Public holidays: What Ontario employers need to know

The Ontario Employment Standards Act details employers’ responsibilities with respect to public holidays. As an employer, if you have hired one or more employees, consult this law and seek legal advice as required.

In most cases, employers in Ontario are required to provide employees with public holidays, which are separate from vacations. Some businesses operate in jobs and industries that are not covered by public holiday provisions, so make sure you understand who qualifies, how payments are calculated and what the rules are.

Public holidays in Ontario

Employers need to know that most employees are entitled to receive time off with pay on the following public holidays:

  • New Year’s Day—January 1
  • Family Day—third Monday in February
  • Good Friday—Friday before Easter
  • Victoria Day—the Monday on or before May 24
  • Canada Day—July 1
  • Civic Holiday—first Monday in August
  • Labour Day—first Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving—second Monday in October
  • Christmas Day—December 25
  • Boxing Day—December 26

Some employers provide additional days off, such as Easter Monday or Remembrance Day. However, these holidays are optional and not a common practice among small organizations.

Tips for employers about public holidays

Qualifying for public holiday pay

Employees will generally qualify for public holiday pay, unless:

  • If, without reasonable cause, they fail to work all of their last regularly scheduled day of work before the public holiday or their first regularly scheduled day of work after the public holiday


  • If they are scheduled to work on the public holiday, but fail to work their complete shift without reasonable cause

If employees fail to qualify for the public holiday, they must still be paid premium pay for all hours worked on the public holiday.
Qualified employees can be full-time, part-time, permanent, contract or students. It does not matter how long they have held their job, or how many days they worked before the public holiday.

Agreeing to work a public holiday

The Ontario Employment Standards Act indicates that employees who qualify for public holidays should be given these days off with pay. However, work is not actually prohibited on public holidays. Employees can agree to work on the holiday and receive:

  • Regular pay for the public holiday plus premium pay, which must be at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay for the hours worked that day


  • Regular pay for hours worked on the public holiday plus another day off with pay (a “substitute” for the public holiday)

Public holiday pay: How employers need to calculate it

Regular full-time employees are to be paid their regular day’s wages for a public holiday, and vacation continues to be earned on the public holiday.

To calculate public holiday pay for someone who is not a full-time employee:

  1. Add the basic or regular pay (do not include overtime or other premiums) earned in the four weeks prior to the work week with the public holiday.
  2. Add the vacation pay that was earned in the four weeks prior to the work week with the public holiday.
  3. Divide the total by 20 to get a daily amount. This will be the amount owed for the public holiday.

All dates and statistics sourced in March 2014 from the Ontario Employment Standards Act.


Ontario Ministry of Labour. (n.d.). Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from