Landscape in Alberta

An Employer’s Guide to General Holidays in Alberta 2024

When are the 2024 public holidays in Alberta?

New Year’s DayMonday, January 1
Alberta Family Day Monday, February 19
Good FridayFriday, March 29
Victoria DayMonday, May 20
Canada DayMonday, July 1
Labour DayMonday, September 2
Thanksgiving DayMonday, October 14
Remembrance Day Monday, November 11
Christmas DayWednesday, December 25

Every year, organizations must acknowledge and provide employee entitlements for all general holidays in their jurisdiction. Some businesses close on holidays while others remain open, but most employees are entitled to holiday pay on general holidays. Since holidays occur every calendar year, we receive numerous questions about an employer’s responsibilities, so let’s demystify holidays. 

Alberta’s general holiday rules

General holidays are holidays established under provincial legislation. Some general holidays occur nationwide, while others are unique to a jurisdiction. 

Alberta observes nine general holidays. Other annually occurring holidays like Boxing Day and Easter Monday are not general holidays in Alberta but might be observed at an employer’s discretion. See our article on shutting down for non-statutory holidays for details on planning a legally compliant closure. 

For more information on legislated requirements for general holidays in Alberta, see Part 2, Division 5 of the Employment Standards Code

What are the general holidays in Alberta?

New Year’s DayJanuary 1 
Alberta Family Day The third Monday of February
Good Friday The Friday before Easter Sunday 
Victoria Day The Monday before May 25 
Canada Day July 1 unless that is a Sunday, then Monday, July 2, replaces July 1 
Labour Day The first Monday in September 
Thanksgiving Day The second Monday in October 
Remembrance Day  November 11 
Christmas Day December 25 

Who qualifies for general holiday pay in Alberta?

Most workers in Alberta are eligible general holiday entitlements if they have been employed for 30 workdays or more in the 12 months before the general holiday. 

For employees who work an irregular schedule, the general holiday is considered a normal workday, and the employee receives holiday pay if the employee worked on the same day of the week on which the general holiday falls in at least five of the nine weeks preceding the workweek in which the general holiday occurs. 

If a general holiday falls on a day that would have been a regular workday for an eligible employee and the employee does not work on that day, they should receive general holiday pay equal to at least their average daily wage (more on this calculation below). If a general holiday falls on a non-regular workday and the employee does not work, they are not entitled to general holiday pay. 

Employees are ineligible for general holiday pay if they are scheduled to work on a general holiday but are absent from work without management approval, or if they are absent from work on their last scheduled workday before the holiday or their first scheduled workday after the holiday without management approval (more on the “last and first” rule below). An employee’s eligibility for holiday pay is not affected if the employee’s absence has been approved by their employer. 

If an employee does not qualify for general holiday pay, they should be paid their regular wage for all hours worked on a holiday. 

To determine whether special rules apply, refer to Alberta’s Employment Standards Regulation.

What is the “last and first rule” for general holidays in Alberta?

Simply put, this rule requires an employee to work their last scheduled day before a holiday and the first scheduled day after a holiday to be eligible for holiday pay. In some instances, employees may have a reasonable cause for missing either of these workdays. 

The word “scheduled” is crucial when creating compliant holiday policies and communications. A common issue in this regard is managing holidays for part-time employees. For example, consider a part-time worker who only works Tuesday to Thursday. If a holiday falls on a Monday, their last scheduled day would be the Thursday shift before the holiday, and their first shift after the holiday would be Tuesday after the holiday. If the employee works both the Thursday before and the Tuesday after, they meet the requirements. 

If the employee fails to meet the requirements of the last and first rule, they are not entitled to public holiday pay. However, if the employee misses a scheduled shift with reasonable cause, general holiday pay may be required. This includes situations that are beyond the control of the employee and prevent them from working, such as unplanned emergencies, accidents, or injuries that prevent the employee from working. If the employee has reasonable cause for missing either the last shift before or the first shift after a general holiday and this information is discussed with their employer and approved, they are entitled to holiday pay.

How do you calculate general holiday pay in Alberta? 

In Alberta, general holiday pay is equal to an employee’s average daily wage. To calculate an employee’s average daily wage, divide the employee’s total wages earned in either the four-week period immediately before the general holiday (or the four-week period ending on the last day of the pay period immediately before the general holiday) by the number of days worked in that period. 

If an employee works on a general holiday that would have been regular workday, they receive: 

  • General holiday pay for each hour worked at 1.5 times their normal wage rate in addition to an amount that is at least their average daily wages; or 
  • The total of the applicable wage rates for each hour worked that day, one day off work no later than their next annual vacation on a day that would normally be a workday, and general holiday pay for that. 

If an eligible employee works on a general holiday that is not a regular workday, they receive 1.5 times their wage rate for each hour worked that day. 

Refer to the government of Alberta’s general holidays webpage for more information.

How is holiday pay calculated with other types of pay? 

Vacation pay and general holiday pay: If a general holiday occurs during an employee’s vacation and the employee would have been entitled to the general holiday had they not been on vacation, the employee should receive an alternate holiday with holiday pay that is equal to the employee’s average daily wage. 

Can I require employees to work on a general holiday in Alberta? 

Yes, you may require employees to work on a general holiday, but you must provide applicable entitlements to any employee who works on a general holiday.

Managing general holiday entitlements 

Employers, managers, and supervisors must have a thorough understanding of holiday entitlements to remain compliant. Implementing concise and comprehensive policies clearly convey who qualifies for general holiday pay, when it is applicable, and how to navigate special circumstances. Our experts can quickly create a holiday policy tailored to your business, or you can use one of our handy customizable templates. 

Failure to provide employees with the correct general holiday entitlements violates Alberta’s Employment Standards Code, so staying compliant is crucial. 

Does your employee handbook address general holiday time off?

Need a second opinion on whether your current holiday policy is right for your workplace? Our team of tenured HR professionals can help! Live HR Advice offers unlimited on-demand phone support by senior HR advisors who have experience across all industries and extensive knowledge about what’s trending in HR. Call as many times as you need with any HR question, big or small, and get tailored recommendations for your workplace. To learn more, chat with one of our representatives.

Check out our other stat holiday guides