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What Are The Rules Around Statutory Holidays in British Columbia & Alberta?

The December holiday season is almost upon us again. And thank goodness. After this year, workers will surely need the opportunity to relax with family and friends, even if this year’s holiday get-together will be hosted by Zoom.

In British Columbia and Alberta, both Christmas Day (December 25) and New Year’s Day (January 1) are statutory / general holidays under each province’s respective employment standards legislation. Boxing Day (December 26) is not a statutory holiday in either British Columbia or Alberta.

British Columbia

In British Columbia, employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Act are entitled to statutory holiday pay for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day if the employee has been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days before the statutory holiday and:

  • has either worked or earned wages for 15 of the 30 calendar days preceding the statutory holiday, or
  • worked under an averaging agreement at any time within that 30 calendar day period.

British Columbia employees are entitled to statutory holiday pay even if the statutory holiday falls on a day that would otherwise be a day off according to the employee’s regular work schedule.

Statutory holiday pay in British Columbia must be an amount equal to at least an average day’s pay, based on dividing the amount of wages (not including overtime wages, but including vacation pay) paid or payable to the employee in the 30 calendar day period before the statutory holiday by the number of days the employee worked or earned wages within the 30 calendar day period.

British Columbia employees who are given a day off on the applicable statutory holiday, or who agree with the employer to substitute another day for the statutory holiday, are entitled to statutory holiday pay for the day off.

British Columbia employers may require employees to work on a statutory holiday. If an employee works on the statutory holiday, then the employee is entitled to statutory holiday pay plus 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage for time worked up to 12 hours, and double the employee’s regular wage for any time worked over 12 hours. Alternatively, the employer and employee can agree to substitute another day off for the statutory holiday with statutory holiday pay.

Alberta

In Alberta, employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Code are entitled to general holiday pay for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day if the employee has worked for the employer for 30 work days or more in the 12 months preceding the general holiday.

Alberta employers may require employees to work on a general holiday. An employee is not entitled to general holiday pay if the employee does not work on the holiday when required or scheduled to do so, or is absent from employment without the employer’s consent on the employee’s last regular work day preceding, or the first regular work day following, a general holiday.

Unlike in British Columbia, generally speaking Alberta employees are entitled to general holiday pay only if in at least five of the nine weeks preceding the work week in which the general holiday occurs the employee worked on the same day of the week as the day on which the general holiday falls (or if the employee is scheduled to work on the general holiday).

If an Alberta employee is eligible for general holiday pay and is given a day off on the general holiday, the employee is entitled to general holiday pay equal to an average day’s wages, calculated by averaging the employee’s total wages in whichever of the following periods the employer chooses over the number of days worked by the employee in the period:

  • the four week period immediately preceding the general holiday; or
  • the four week period ending on the last day of the pay period immediately preceding the general holiday.

Where an Alberta employee is paid entirely by commission, the wage rate for the purpose of calculating general holiday pay is the Alberta minimum wage rate.

If an Alberta employee works on the general holiday, the employer must either:

  • pay the employee general holiday pay and an amount equal to at least 1.5 times the employee’s wage rate for each hour worked on the general holiday; or
  • pay the employee an amount that is at least the employee’s wage rate for each hour worked on the general holiday and grant the employee one day’s holiday with general holiday pay on a work day that is not later than the employee’s next annual vacation.

If a general holiday falls during a period where an Alberta employee is on annual vacation (and the employee would have been entitled to the general holiday but for the vacation), the employer must give the employee a general holiday with general holiday pay either:

  • on what would have been the employee’s first day back to work after the annual vacation; or
  • by agreement with the employee, on another day after the annual vacation that would normally be a working day for the employee, which day must be before the employee’s next annual vacation.

In Alberta, the rules around paying general holiday pay are a little different for construction employers, who must pay construction employees an amount equal to at least 3.6% of the employee’s wages as general holiday pay on or before December 31 each year (or earlier if the employee’s employment is terminated within the year).

Note that in British Columbia and Alberta, certain categories of employees are not entitled to statutory holiday pay or any premium for working on a statutory holiday under the applicable employment standards regulations. The categories are not identical in each province -- it is important to check the applicable provincial employment standards regulations to determine whether an exemption applies to a particular employee.

If you have any questions about statutory holidays in British Columbia or Alberta, the lawyers in Lawson Lundell’s Labour, Employment & Human Rights Group are here to help you and your business have a happy and stress-free holiday season.

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Lawson Lundell's Labour and Employment Law Blog provides updates on the most recent legal developments impacting the Canadian workplace and offers practical tips for employers. We cover a range of topics, including labour relations, employment law, collective bargaining, human rights, employment standards, employment equity, workers' compensation, business immigration, privacy, occupational health and safety and pensions and employee benefits. 

Legal Disclaimer: The information made available on this webpage is for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please contact our firm if you need legal advice or have questions about the content of this webpage. 

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