Legislative Compliance

How to Shut Down for Non-statutory Canadian Holidays

September 26, 2023

Time off from work pays off in the form of major wellness benefits. To name just a few, time off restores cognitive functions (like problem-solving), improves employee performance, reduces the likelihood of experiencing chronic illnesses, and reinvigorates employees’ sense of purpose. Canadian statutory and non-statutory holidays offer employees opportunities to have a day off work and reap some of these benefits. However, statutory entitlements differ across the country. Employers who want to shut down for non-statutory holidays must also make considerations based on legislation and the common law to implement a shutdown in a legally compliant way. Read on to learn how you can benefit from Canadian holidays. 

Statutory and Non-statutory Canadian Holidays

Workers in every Canadian jurisdiction are entitled to statutory holidays, which are paid days off work. Every jurisdiction in Canada offers a paid holiday for New Year’s Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Christmas Day. Other than these days, there are a few differences across jurisdictions:  

  • Family Day is a statutory holiday observed in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. The same day (the third Monday in February) is called Heritage Day in Nova Scotia, Islander Day in Prince Edward Island, and Louis Riel Day in Manitoba.  
  • Quebec is the only jurisdiction that does not require Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday) to be a statutory holiday. In Quebec, employers choose either Good Friday or the Monday after Easter Sunday as a statutory holiday.  
  • Atlantic Canada is the only region in the country that doesn’t have Victoria Day or Thanksgiving as statutory holidays. 

Not all holidays are statutory, though. Employers who want to observe non-statutory holidays must make several considerations.  

Shutting Down for Non-statutory Holidays 

Employers must decide whether they want to shut down for non-statutory holidays. Considering the benefits of time off, employers can expect raised employee morale, performance, and wellbeing by offering non-statutory holidays throughout the year. Employers who want to observe these days have a few options available to them.  

  1. Pay your employees as if it were a statutory holiday. This is the simplest way to implement a non-statutory shutdown without upsetting employees. This is not required under any employment legislation, but it helps employees consider the time off favourably. If you provide pay at their regular rate, there is little reason for them to take issue with a day off.  
  2. Dictate required vacations. Employers can’t always require employees to take vacation time when they see fit, but there are situations where they can. Under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, employers can dictate when an employee takes vacation, but it cannot be in periods of less than one week. This means Ontario employers can require employees to use vacation time to cover non-statutory holiday shutdowns, but unless the employee agrees in writing, that assigned vacation time must be no less than one week long, covering the non-statutory holiday and some time before or after it.  
  3. Write it in an employment contract. Employers and employees are bound by employment contracts. If you add annual scheduled shutdowns on a non-statutory holiday without pay into the agreement, all parties must comply. If you plan for these non-statutory shutdowns to regularly occur each year, but employment contracts already exist, draft an agreement to cover the provisions and requirements surrounding the time off each year. This way you only need to receive consent from employees once.  

Important Considerations 

Be careful to give employees satisfactory provisions or enough notice of time off before shutting down for a non-statutory holiday. Shutting down on short notice and not paying employees can erode trust in the employment relationship and lead to costly consequences. In some cases, it can be interpreted as constructive dismissal and lead to legal issues. Live HR Advice can help answer your questions about obligations surrounding non-statutory days off and ensure compliance. You can also download our FREE Guide to Non-statutory Holiday Shutdowns for more information on how to execute each of the options listed above and how to shut down with little notice or without pay. When we rest, we come back rejuvenated. Plan well ahead for non-statutory holidays to help reinvigorate your workforce.   

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