Know your rights: Will you get paid for Labour Day?

Despite Labour Day being a public holiday, and a retail store closing day in Nova Scotia – grocery stores are allowed to be open—if they are smaller than 4,000 square feet. Also allowed to remain open are flea markets, fish stores, Laundromats, pool halls, and even used clothing stores, according to the Retail Business Designated Day Closing Act. Of course gas bars, hotels, restaurants and bars are absolutely allowed to stay open.

But what about pay? In Nova Scotia, Labour Day is one of the six paid holidays in the year.  If your workplace is closed that day, or you do not work that day, you are entitled to a day off with pay.

Il Quarto Stato di Settimio Benedusi, (taken in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic). Benedusi is a contemporary Italian photographer and you can see more of his work here:

To qualify for the day off with pay you need to have worked 15 of the last 30 days, AND your last scheduled shift before the holiday, and your first scheduled shift after the holiday.

Of course so many employers keep staff on part time hours, that it’s sometimes hard to find out if you qualify.  

If your regular day off is Monday, then – if you qualify – you get another day off with pay, which substitutes for the Labour Day holiday.

If you have to work on Labour Day, you are supposed to get another day off with pay to substitute for the holiday…

If you qualify for the paid day off, but you have to work on Labour Day, you are entitled to your normal day’s pay, plus time and a half for the hours you work.  Some people call this double time and a half – but it is more complicated.

If you normally work 8 hours at $13/hr, you earn $104. Note: minimum wage in NS is now $12.55 per hour; the Living Wage is $21.80 per hour– read about it here) .  On Labour Day, if you have to work only 5 hours, that works out to 5 x $13 =  $65, plus half again as much $32.50. So if you do work Labour Day and you qualify for the holiday pay, and you only work 5 hours – you’d earn $104 + $65 + $32.50 =  $201.50.

If a union represents you, you’ll certainly get paid for the holiday, and under your collective agreement, there will be better terms if you have to work that day.   

And if you get the day off – with or without pay – come to the Halifax Labour Day rally at Victoria Park at noon to demand ten paid sick days for everybody.

First published in NS Advocate here. Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace.  Contact her at

Featured image: Il Quarto Stato, by Giuseppe Pellizzada da Volpedo (1901). I saw it at the Museo del Novecento in Milan. This picture is courtesy of

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