Ho Ho Ho: Fun facts about statutory holidays in BC; the one about Boxing Day may surprise you!

Canada Publication December 15, 2021

‘Tis the season to be jolly. ‘Tis also the season for employers to struggle with the intricacies of statutory holidays and related pay. This year, Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, Boxing Day Sunday, and New Year’s Day the following Saturday. Here are some points to remember about employee entitlements under the British Columbia Employment Standards Act.

Do employees automatically get Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day off of work? Technically, no:

  • Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are statutory holidays in British Columbia. Boxing Day, while traditionally given as a holiday to many employees, is not a statutory holiday in this province (although it is in Ontario and for federally regulated entities);
  • there is no obligation to provide a day off in lieu of the statutory Christmas Day and New Year’s Day holiday when it falls on a weekend (i.e., employees can work on December 24 and 27 this year without consequences);
  • employers can enter into agreements with individual employees to substitute a different day for a statutory holiday; 
  • employers may also come to an agreement with a majority of their employees to substitute for all employees a different day for a statutory holiday; and
  • when an employee is given the day off for a statutory holiday, or if the statutory holiday falls on a regular day off (such as with Christmas Day in 2021 and this New Year’s Day in 2022), the employee is still entitled to statutory holiday pay.

Are all employees entitled to statutory holiday pay? Generally, yes, but with some rules:

  • all employees (part and full time) are treated the same for statutory holiday pay purposes; and
  • employees are only entitled to statutory holiday pay if they have worked or earned wages in 15 of the 30 calendar days preceding the statutory holiday unless the employees worked under an averaging agreement at any time during the 30 days preceding the holiday, in which case the employees are entitled to holiday pay even if they did not meet the 15-day threshold for that statutory holiday. 

How do you calculate the pay entitlement? It depends on whether the employee worked on the statutory holiday:

  • employees who do not work on a statutory holiday must be paid an “average day’s pay.” That amount is determined by dividing the amount the employee has been paid during the 30 days preceding the statutory holiday (including vacation pay but less amounts paid or payable for overtime) by the number of days the employee worked within that same 30-day period; and
  • employees who do work on a statutory holiday must be paid 1.5 times their regular wage for time worked on the statutory holiday up to 12 hours and 2 times their regular wage for time worked on the statutory holiday over 12 hours plus one average day’s pay calculated using the formula outlined above. 

Keep in mind that not all employees are covered by the Employment Standards Act. Workers in certain occupations, for example architects, engineers and licensed insurance agents, are exempt from these rules.

Happy Holidays!  

The authors would like to thank Alysha Bennett, Articling Student, for her assistance in preparing this legal update.

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