Canada: Family Fun In February?

Last Updated: January 22 2008
Article by Lyndsay A. Wasser

As most employers are aware, "Family Day" has come to Ontario. In October 2007, the provincial government amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the "ESA") to give employees an additional day off from work on the third Monday of every February. This amendment brings the number of public holidays in Ontario up to nine.

With Ontario's first Family Day fast approaching (February 18, 2008), many employers have begun to consider whether they can meet their obligations to employees without sacrificing company productivity or compromising the equilibrium of carefully structured multi-jurisdictional holiday policies.

The obligations of employers whose contracts and policies simply mirrored the eight statutory holidays that were required in 2007 are clear; such employers must now grant employees an additional paid holiday on Family Day.

However many employers provide their employees with greater holiday entitlements than those required by statute. For instance many employers provide one or more "floater" holidays or extra time off work in December around Christmas. The obligations of such employers are less clear. Although it may not be possible to determine, with certainty, what the Ministry of Labour will require of such employers, some general guiding principles are set out below.

A Greater Benefit

The ESA sets out minimum employment standards. However if an employment agreement or a collective agreement provides a greater benefit to employees, then the terms of the agreement apply and the statutory standard does not apply. Therefore employers that give employees a greater holiday benefit than the benefits required by statute may not be required to give employees a holiday on Family Day.

However before an employer decides not to grant a holiday on Family Day, it is important to ensure that employees really receive a greater benefit. This will depend on the particular circumstances of each case. Some points to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Employees are entitled to a holiday on Family Day unless they receive a greater benefit, not an equal benefit. Therefore if an employer provides 10 (or more) holidays per year, it may not have to provide an extra holiday for Family Day. However employers that provide nine holidays must comply with the ESA.
  • When determining if a benefit is greater, employers cannot "compare apples to oranges". Employers cannot fail to provide a holiday on Family Day, on the basis that employees receive other benefits that exceed statutory requirements. For instance, employees cannot be denied a public holiday because they receive more vacation time than the ESA requires.
  • All aspects of the holidays provided by an employer will be examined to determine if they are of greater benefit than the public holidays under the ESA. For instance the holiday benefits provided by an employer may not be greater if the employer imposes more stringent qualifying conditions than those set out in the ESA (e.g. floater holidays that are earned based upon length of service).
What Can Employers Do?

Employers that grant a greater holiday benefit may be entitled to choose not to give employees a holiday on Family Day. Further employers that provide an equal or greater holiday benefit may have the following options:

  1. Designate a "floater" holiday as Family Day each year or compel employees to use a floater for Family Day;
  2. Provide a holiday on Family Day, but discontinue another holiday that the employer is not required to provide under the ESA (e.g. the August Civic Holiday, Easter Monday, or extra days off in December); or
  3. Provide Family Day as an extra holiday.

However an employer must remember that the ESA is not the only source of its obligations to employees. An employer may have contractual obligations (express or implied) which limit its authority to implement some of the options described above.

Unionized Employees

As with any question involving unionized employees, employers must carefully review the relevant collective agreement(s) to determine their obligations. Although Ontario collective agreements are not likely to contain express reference to Family Day, that does not mean the language of such agreements could not be interpreted to require that the employer provide all statutory holidays as well as any additional holidays required by the collective agreement. Further an employer's authority to designate a floater holiday as Family Day may be limited by consultation obligations or other requirements set out in the collective agreement.

Non-Union Employees

For non-union employees, contractual holiday entitlements should be determined with reference to individual employment agreements, as well as employee handbooks, employment policies and the employer's past practices.

Practical Tips

In many cases employers choose to exceed their legal obligations for practical or business reasons. Most employees are aware that the provincial government has created a new statutory holiday in Ontario and they are looking forward to an extra holiday in February. Therefore although some employers may not be legally required to grant an extra holiday, failure to do so could negatively impact employee morale. This potential impact should be given serious consideration when employers decide how to integrate Family Day into their existing holiday policies and practices.

At a minimum, employers should ensure that they adopt an effective communication strategy with employees and bargaining agents. This should include:

  • Clear advance notice of how employees' existing holiday entitlements will be affected by Family Day. For instance employees should be promptly notified if: (a) they will not be given a day off from work on Family Day because they already receive a greater contractual benefit; (b) they will be required to use a "floater" for Family Day; or (c) the employer intends to eliminate a non-statutory holiday that was provided in previous years.
  • Emphasis on the generosity of existing holiday policies and the fact that employees already receive greater holiday entitlements than the ESA requires. Some employers may also wish to point out other benefits employees receive that exceed statutory requirements.
  • Where appropriate, an explanation of the reasons for the employer's decision. For instance a lost day of productivity may have negative business consequences for some employers, while other employers may require a consistent holiday policy across multiple provinces.

One Last Note

Although this bulletin summarizes some general principles respecting Family Day, employers' legal obligations are highly dependant on factual circumstances. For instance, there are special rules respecting public holidays for certain industries (e.g. hospitals and continuous operations) and for certain types of employees (e.g. seasonal workers and some types of professionals). In addition federally regulated businesses in Ontario are not subject to the ESA, but rather, are governed by the Canada Labour Code which does not provide for a Family Day public holiday.

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2008 McMillan Binch Mendelsohn LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Lyndsay A. Wasser
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.