Each year, businesses must recognize legislated days throughout the year, commonly known as public holidays. Typically, recognition takes the form of the business closing for the day and employees receiving public holiday pay. Despite this practice recurring every year, public holidays still prompt questions for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. Below is our 2023 Employers Guide to Ontario Public Holidays to help make the process easier.
What are the public holidays for Ontario ?
In Ontario, businesses must recognize nine public holidays.
Required Public Holidays Chart 2023:
|New Year’s Day||January 1, 2023||Sunday|
|Family Day||February 20, 2023||Monday|
|Good Friday||April 7, 2023||Friday|
|Victoria Day||May 22, 2023||Monday|
|Canada Day||July 1, 2023||Saturday|
|Labour Day||September 4, 2023||Monday|
|Thanksgiving Day||October 9, 2023||Monday|
|Christmas Day||December 25, 2023||Monday|
|Boxing Day||December 26, 2023||Monday|
Required Public Holidays Chart 2024:
|New Year’s Day||January 1, 2024||Monday|
|Family Day||February 19, 2024||Monday|
|Good Friday||March 29, 2024||Friday|
|Victoria Day||May 20, 2024||Monday|
|Canada Day||July 1, 2024||Monday|
|Labour Day||September 2, 2024||Monday|
|Thanksgiving Day||October 14, 2024||Monday|
|Christmas Day||December 25, 2024||Wednesday|
|Boxing Day||December 26, 2024||Thursday|
Other typically observed “holidays” like the August civic holiday (August 5, 2024), National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30,2024), Remembrance Day (Nov 11, 2024), and Easter Monday are not required public holidays in Ontario. They are observed at an employer’s discretion.
Is everyone entitled to public holidays?
Most employees are entitled to take these days off and be paid public holiday pay. This includes salaried, seasonal, contract, casual, and part-time employees. Some employees may be required to work on public holidays, while some employees may work in jobs that are exempted from public holiday provisions. To determine whether special rules apply, refer to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or the government document “Industries and jobs with exemptions or special rules.”
What is the last and first rule?
The last and first rule is the requirement for an employee to work their last regularly scheduled day before the holiday and the first regularly scheduled day after the holiday to be eligible for holiday pay unless they have a reasonable cause for missing either of these workdays.
Tips for applying the last and first rule:
- It is critical to remember the word “scheduled.” For example, if an employee takes a job-protected leave, then their last regularly scheduled day would be their last day at work and their first regularly scheduled day would be the day they are expected back from the leave. Another common example would be a part-time worker who only works Tuesday to Thursday; their last regularly scheduled day would be the last shift they were scheduled to worked before the holiday and the first shift they are scheduled to work after the holiday.
- If the employee fails to meet this requirement without reasonable cause, then they are not entitled to public holiday pay.
- Reasonable cause may include circumstances or situations that are beyond the employee’s control and prevent them from working or staying at work, a manager approving the employee leaving early or arriving late, or unplanned emergencies, accidents, and injuries that prevent the employee from coming into work. If the employee has reasonable cause, they are still entitled to holiday pay.
How do you calculate public holiday pay?
An employee’s entitlement to holiday pay is calculated from the total amount of regular wages earned in the four work weeks before the week of the public holiday, including vacation pay payable in those four weeks, divided by 20.
Calculating Public Holiday Pay Tips:
- When reviewing the four weeks before the public holiday, do not include the week that the public holiday falls in.
- Regular wages do not include overtime pay, premium pay, termination pay, public holiday pay, or severance pay.
- If you provide a percentage of vacation pay on each paycheque, then this amount must be included when calculating public holiday pay.
- If you provided a vacation pay payment to an employee for vacation that they will be taking after the public holiday, do not include this in your calculation. For example: An employee is scheduled to be on vacation for the four days immediately following the public holiday. Company policy is to pay their vacation pay before vacation, so the company issues the holiday pay on a last payroll run before the holiday. This holiday pay amount should not be included in the calculation of public holiday pay because it is for time that has not yet been taken. Please note that vacation pay for that week should be considered in future public holiday pay calculation if the week of vacation falls in the four-week review period of the next public holiday.
Ultimately the intention of the public holiday pay calculation is to pay each employee a fair and appropriate amount of public holiday pay that reflects an average daily rate. If we keep this intention in mind when performing our calculation, it does help to make the process easier.
What happens when the public holiday falls on a non-working day?
The employee is entitled to either:
- A substitute holiday off with public holiday pay; or
- If the employee agrees to this electronically in writing, only public holiday pay for the public holiday.
Depending on the nature of your workplace, most organizations recognize an alternate day off work. For example, with Canada Day falling on a Saturday this year, many organizations are recognizing the Monday as the holiday. Where this substitute holiday is put in place, that results in Saturday, July 1, being treated as a regular day with respect to pay rate.
The most common reasons to forfeit the public holiday time is part-time or casual workers who are already working a limited schedule, seasonal workers, and service sector employers that want to remain open during busy times.
Can I ask employees to work on a public holiday?
Yes. You can ask employees to work on the public holiday, but they need to agree electronically or in writing (e-mail is often the easiest way).
Those who work on the public holiday are entitled to one of these two options:
- Regular wages for all hours worked on the public holiday, plus a substitute day off work with public holiday pay; or
- Public holiday pay for the public holiday, plus premium pay (1.5 times) for all hours worked on the public holiday. Note: The employee needs to agree to forfeit the substitute day off.
Special rules for working on a public holiday:
Employees who work in hotels, motels, tourist resorts, restaurants, taverns, hospitals, nursing homes, and continuous operations can be required to work on the public holiday without their agreement if the holiday falls on a day that the employee normally works and the employee is not on vacation. In addition, the employer chooses which payment or recognition options will apply.
For more tips and resources on effectively managing public holidays in Ontario, download our free 2023 and 2024 Ontario Public Holidays Toolkits . These toolkits are packed with amazing content to make all holidays a breeze, from a fully compliant public holiday policy to a usable reference chart. You can also get on-demand support from our team of HR experts to assist you in the process.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
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