Statutory or public holidays are days the government (federal and/or provincial) has designated as paid days off. Much of the content of your policy will be based directly on the law. In addition to identifying statutory holidays, most legislation also governs:
- How holidays which fall on a regular day off are to be handled
- The rate of pay that must be paid to those who work the holiday
- How to calculate holiday pay for part-time employees
It's important to note that in most jurisdictions part-time employees are entitled to holiday pay whether or not the holiday falls on their usual work day. Your policy should identify the holidays that are provided by law and any other holidays that your organization gives such as Remembrance Day or Easter Monday (if these days are not legislated in your jurisdiction).
In all provinces and territories statutory holidays include two holidays based in the Christian faith: Christmas and Good Friday. As Canada has become more diverse, most jurisdictions, through their human rights legislation, have made employers responsible for accommodating the religious holidays of other faiths within appropriate guidelines.
For example, in Ontario, an employer has a duty to accommodate an employee who practices another faith with two days of religious holidays - the same number of Christian-based holidays as provided for in the employment standards. These days are in addition to the statutory holidays legislated by the province. If an organization gives its employees Easter Monday as a holiday, making three Christian-based holidays, then the duty to accommodate an employee of another faith would be three days. In this example, the onus is on the employee to request religious accommodation.
The human rights legislation and the duty to accommodate religious holidays in the workplace are continuously evolving. Review the human rights legislation for your jurisdiction to ensure that your organization is complying with the current laws.
Sample statutory holiday policy
Note: This sample policy has been provided by BGC South Coast BC. Internally, the organization accompanies the policy with a form and a list of frequently asked questions.
BGC is committed to providing time off with pay for employees to observe British Columbia statutory holidays, while also meaningfully promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce. In doing so, BGC continues to exceed the requirements of the BC Employment Standards Act. As an expression of BGC’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and Truth and Reconciliation, regular employees can annually elect to substitute up to 5 of the statutory holidays noted in this policy for another identified day(s) that have significance to them.
Regular employees are entitled to 10 British Columbia statutory holidays and two additional holidays that are federally recognized statutory holidays that BGC treats as statutory holidays for the purposes of business closure and compensation to employees (Boxing Day and National Truth and Reconciliation Day).
The following are statutory holidays at BGC:
- New Year’s Day
- Labour Day
- Family Day
- Truth & Reconciliation Day
- Good Friday
- Thanksgiving Day
- Victoria Day
- Remembrance Day
- Canada Day
- Christmas Day
- BC Day
- Boxing Day
The statutory holidays that are available for substitution are:
- Good Friday
- Victoria Day
- Canada Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Boxing Day
Substitutions are offered to support regular employees to have the opportunity to recognize religious, cultural, and/or personal days that are important to them, and/or to give them the freedom to express their commitment to decolonization by recognizing a day from a different culture, religion, or cause each year where those days are not currently recognized as statutory holidays in BC/Canada. Substitutions are not offered for the purpose of extending any other BGC leave (vacation, sick, parental, or personal).
All regular employees are eligible to substitute statutory holidays in accordance with this policy except those hired after June 30 of the current calendar year. Those hired after June 30th of the current calendar year will be able to substitute days beginning in January of the year following their year of hire.
BGC will continue to compensate regular employees for statutory holidays in accordance with the BC Employment Standards Act. In summary:
- To be eligible for statutory holiday pay a regular employee must:
- have been employed for 30 calendar days before the statutory holiday; and
- have worked or earned wages on 15 of the 30 days immediately before the statutory holiday.
- Statutory holidays and substituted days cannot be carried over into a subsequent calendar year. If the employee is required for some reason to work on a statutory holiday or a substituted day if one has been chosen, the employee will be entitled to be paid for time worked at overtime rates (if applicable) plus receive an average day’s pay.
- If an employee has chosen to engage in substituting one or more days, the employee agrees to work on the statutory holiday and will receive a paid day off on the substituted day or days chosen.
- Working on a statutory holiday where the employee has substituted a different day will be payable at regular pay, not at overtime rates.
Any regular employee may elect to substitute other day(s) off for the following statutory holidays: Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Thanksgiving Day, Boxing Day, by identifying the day that will be substituted, completing the Statutory Holiday Substitution Form, and submitting it to Payroll, where it will be recorded and filed.
Elections for substitutions must be submitted between the period of Dec. 15 (of the prior year) and Feb. 15 of the relevant calendar year. Requests (or late submissions) following Feb. 15 will not be accommodated for that calendar year. Note: employees wishing to observe a significant day that lands before Feb. 15 of the calendar year must submit their form at least 2 weeks in advance of the day they wish to observe to allow for scheduling (ex. Lunar New Year).
Regular employees hired between Feb. 16 and June 30 may submit the form to elect substitutions they are eligible for during the remainder of the calendar year within the first two weeks of their date of hire.
Confirmation of employees' request for substitution will be received within 5 days of submission.
Legislation Takes Priority
The BC Employment Standards Act requires that substituted day(s) be treated the same as if the substituted day were a statutory holiday. BGC will comply at all times with the BC Employment Standards Act. If at any time this policy conflicts with the provisions of the BC Employment Standards Act in any way, the BC Employment Standards Act will apply and BGC will make efforts to resolve the conflict.
Identify the person or position employees can approach if they have questions.
Reference any other policies, documents, or legislation that support the interpretation of this policy.
Indicate the date the policy came into effect and the date of any revisions.
Indicate the date the policy is due to be reviewed. This will vary based upon the policy.
Indicate who approved the policy and the date of approval (for example, the board, the human resources policy committee, the executive director).
Visit our article on Drafting an HR Policy to learn more about developing HR policies.
Important: This document is an example of a policy for a small to medium-size nonprofit organization operating in Canada. While certain assumptions have been made in the creation of this policy, it is your responsibility to adapt, modify, and customize the document to suit the particular needs of your organization.
The content of this sample policy is provided for information purposes only. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, or its partners for any errors, omissions, or statements made within this document. HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, and its partners accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.