featured Labour

Did you know that in Nova Scotia you can be forced to work on a holiday for straight time? Yes, you read that right.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In most Canadian provinces, if you work on a statutory holiday, you’re entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for the time you worked. But in Nova Scotia, employers can get away with paying you straight time. That makes us among the stingiest places in the country. We already have fewer statutory holidays than other provinces, but this makes it even worse.

There are two issues here:  one is statutory holiday pay.  That’s what you get paid whether you work or not. The second is what I call premium pay for working on the holiday which I shorten to “premium pay”. That’s what you get paid if you are called in to work on a statutory holiday.

In an earlier article I wrote about how many of you – if you are not in a union — will get paid for the Christmas Day statutory holiday, but not for Boxing Day.  Though most businesses and retail store were closed on Boxing Day, it is not a statutory holiday so you do not get paid for the forced day off work.

Want to get paid for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

First, let’s consider holiday pay.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are statutory holidays, meaning most people do not work but get a day’s pay anyway. But there’s a catch. In NS, to qualify for statutory holiday pay, you need to have worked for 15 of the last 30 calendar days.  And you need to have worked your last scheduled shift before the holiday and your next scheduled shift after the holiday.  If you qualify, you earn a regular day’s pay for the statutory holiday. If you don’t qualify, you’re out of luck.

Next, let’s consider premium pay:

If your boss assigns you to work either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day (let’s say you work in a bar or restaurant or at a gas station) then you are entitled to the statutory holiday pay plus  premium pay, but only if you qualify.  Premium pay is your normal pay, plus time and a half for all hours you work that day.

Example:  If you normally work 8 hours and earn $12 an hour, and on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day you work 6 hours, you should earn 8 x $12= $96, plus 6 x $12 x 1.5 = $108 – in total $204.00.  But that’s not guaranteed. First, you need to qualify for premium pay.

Again to qualify—you have to have worked 15 out of the last 30 days, and worked the last shift before the holiday and the first shift after.

But what if you do not qualify, but you have to work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day? Well you earn only your regular hourly rate.  No holiday pay and no premium pay. If you have to work 6 hours on New Year’s Day, and your hourly rate is $12, you receive only 6 x $12 = $72.00!

All provinces in Canada (excluding PEI and Quebec) pay at least 1.5 times your hourly rate for statutory holidays. Even in New Brunswick you are entitled to 1.5 times your hourly rate for working Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—with no qualifiers.  In Newfoundland, workers do not need any qualifiers to earn twice their hourly wage for working on a holiday.

Nova Scotia is clearly one of the stingiest and most punitive provinces when it comes to labour standards.  As Tim Bousquet wrote the other day – we have a wage problem in NS, many people are paid far less here than they would be in other provinces. Low labour standards and nickel and dime-ing workers who work on statutory holidays is a symptom of our low wage economy.


Judy Haiven is on the Steering Committee of Equity Watch, a NS organisation dedicated to fighting discrimination, racism and bullying in the workplace.

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  1. Also, not that I feel we are underpaid, but NS teachers are hired under the Education Act, and we are paid only for 195 days a year. We receive no vacation pay and no pay for any statutory holiday.

    1. I believe your vacation pay is added every cheque according to your contract. Also, many schools are only getting about 174 + OR – with the storm days some schools get. Add on the 9 full day in services and 8 half days over the school year, school is not in for the 195 days set by the education act. 10 paid storms days is huge in comparison to other gov depts that get none.

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