Blue Christmas – who gets paid on the holidays?

Only a couple of more sleeps until Christmas.  Will it be a paid day off for you? What about Boxing Day – and New Year’s Day?

In these Covid times, you are allowed to be confused!  For instance if you work at a bar or restaurant, you’ve probably been off work for weeks as your establishment has been closed – except for takeaway meals. That’s in the Halifax area—not necessarily elsewhere in the province.

If you work at a café – while there is no table service in HRM, you may be standing behind the counter serving take-out coffee.

Many readers of this workplace advice column know the drill by now. 

If your workplace is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, you earn holiday pay — a paid day off – as long as you have met two conditions: 

1.  You have to have been paid by your employer at least 15 of the last 30 calendar days. This normally means you have worked, but if your employer has paid you sick pay, or training pay that also counts toward the 15 days.  And

2.  You have to have worked your last scheduled shift just before the holiday, and your first scheduled shift just after the holiday. 

If you have not met both conditions, then you do not receive holiday payHoliday pay is your hourly wage times the number of hours you normally work.

Tim’s in Dartmouth, photo by me.

Today when I got a coffee at a Tim Hortons, I  noticed a sign saying it is open on Christmas Day. On that day it is likely that none of the counter staff will receive premium pay, though they will be paid their regular wages.  Probably no employees selected to work will have worked the requisite 15 of the last 30 days since Nov. 26.  If any have, then they may not have worked a scheduled shift the day before or the day after.  Then the employee misses out on the holiday pay and the premium pay.  Of course the employee is entitled to regular pay for working that day. 

If you have to work on Christmas or New Year’s Day…

If you do work either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day – and if you qualify for holiday pay (see above), you also earn premium pay for working on the holiday. So if, for example, you have to work on New Year’s Day for seven hours, and you normally earn $13 an hour, your holiday pay would be $91. Your premium pay for working is $136.50 (1-1/2 times your pay) which is added to your regular pay of $91 for a total of $227.50 for the day. Note the difference between holiday pay of only $91, versus premium pay of $227.50.

When is a holiday not a paid holiday?

That day is Boxing Day.  In Nova Scotia, Boxing Day is not a paid holiday, though it is a Retail Closing Day.  Though most stores, grocery stores, warehouses, restaurants and factories will be closed, employees will not get paid for the day off.  If you work at a café, or hotel, or gas station, all are allowed to open, you will earn your regular day’s pay for working on Boxing Day.

In Case You’re Wondering…

In case you are wondering:
–NS Labour Standards does not obligate employers to close early on Xmas Eve. Employees can be asked to work a full shift –even into the evening.
–Even though Covid has wreaked havoc with many workers’ schedules and pay, there is no change to the two requirements for receiving premium pay for work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day: employees still have to have been paid for 15 out of the last 30 days, plus they have to work their shift before and after the holiday.

The only way around these miserly rules is to be part of a union. Most unions have negotiated better pay, pay for holiday work and conditions than what is provided by NS Labour Standards. Unions often negotiate more holidays than the six measly public holidays a year guaranteed by Labour Standards.

Contact me if you want to join a union, or need some advice. Write me at

Featured image: Deer by a Stream by Maud Lewis (1903-1970). photo credit: Cowley Abbott

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