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Public Holiday Pay

  • Issued: September 2010
  • Content last reviewed: January 2018

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.

These 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. To see if this exemption applies to you, please see the Special Rule Tool for details.

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
  9. Boxing Day (December 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. It is based on the regular wages[1] the employee earned in the pay period prior to the public holiday, divided by the number of days the employee worked in that period.

If the employee was on a personal emergency leave (see “Personal Emergency Leave” later in this Workbook) or on vacation or both for the entire pay period before the public holiday, the regular wages[2] earned by the employee in the pay period before the start of that leave or vacation, divided by the number of days the employee worked in that period is used to calculate the public holiday pay.

If the employee was not employed during the pay period before the public holiday, the public holiday pay is calculated using the regular wages[3] earned by the employee in the pay period that includes the public holiday, divided by the number of days the employee worked in that period.

[1][2][3] Regular wages are wages other than overtime pay, public holiday pay, vacation pay, domestic or sexual violence leave pay, personal emergency leave pay, termination pay, severance pay and termination of assignment pay.

Public holiday pay amounts to an employee's average 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.

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 their 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.

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 they qualify for the public holiday entitlements.

The ‘Last and First Rule’

Employees who fail, without reasonable cause, to work all their last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday or all their first scheduled day of work after the public holiday are not entitled to public holiday pay. (Note: This does not mean simply the last calendar day before the public holiday and the first calendar day after the public holiday – it means the last scheduled day of work before the public holiday and the first scheduled day of work after the public holiday.)

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 lay-off are also entitled as long as they worked their last scheduled day before and their first scheduled day after the holiday, or had reasonable cause for failing to do so.

If an employee fails to work either of those days, but had reasonable cause, they will still qualify for the public holiday entitlements. An employee is generally considered to have "reasonable cause" for missing work when something beyond their control prevents the employee from working. It is the employee’s responsibility to show they have reasonable cause for the absence.

How to Calculate Public Holiday Pay

On the following few pages, examples are given of public holiday pay calculations. These descriptions and examples are intended to help you quickly determine the type of situation you have and how to calculate each type of public holiday payment arrangement. The Public Holiday Calculator can help you.

Example 1: A typical case

Iryna works five days a week and earns $100 a day. She has a bi-weekly pay period. She worked her last regularly scheduled work day before the public holiday and her first regularly scheduled day after the holiday. She was not on personal emergency leave or vacation during the pay period before the public holiday.

Calculating her public holiday pay:

  1. Iryna’s regular wages are calculated:
    • $100 per day × 5 days = $500 per week
    • $500 per week × 2 weeks in the pay period = $1,000

    Iryna earned $1,000 of regular wages in the pay period before the public holiday.

  2. Her total wages earned is divided by 10 (the number of days she worked in the pay period before the public holiday).
    • 1,000 ÷ 10 = $100

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

Example 2: When there are no set hours

Bertie does not work a set number of hours per day or days per week. Her pay varies from week to week, according to the time she has worked. She is paid $20/hour and has a bi-weekly pay period. In this example:

  1. Bertie’s regular wages earned during the pay period before the holiday are:
    $1,500.00 regular wages (75 hours x $20/hour)
  2. The number of days she worked in the pay period before the holiday are:
    nine (five days in the first week and four days in the second week)
  3. Her regular wages earned are divided by the number of days she worked:
    $1,500.00 / 9 = $166.67

Result: Bertie is entitled to $166.67 public holiday pay.

Example 3: When an employee is on vacation (or personal emergency leave, or both) for the entire pay period immediately preceding the public holiday

Justin works eight hours a day, five days a week and earns $200/day. He has a bi-weekly pay period. Justin was on a vacation for all 10 working days in the pay period immediately preceding the public holiday. Because Justin was on vacation for the entire pay period immediately preceding the public holiday, his public holiday pay is to be calculated using the pay period preceding the start of the vacation.

Assume Justin worked all 10 days in the pay period preceding the start of the vacation.

To calculate public holiday pay:

  1. Regular wages earned by the employee in the pay period preceding the start of the vacation = $2000 ($200 per day x 10 days worked).
  2. Divided by 10 (the number of days the employee worked in the pay period preceding the start of the vacation)

$2000 divided by 10 = $200 public holiday pay

Result: Justin is entitled to $200 public holiday pay.

Example 4: When an employee is not employed in the pay period before the public holiday

Jackie starts work with a new employer on Monday, April 11. She is paid $17/hour and works varying hours. The employer has a weekly pay period that runs from Monday to Sunday. Good Friday falls on Friday, April 15. Jackie works:

  • three hours on Monday
  • five hours on Wednesday
  • eight hours on Saturday

Jackie is entitled to be paid public holiday pay for Good Friday. Because Jackie was not employed in the pay period before the public holiday, the public holiday pay is calculated using the pay period that includes the public holiday.

  1. Jackie’s regular wages earned during the pay period that includes the holiday are:
    $272 regular wages (16 hours x $17/hour)
  2. The number of days she worked in the pay period that includes the holiday are:
    3 (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday)
  3. Then her regular wages earned are divided by the number of days she worked:
    $272 / 3 = $90.67
Result: Jackie is entitled to $90.67 public holiday pay.

Example 5: When an employee is on a layoff

Eugene usually works five days a week, earning $100 per day and he has a bi-weekly pay period that runs from Sunday to Saturday. He was placed on temporary layoff on November 17. During his layoff, Eugene was not paid wages. He received employment insurance benefits during this time, but these benefits are not considered “wages”.

Eugene was recalled to work on December 31. He is entitled to public holiday pay for New Year’s Day as long as he:

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

Calculating his public holiday pay:

Since Eugene did not earn any wages in the pay period before the public holiday, 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 electronically or 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.

(Note: Generally speaking, if a public holiday falls on a day that is ordinarily a working day for an employee, the employee is entitled to the day off with public holiday pay; if instead the employee agrees electronically or in writing to work on the day, the employee is entitled to be paid at their regular rate for the hours worked and to a substitute day off work with public holiday pay, or, if the employee and employer agree electronically or in writing, to public holiday plus premium pay for the hours worked.  In certain industries and types of operations, the employer may require the employee work on a public holiday that falls on a day that is ordinarily a working day; in that case, the employer may—at the employer’s option—either pay the employee at their regular rate for the hours worked and give the employee a substitute day off work with public holiday pay or give the employee public holiday pay plus premium pay for the hours worked. For more information on public holidays and substitute holidays, see the “Public Holidays” chapter in Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Heather regularly works eight hours a day, five days a week and has a bi-weekly pay period. Her regular hourly pay rate is $17. She has worked on all her scheduled work days in the pay period before the public holiday. She works eight hours on the public holiday.

Example Public Holiday Pay Calculation

  1. Heather’s regular wages in the pay period before the public holiday are calculated:
    • eight hours per day × $17 per hour = $136 per day
    • $136 per day × five days = $680 per week
    • $680 × two weeks in the pay period = $1,360
    • Heather earned $1,360 in the pay period before the public holiday.
  2. Her total regular wages earned is then divided by the number of days she worked in the pay period:
    • $1,360 ÷ 10 = $136

Therefore, Heather is entitled to $136 in public holiday pay.

Example Premium Pay Calculation

  1. Finally, the premium pay owing to Heather for her work on the public holiday is calculated:
    • $17 per hour × 1½ = $25.50
    • $25.50 per hour × 8 hours worked = $204

Therefore, Heather is also entitled to $204 in premium pay. Her total entitlement in respect of the public holiday will be $340 ($136 + $204).

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;
  • a day that is not ordinarily a working day for the employee or that is 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, they are entitled to have the day off with public holiday pay (subject to the “last and first rule”).

The employer and employee may agree electronically or in writing that the employee will instead work on the public holiday. In that case, the employee is entitled to their regular wages for the hours they worked on the day, plus a substitute day off with public holiday pay. However, the employer and employee can instead agree electronically or in writing 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 1½ 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

If an employee receives a substitute holiday, the employer must provide the employee with a written statement that sets out the public holiday, the date of the substitute holiday and the date that the statement was given to the employee. This statement must be provided to the employee before the public holiday.

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 electronically or in writing to a later day, provided that it is no more than 12 months after the public holiday. If employment ends before the substitute day, the employer must pay the employee public holiday pay 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 or a day when the employee is on vacation, they are entitled to a substitute day off with public holiday pay, provided that the employee is not on pregnancy or parental leave, or on a temporary layoff. However, the employer and employee may agree electronically or 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 “last and first 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 on temporary layoff, the employee’s only entitlement is to public holiday pay for the day. Note that the “last and first rule” will apply.

The employer and employee may agree electronically or 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 their regular wages for the hours worked on the day, plus a substitute day off with public holiday pay. However, the employer and employee can instead agree electronically or in writing 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 is an agreement to work on the holiday and the employee failed to work some or all of the holiday, the “failure to work” without reasonable cause rules discussed below will apply.

Special Rule: Hospitals; Hospitality Industry; Continuous Operations

Some employees can be required to work on a public holiday that falls on a working day, even if they are not exempted from the ESA’s public holiday provisions, provided they are not on vacation. 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 right 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. It is also subject to any rights they 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 Employment Standards Act, 2000 for more information.

If an employee of a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation is required to work on a holiday, they will be entitled either to:

  • their regular wages for the hours worked that 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.

Where a hospital, hotel, motel, tourist resort, restaurant, tavern or continuous operation employer requires an employee to work on a holiday, but they fail to work some or all of that holiday, the “failure to work” without reasonable cause rules discussed in the next section will apply.

“Failure to Work” Rules (Employee Fails to Work Some or All of a 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 “last and first” rule still applies. This means that the employee will have no entitlement if they fail without reasonable cause to work the last regularly scheduled day of work before – or first regularly scheduled day of work after – the holiday.
  • If the employee performed some, but not all, of the work that they were to have performed on the holiday and did not have reasonable cause for failing to perform all of the work, the employee is entitled to premium pay for the time worked on the holiday – but nothing more.
  • If the employee performed some but not all of the work that they were to have performed on the holiday but did have reasonable cause for failing to perform all of the work, the employee is entitled to be paid at their regular rate for the time worked and a substitute day off with public holiday pay. 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 worked. Note that the “last and first” rule applies. This means that if the employee fails without reasonable cause to work the entire last regularly scheduled day of work before – or the first regularly scheduled day of work after – the holiday, the employee is entitled to premium pay for the time worked on the holiday, but nothing more.
  • If the employee performed all of the work that they were to have performed on the holiday, but fails without reasonable cause to work all of the last regularly scheduled day of work before or first regularly scheduled day of work after the holiday, they are entitled to premium pay for the time 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 ESA, while another kind of work might be exempt.

If an employee performs both kinds of work, they are 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.

Example

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.

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