Jan 21, 2021
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With the holiday season now behind us, many employees are left scratching their heads as they review their December paystubs. Most employees in Ontario are entitled to receive "holiday pay" on statutory holidays, but few understand how these payments are calculated. This blog post demystifies this cryptic line on your pay records.

What qualifies as a statutory holiday?

Statutory holidays, often called “public holidays”, are designated days in which most employees are legally entitled to both the day off and holiday pay. The Ontario Employment Standards Act (the “ESA”) establishes the minimum employment standards in the province, including those regarding statutory holidays.

In Ontario, there are 9 statutory holidays:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

Although not statutorily required to do so, many employers also give their employees additional holidays, such as the August civic holiday and Easter Monday.

If you are a federally regulated employee, you are entitled to the statutory holidays listed in the Canada Labour Code. Federally regulated employees include employees of banks and telecommunications companies.

What if my employer wants me to work on a statutory holiday?

Employees can agree in writing to work on a statutory holiday. As well, employees in the following industries can be required to work on a statutory holiday:

  • Hotels, motels and tourist resorts
  • Restaurants and taverns
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Continuous operation businesses

If an employee works on a statutory holiday, he or she is entitled to receive either:

  • their regular wages and a substitute day off with holiday pay; or
  • holiday pay and premium pay (1.5 times their regular wages) and no substitute day off.

The employer chooses which of the two that the employee will receive.

How to calculate holiday pay

The Ministry of Labour has an online calculator that you can use to determine how much holiday pay you are owed. However, if you’re curious how this number is calculated or if you want to calculate it yourself, you can follow these simple steps below.

The first step is to determine the typical workweek cycle at your workplace. For example, a typical workweek may begin on Sunday and end on Saturday. Next, you must calculate the total wages earned (including any paid-out vacation pay) for the four weeks prior to the week of the statutory holiday and divide the total by 20 to determine your holiday pay.

Below is an example calculation for an employee whose workweek begins on Sunday and who would like to calculate their holiday pay for Christmas Day which occurs on a Friday.

  1. Calculate the total wages earned during the four weeks prior to the week with the statutory holiday:
    • Week 1: Sunday, November 22 – Saturday, November 28: $600
    • Week 2: Sunday, November 29 – Saturday, December 5: $700
    • Week 3: Sunday, December 6 – Saturday, December 12: $300
    • Week 4: Sunday, December 13 – Saturday, December 19: $600

    Total pay for the four weeks prior to the week of Christmas Day = $2,200

  2. Include any vacation pay that was paid out during this four-week period:

    Week 3: Sunday, December 6 – Saturday, December 12: $100

  3. Divide the total combined wages and vacation pay by 20 to determine the holiday pay owed:

$2,300 divided by 20 = $115

The worker is entitled to receive $115 in holiday pay for Christmas Day.

If you have questions regarding your statutory holiday entitlements, reach out to one of Cavalluzzo’s experienced lawyers who would be happy to help you.

*Special thanks to articling student Ocean Avriel for his assistance in drafting this post.

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