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National holidays: How well do you know your obligations as an employer?

At first glance, there’s nothing very complicated about statutory holidays. However, just before each of these holidays our Business Counsellors receive dozens of calls – probably because there are so many exceptions that can muddy the waters!

How do I calculate statutory holiday pay?

You simply calculate 1/20th of the wages that an employee earned during the four weeks preceding the holiday (excluding overtime). Employees are entitled to this pay even if the statutory holiday does not fall on a day when they would normally have worked.

Important: For employees who are paid in whole or in part by commission, a different rule is used to calculate their holiday pay. In these cases, the pay is equal to 1/60th of gross wages earned (without regard for overtime) during the 12 full weeks of pay preceding the week in which the holiday occurs. 

There is just one restriction: Employees must not have been absent from work without their employer’s authorization or without a valid reason on the day preceding or following the statutory holiday.

What if an employee has to work?

Employees who work on a statutory holiday are entitled to a holiday pay or a compensatory holiday, whichever the employer chooses. The compensatory holiday must be taken within a three-week period preceding or following the statutory holiday, except in the case of the National Holiday.

What are the statutory holidays in Quebec?

The statutory holidays listed in the Act respecting Labour Standards and the National Holiday Act are:

  • January 1 (New Year’s Day)
  • Good Friday or Easter Monday, whichever the employer chooses;
  • the Monday preceding May 25 (Journée des Patriotes)
  • June 24 (Fête Nationale), or June 25 if June 24 falls on a Sunday, for employees who do not usually work Sundays – see below
  • July 1 (Canada Day), or July 2 if July 1 falls on a Sunday 
  • the first Monday in September (Labour Day)
  • the second Monday in October (Thanksgiving)
  • December 25 (Christmas Day)

Workers in the garment industry are also entitled to the following holidays:

  • January 2
  • Good Friday and Easter Monday

Exceptions: National holidays

In Quebec, there are some exceptions to these rules, including Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, to which the National Holiday Act applies. 

  • Employees who do not normally work on June 24 are entitled to a holiday pay or a compensatory holiday, whichever the employer chooses. The compensatory holiday must be taken on the preceding or following business day. 
  • Employees are entitled to their holiday pay even if they are absent from work without a valid reason on the business day preceding or following June 24.

You can easily calculate what you’ll need to pay your employees by using the indemnity calculation tool developed by the CNESST.  

Below are a few questions that CFIB’s Business Counsellors are regularly asked just before a statutory holiday:

1. When Christmas falls on a Saturday, can I move the statutory holiday to Friday or Monday?

Answer: No.

Statutory holidays are fixed dates and therefore cannot be moved. The Act respecting Labour Standards specifies that employees are entitled to holiday pay for a statutory holiday, whether or not they normally work that day and regardless of whether it is a weekday or a weekend. Under this principle, employees who normally work from Monday to Friday would be entitled to their usual wages, plus pay for a statutory holiday that falls on a weekend, or to a compensatory holiday, whichever the employer chooses.

Important: Overtime could apply under certain conditions.
 

2. My company is closed on Sundays (a statutory holiday) and I would like to give my employees Monday off. How can I do this while still complying with the law?

Answer: You can opt to give a compensatory holiday instead of the holiday pay.

This has been a possibility since the changes to the Act respecting Labour Standards came into effect on June 12, 2018.

3. I think I read that I can choose between a holiday pay and a compensatory holiday. Is that true?

Answer: Yes, you have a choice.

The Act respecting Labour Standards was amended on June 12, 2018 and now allows employers to choose between giving the holiday pay or a compensatory holiday. The choice is yours, regardless of whether or not an employee worked on the statutory holiday. 
 

Figuring out everything you need to know about statutory holidays can be a bit tricky at times. Do you still have questions? Call your CFIB Business Counsellor who will be happy to clarify all the details!