1,500 in regular wages. He and his employer have agreed in writing that he will receive 4% vacation pay in each pay cheque (see the section of this workbook on Vacation with Pay for information on when this is acceptable).

Calculating his public holiday pay:

  1. Bert makes $1,500 in regular wages.
  2. The amount of vacation pay payable is calculated:
    • $1,500 x 4% = $60
  3. Finally, his regular wages earned and vacation pay payable are added together and divided by 20.
    • $1,500 (regular wages) + $60 (vacation pay) = $1,560
    • $1,560 ÷ 20 = $78

Therefore, Bertie is entitled to $78 in public holiday pay.


View Example 4: When an employee is on a leave

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Zoe usually works five days a week, earning $100 per day. She receives vacation pay before she goes on vacation. On June 10, she went on a 17-week pregnancy leave, followed by a 35-week parental leave. During her leaves, she was not paid wages or vacation. She received maternity and parental benefits from the federal Employment Insurance program, but these benefits are not considered wages.

Zoe is entitled to public holiday pay for the public holidays that fell during her leave as long as she:

  • works her last regularly scheduled day before her leave, and
  • her first regularly scheduled day after her leave, or
  • has reasonable cause for failing to do so.

Calculating her public holiday pay:

  1. Zoe went on leave June 10 and only worked seven days during the four work weeks before the Canada Day public holiday. Her regular wages earned are calculated:
    • $100 per day x 7 days = $700
  2. Her vacation pay payable is calculated:
    • Nothing is owed because she had no vacation pay payable during the four-work week period.
  3. Finally, her regular wages earned and vacation pay payable are added together and divided by 20.
    • $700 (regular wages) + $0 (vacation pay) = $700
    • $700 ÷ 20 = $35

Therefore, Zoe is entitled to $35 in public holiday pay for the Canada Day public holiday. However, she does not receive any public holiday pay for other holidays that fell during her leave because she did not earn wages or have vacation pay payable during the four work weeks before each of those holidays.


View Example 5: When an employee is on a layoff throughout the four work weeks preceding the holiday

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Eugene usually works five days a week, earning $100 a day. He was placed on temporary layoff on November 15. During his layoff, Eugene was not paid wages or vacation pay. He received Employment Insurance benefits during this time, but these benefits are not considered wages.

Eugene was recalled to work on December 27. He is entitled to public holiday pay for Christmas Day and Boxing Day as long as he:

  • works his last regularly scheduled day before the layoff, and
  • his first regularly scheduled day after the layoff, or
  • has reasonable cause for failing to do so.

Calculating his public holiday pay:

Because Eugene did not earn any wages or have any vacation pay payable in the four work weeks before those two public holidays, he is entitled to $0 in public holiday pay.



How to Calculate Public Holiday Pay Plus Premium Pay

A public holiday falls on one of Heather's normal working days. She and her employer have agreed in writing that she will work on the public holiday and that, instead of getting a substitute holiday, she will be paid public holiday pay plus premium pay for all the hours she works on the holiday.

Heather regularly works eight hours a day, five days a week. Her regular hourly pay rate is $12. She has worked on all her scheduled work days in the four work weeks before the public holiday. She receives her vacation pay before she takes vacation; she was not on vacation during the four work weeks before the public holiday. She works eight hours on the public holiday.

View an example public holiday pay calculation

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Example Public Holiday Pay Calculation

  1. Her regular wages in the four work weeks before the public holiday are calculated:
    • 8 hours per day × $12 per hour = $96 per day
    • $96 per day × 5 days = $480 per week
    • $480 × 4 work weeks = $1,920
    • Heather earned $1,920 in the four work weeks before the public holiday.
  2. Amount of vacation pay payable with respect to the four-work week period is calculated:
    • She had no vacation payable during this period because Heather gets paid her vacation pay before she takes vacation and she was not on vacation during the four-work week period.
  3. Her total regular wages earned plus vacation pay payable is then divided by 20:
    • ($1,920 + $0) ÷ 20 = $96
  4. Therefore, Heather is entitled to $96 in public holiday pay.

    Example Premium Pay Calculation

  5. Finally, the premium pay owing to Heather for her work on the public holiday is calculated:
    • $12 per hour × 1.5 = $18
    • $18 per hour × 8 hours worked = $144

Therefore, Heather is also entitled to $144 in premium pay. Her total entitlement in respect of the public holiday will be $240 ($96 + $144).



Public Holidays on Working Days and Non-Working Days

The rules regarding public holidays vary depending on whether a public holiday falls on:

  • a day that is ordinarily a working day for the employee;
  • on a day that is not ordinarily a working day for the employee; or,
  • a day on which the employee is on vacation.

Public Holiday on a Working Day

If the holiday falls on a day that would ordinarily be a working day for the employee, he or she is entitled to have the day off with public holiday pay (subject to the “day before, day after” rule).

The employer and employee may agree in writing that the employee will instead work on the public holiday. In that case, the employee is entitled to his or her regular wages for the hours he or she worked on the day plus a substitute day off with public holiday pay. However, the employer and employee can instead agree to a pay plus premium pay arrangement. This means that the employee will be entitled to public holiday pay plus premium pay, for each hour worked on the holiday.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Premium pay is 1.5 the employee’s regular rate of pay for an hour of work. (Note that any hours worked on a public holiday for which an employee receives premium pay are not counted for overtime pay purposes.)


Substitute Days

Where a day is substituted for a public holiday, the substitute day is treated as if it were the public holiday. Generally speaking, the day that is substituted must be no more than three months after the holiday. However, the employer and employee can agree in writing to a later day, provided that it is no more than 12 months after the public holiday. Where employment ends before the substitute day, the employer must pay the employee public holiday for the day within seven days after employment ends or the day that would have been the employee’s next pay day, whichever is later.

Public Holiday on Non-working Day

If the holiday falls on a day that would not ordinarily be a working day for the employee (including a day when the employee is on vacation), he or she is entitled to a substitute day off with public holiday pay, provided that the employee is not on pregnancy or parental leave, or a temporary layoff. However, the employer and employee may agree in writing that the employee will instead be paid public holiday pay for the day (in which case there is no substitute day off). In either case, the “day before, day after” rule will apply.

If the holiday falls on a day that would not ordinarily be a working day for the employee and the employee is on pregnancy or parental leave, or temporary layoff, the employee’s only entitlement is to public holiday pay for the day. Note that the “day before, day after” rule will apply.

The employer and employee may agree in writing that the employee will work on the public holiday even though it is not ordinarily a working day or the employee is on vacation on that day. In that case, the employee is entitled to his or her regular wages for the hours he or she worked on the day plus a substitute day off with public holiday pay. However, the employer and employee can instead agree to a pay plus premium pay arrangement under which the employee will be entitled to public holiday pay plus premium pay for each hour worked on the holiday. If there was an agreement to work on the holiday and the employee failed to work some or all of the holiday, the “failure to work” rules discussed below will apply.

Some employees can be required to work on a public holiday, even if they are not exempted from the ESA’s public holiday provisions. This will be the case if the employee works in a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or a continuous operation. A continuous operation is one that operates 24 hours a day and either never shuts down or shuts down only once a week.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The ability of a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation employer to require employees to work on a public holiday is subject to the employee's rights under the Human Rights Code and to any rights he or she may have under the employment contract. Some retail employees have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday, even if they are employed in a continuous operation (e.g. a 24-hour convenience store). See Your Guide to the ESA for more information.


If an employee employed in a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation is required to work on a holiday, he or she will be entitled either to his or her regular wages for the hours he or she worked on the day plus a substitute day off with public holiday pay or public holiday pay plus premium pay for each hour worked on the holiday. The choice is the employer’s. The employee’s agreement is not required for a pay plus premium pay arrangement.

Where a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation employer requires an employee to work on a holiday but he or she fails to work some or all of that holiday, the “failure to work” rules discussed in the next section will apply.

“Failure to Work” Rules (Employee Fails to Work Some or All of His or her Public Holiday Shift)

There are special rules that apply if the employee agreed to work on a public holiday (or in the case of a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation, if the employee was required to work on the public holiday) and then failed to work some or all of the holiday:

  • If the employee failed to do any work on the holiday and did not have reasonable cause, the employee has no entitlement.
  • If the employee failed to do any work on the holiday but did have reasonable cause, the employee is entitled to a substitute day off with public holiday pay or, if there was a “pay plus premium pay” agreement, the employee will be entitled to public holiday pay for the day. Note that the “day before, day after” rule still applies. This means that the employee will have no entitlement if he or she fails without reasonable cause to work all of his or her last regularly scheduled day of work before or first regularly scheduled day of work after the holiday.
  • If the employee did some, but not all, of the work that he or she was to have done on the holiday and did not have reasonable cause, the employee is entitled to premium pay for the time that he or she did work on the holiday – but nothing more.
  • If the employee did some but not all of the work that he or she was to have done on the holiday but did have reasonable cause, the employee is entitled to be paid at his or her regular rate for the time that he or she did work and a substitute day off with public holiday pay, or
  • If there was a “pay plus premium pay” arrangement, the employee is entitled to public holiday pay for the day plus premium pay for the time that he or she did work. Note that the “day before, day after” rule applies. This means that if the employee fails without reasonable cause to work all of his or her last regularly scheduled day of work before or first regularly scheduled day of work after the holiday, the employee is entitled to premium pay for the time that he or she did work on the holiday – but nothing more).
  • If the employee did all of the work that he or she was to have done on the holiday but fails without reasonable cause to work all of his or her last regularly scheduled day of work before or first regularly scheduled day of work after the holiday, he or she is entitled to premium pay for the time that he or she worked on the holiday – but nothing more.

Employees Who Perform both Covered and Exempt Work

Some employees perform more than one kind of work for an employer. Some of this work might be covered by the public holiday part of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), while another kind of work might be exempt.

If an employee performs both kinds of work, he or she is eligible for the public holiday entitlement if at least half of the work performed in the work week of the public holiday is work that is covered.

View an Example

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Kris works for a taxi company as both a taxicab driver and as a dispatcher. Cab driving is exempt from the public holiday part of the ESA, while dispatching is covered. In the work week that Canada Day fell, at least half of the work Kris did was as a dispatcher. She is therefore entitled to public holiday entitlements for Canada Day.

Remember to use the “Public Holiday Pay Calculator” to help determine your obligations under the act.


 

Questions? Call the Employment Standards Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551

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