The government of Canada officially declared a new national holiday on September 30th, which begins this year (2021). Known as The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, this day is meant to honour First Nations, Inuit, and Métis survivors, as well as their families and communities. It is also intended to be a day on which Canadians raise awareness of and reflect on the traumas endured by Indigenous peoples due to the country’s previous residential school system.
However, the Ontario government has confirmed that September 30th will not be a provincial public holiday in 2021. This has brought up some confusion for Dentists as to what it means for their practice. So, in this post, we will address some of the most frequent questions we have received regarding federal and provincial holiday regulations.
Background – Federal vs Provincial Public Holidays
While some holidays are observed nationally, each province sets its own rules around which holidays are considered Public Holidaysalso known as statutory holidays or ‘stat days’ colloquially within the province. For example, in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act defines nine days as Public Holidays: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. These are the only holiday days you need to be concerned about when scheduling and paying your employees.
Four additional days are observed as national holidays (see image). On these days, which includes the new September 30th holiday, only businesses in federally regulated industries (such as banks and federal government offices) are required to treat them as a paid holiday for their workers. This is because these occupations are governed by the Canada Labour Code, which doesn’t apply to dentists (unless you work for the federal government directly).
Public Holiday Pay
Entitlements for employees on public holidays vary depending on whether or not the holiday falls on a working day and whether the employee works on the holiday. Three key definitions you need to know are:
Public Holiday Pay: the amount of public holiday pay an employee is entitled to is calculated by adding the regular wages the employee earned in the four work weeks prior to the public holiday and any vacation pay payable to the employee for that same four work weeks, and then dividing that total by 20.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development offers a Public Holiday Pay Calculator for your convenience.
A substitute holiday: a different working day off work that is designated to replace a public holiday. Employees are entitled to be paid public holiday pay for a substitute holiday.
- A substitute holiday must be scheduled for a day no later than three months after the public holiday for which it was earned. If the employee has agreed electronically or in writing, the substitute day off can be scheduled up to 12 months after the public holiday.
- If an employee is given a substitute holiday, the employer must provide the employee with a written statement that states which public holiday is being substituted, the date of the substitute holiday being given, and the date you gave the employee the notice. You must give this statement to the employee before the public holiday.
Premium Pay: Premium pay is one and a half (1½) times an employee’s regular pay rate. If an employee entitled to receive premium pay works on a public holiday, they must be paid 1½ times their standard pay rate for each hour worked.
The Ontario government website also offers more details and examples for each of these definitions.
To Open or Not to Open
As a dental practice owner, you have the option of closing your practice or staying open on public holidays. When making this decision, there are many factors to consider. The first factor a practice owner may consider is the difference in tangible operating costs versus the revenue you expect to make if you open. Let’s explore a few different scenarios.
Closing on a Holiday
For example, let’s assume you have a practice with a team consisting of one Office Manager, one Dental Assistant, and two Dental Hygienists. Your operating hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 am – 7 pm, with the following set schedule:
|Mon||OM / Hyg1 / Hyg2|
|Tues||OM / DA / Hyg1|
|Wed||OM / DA / Hyg2|
|Thur||OM / DA / Hyg1|
|Fri||OM / DA / Hyg2|
|Sat||DA / Hyg1|
While considering your patient list, you realize that most of your patients would likely partake in religious and family gatherings throughout the Easter weekend. So, you decide to close your practice on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Since Good Friday is one of the Ontario Public Holidays, each team member is entitled to a day off with Public Holiday Pay (as opposed to their regular wages). Thus, you will have to pay Public Holiday Pay for those three employees who would otherwise work on a Friday – the Office Manager, Dental Assistant and Dental Hygienist 2.
And, because Dental Hygienist 1 does not typically work on a Friday, they have two options. They can either
- accept a substitute holiday off with public holiday pay;
- agree, electronically or in writing, to accept public holiday pay for Friday and not take a substitute holiday off.
However, since Easter Monday is only considered a Public Holiday for federally regulated businesses, you do not have to pay any of your team members for this day while your practice is closed.
Opening on a Holiday
Let’s assume the same team and schedule as above for this example. If you saw that most of your patients did not typically celebrate over that same Easter weekend, you might decide it might be beneficial to stay open on both days instead. In this case, each of your team members is still entitled to a day off and Public Holiday Pay for Good Friday. And while you cannot force your team to work, you can offer them alternatives to taking the day off. They could either come to work and
- be paid their regular wages for the hours they work on Friday and receive a substitute holiday for which they will be paid public holiday pay;
- be paid public holiday pay plus premium pay for the hours they work on Friday and not receive a substitute holiday
If they are willing to work on Good Friday, they will need to give you their agreement electronically or in writing.
And again, since Easter Monday is not an Ontario Public Holiday, you would operate with your regular Monday schedule as usual. No additional payments or substitute days off would be required.
The cost-benefit ratio of being open on a holiday shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. You will also want to think about how the decision will reflect on your brand and practice reputation. Consider the preferences of your particular patient base and the cultural norms surrounding the holiday in your region. Will they appreciate the convenience of making an appointment on a day they may have off or work? Or will you appear insensitive by choosing to operate on that day?
And, of course, if you choose to open, you need to ensure you have enough team members available to work. So you will also need to consider your employees’ expectations and receptiveness to working on a day others may have as a holiday. For example, if you, like many Ontario employers, offer your employees a day off with holiday pay on the August Civic holiday, will they expect the same for the new September 30th holiday? Being clear about how the practice will treat each holiday in advance is essential in managing employee expectations.
Although the federal government has authorized through Bill C-5 that the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is now an official national holiday, you still have flexibility in what that means for your dental practice. Just like Remembrance Day, the August Civic Holiday and Easter Monday, the new Truth and Reconciliation Day does not require you to close your practice, nor does it require additional holiday pay for your Ontario employees. So, you can choose the best option for yourself, your patients, your team and your practice.
If you have any questions about public holidays and your responsibilities as a business owner, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our Employment Law team is dedicated to helping dentists understand and minimize the risks associated with being an employer. We are happy to help you calculate payment requirements, update office policy manuals and any other employment issues. Send DMC an email or give our Employment Law Team a call at 416-443-9280 extension 206.