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Blue Christmas – who gets paid on the holidays?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax -) Only a couple of more sleeps until Christmas. Will it be a paid day off for you? What about Boxing Day – and New Year’s Day?

In these Covid times, you are allowed to be confused! For instance, if you work at a bar or restaurant you’ve probably been off work for weeks as your establishment has been closed – except for takeaway meals. That’s in HRM—not necessarily elsewhere in the province.

If you work at a café – while there is no table service in HRM, you may be standing behind the counter serving take-out coffee. 

Many readers of this workplace advice column know the drill by now.  

If your workplace is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, you earn holiday pay — a paid day off – as long as you have met two conditions:  

1.  you have to have worked at least 15 of the last 30 calendar days. And 

2.  you have to have your last scheduled shift just before the holiday, and your first scheduled shift just after the holiday.  

If you have not met both conditions, then you do not receive holiday pay. Holiday pay is your hourly wage times the number of hours you normally work.

If you have to work on Christmas or New Year’s Day

If you do work either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day – and if you qualify for holiday pay (see above), you also earn premium pay for working on the holiday.  So if, for example, you have to work on New Year’s Day for seven hours, and you normally earn $13 an hour, your holiday pay would be $91.  Your premium pay for working is  $136.50 (1-1/2 times your pay) which is added to your $91 and totals $227.50 for the day.  Note the difference between holiday pay of only $91, versus premium pay of $227.50.  

Today when I got a coffee at a Tim Hortons, I  noticed a sign saying it is open on Christmas Day. On that day it is likely that none of the counter staff will receive premium pay, though they will be paid their regular wages. Probably no employees selected to work will have worked the requisite 15 of the last 30 days since Nov. 26. If any have, then they may not have worked a scheduled shift the day before or the day after. Then the employee misses out on the holiday pay and the premium pay. Of course the employee is entitled to regular pay for working that day.  

When is a holiday not a holiday?

That day is Boxing Day. In Nova Scotia, Boxing Day is not a paid holiday, though it is a Retail Closing Day. Though most stores, grocery stores, warehouses, restaurants and factories will be closed, employees will not get paid for the day off. If you work at a café, or hotel, or gas station, which are allowed to open, you will earn a regular day’s pay for working on Boxing Day. 

In case you are wondering: 

-In NS Labour Standards does not obligate employers to close early on Xmas Eve. Employees can be asked to work a full shift even into the evening.

– Even though Covid has wreaked havoc with many workers’ schedules and pay, there is no change to the two requirements for receiving premium pay for work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day: employees still have to work 15 out of the last 30 days, plus they have to work their shift before and after the holiday.  

– the only way around these miserly rules is to be part of a union.  Most unions have negotiated better holidays, conditions and pay than what is provided by Nova Scotia Labour Standards. Unions also try to negotiate more than the measly six public holidays a year given by Labour Standards. 

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, a Halifax-based organization which fights bullying, racism and discrimination in the workplace. You can reach her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

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