January 29, 2014

The New February Holiday a Not-So Welcome Announcement for Employers

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The Nova Scotia Legislature recently passed Bill No. 15, known as the February Holiday Act. The February Holiday Act creates a new public holiday in Nova Scotia on the third Monday in February, starting in 2015. For most, this means a much-needed long weekend during the lengthy period between New Year's Day and Easter. However, for many employers, the new holiday imposes cringe-worthy additional costs and complications.

Currently there are five public holidays in Nova Scotia: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day. On public holidays, most employees are entitled to a day off with pay. Qualifying employees that work on a public holiday are entitled to be paid the amount they normally would have received for that day, plus one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for the hours they actually work. There are, of course, exceptions, but these are the general rules. Clearly, then, the addition of a sixth statutory holiday can mean a significant added cost for employers, whether in terms of lost productivity or increased wages.

Beyond the costs involved with the new holiday, it also poses a number of potential complications. The February Holiday Act only applies to provincially regulated employers, so federally regulated employers will not be directly affected by the change. However, the indirect effects are evident. While federally regulated employees will be at work on the third Monday in February, their children may have the day off school, and child care centres may be closed. Regardless of whether an employer operates in the provincial or federal sector, policy review and revision should be undertaken.

Further, companies operating closely to—or in competition with—companies in the other sector should consider the potential effects of their counterparts being open or closed on a day when they are not.

None of this is to say that the new holiday brings Nova Scotia out of step with other provinces. Quite the contrary: currently Nova Scotia has only five paid holidays, while the other Atlantic Provinces have six or seven. Ontario has nine.

The news of a new February holiday in Nova Scotia has come at the delight of employees, but at the dismay of employers, who will face added costs and complications. Employers interested in obtaining further clarification about the February Holiday Act, or more general advice on holidays, pay and other employment-related issues, should contact a member of our Employment & Labour Group.

For more information, please contact Andrea Isabelle at coxandpalmer.com.

Cox & Palmer publications are intended to provide information of a general nature only and not legal advice. The information presented is current to the date of publication and may be subject to change following the publication date.