Canada: St. John The Baptist Day – A Primer On Employers' Obligations

Last Updated: June 20 2017
Article by Geneviève Beaudin and Paule Veilleux

Summer is at hand (almost) and summer vacations as well. Every year at this time, employers become concerned about their obligations in connection with the St. John the Baptist Day National Holiday.

The Quebec legislator considers this statutory holiday to be very important and it is governed by a specific statute, namely the National Holiday Act, with stricter rules than the Labour Standards Act, which governs all other statutory holidays. In other words, the legislator clearly intended that Quebec employees who normally work do not on this national holiday. This intention is evident from the provisions on whether or not the holiday can be postponed and its general conditions of application. 

Who can be required to work

While employers can generally ask an employee to work on a statutory holiday, it is more difficult to do so when it comes to St. John the Baptist Day. 

This is because the National Holiday Act specifies that the only employees who can be required to work on St. John the Baptist Day are those who work for a business that "by reason of the nature of its activities" cannot dispense with their services on that particular day. 

The expression "by reason of the nature of its activities" is interpreted relatively narrowly by the Commission des normes, de l'équité et de la santé et de la sécurité du travail. Only businesses that can show that they cannot interrupt their activities because doing so would be incompatible with the very nature of those activities, or who can show that interrupting their activities would be truly detrimental to the sound operation of the business, can remain open and require their employees to work on St. John the Baptist Day. Here are some examples of such businesses: 

  • hotels;
  • restaurants;
  • convenience stores;
  • factories that operate 24 hours a day where the employer can show that restarting the factory's machinery after a shutdown would take an inordinately long time. 

Thus, in principle an employer cannot justifiably require its employees to work on St. John the Baptist Day in order to finish urgent work or merely to maintain productivity. It should also be noted that retail businesses can interrupt their activities. Moreover, the Act respecting hours and days of admission to commercial establishments provides that commercial establishments governed by that statute must close on June 24th, with some exceptions.

Employees who must work on June 24th because of the nature of the business activities of their employer are entitled to a full day's pay for that day as well as the statutory indemnity. However, in lieu of the indemnity the employer may, at its discretion, give such employees a compensatory holiday on the working day immediately preceding or following June 24th.

Conditions of application

June 24th, St. John the Baptist Day, is a statutory public holiday. The only condition employees must satisfy in order to benefit is that they were in your employment on the day of the holiday. There is no obligation similar to the one in the Labour Standards Act that requires employees to report for work on the day preceding or following the holiday in order to benefit. If the National Holiday falls on a day that is a regular working day for the employee, the employee is therefore entitled to a holiday on the day itself as well as the statutory indemnity.

In addition, when June 24th falls on a day that is not a regular working day, the employee is still entitled to a compensatory holiday equal to a regular day of work or the statutory indemnity, at the employer's discretion. In all cases, the compensatory holiday must be taken on the working day preceding or following June 24th.

Also note that if the day falls on a Sunday, an employee who does not normally work on Sunday is entitled to the holiday on June 25th. When June 24th falls on a Saturday, the National Holiday is a statutory public holiday for an employee who regularly works on Saturday and he will be entitled to a holiday on the day itself as well as the statutory indemnity. An employee who does not regularly work on Saturday is entitled to either a compensatory holiday equal to a regular day of work or the statutory indemnity, at the employer's discretion. In all cases, the compensatory holiday must be taken on the working day preceding or following June 24th.

Last, if the employee is on annual leave (vacation) during St. John the Baptist, the compensatory holiday is to be taken on a date agreed upon by the employee and the employer. 

Calculating the holiday indemnity

  • Employees with standard remuneration
    An employee entitled to a paid holiday on St. John the Baptist Day is thereby entitled to an indemnity equal to 1/20th of the wages earned during the four complete weeks of pay preceding the week of June 24th, excluding overtime. 
  • Commission employees
    However, the indemnity for an employee remunerated in whole or in part through commissions must equal 1/60th of his or her wages, including tips, earned during the 12 complete weeks of pay preceding the week of June 24th

Exclusions

It should be noted that some employees are excluded from the application of the National Holiday Act, particularly employees of businesses that are subject to the Canada Labour Code.

Public order

The National Holiday Act is a public-order statute. Nevertheless, employee benefits more attractive than those under the Act may be provided for in individual employment contracts or in collective agreements.

Finally, an employer's failure to comply with a provision of the Act constitutes an offence and can result in a fine of from $325 to $700.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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