Heritage Day in NS – paid holiday or not?

In Nova Scotia, it could be a paid day off work. 

At least for some of you.

This year Heritage Day is celebrated on Monday, Feb. 15; this year’s honouree is Edward Francis Arab, a Lebanese immigrant who called Halifax home.  In 1937, he graduated from law school at Dalhousie University. In 1942 he volunteered with the Canadian armed forces to fight in WWII.  In 1944 Lieutenant Arab was killed while trying to liberate the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom from the Nazis.  

Left: Infantry, Canadian soldiers at Nijmegen, Holland, by war artist Alexander Colville (1946); graduation photo of Edward F Arab; Canadian troops in Holland (credit: Canadian War Museum).

Heritage Day is one of the six paid holidays days each year. A decade ago we had only 5 paid holidays each year! Nova Scotia has one of the lowest number of paid holidays, or what some call “statutory holidays”, in Canada. For example, New Brunswick has eight, and PEI has seven paid holidays.  However Quebec has eight, and Ontario and Saskatchewan each boasts ten.

In Nova Scotia, Heritage Day means most stores, services and offices must be closed.  To receive pay for the day off, you have to have earned pay at your job (even if it’s virtually) for at least 15 of the last 30 days.  You also must have worked your shift right before the holiday, and your shift after the holiday—even though in these Covid times you may not have actually gone to your workplace to work.

By law, coffee shops, convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, and small drug stores are allowed to remain open. 

So when you have a coffee at Tim’s or Starbucks on Monday, you should know that the employees who serve you will probably have clocked fewer than 15 of the last 30 days.  That way the employer does not have to give them the holiday with pay.  In fact, coffee shop or restaurant workers on Heritage Day will likely receive their regular pay (no bonus at all) for working on the holiday.  No extra pay and no time off.

If you don’t like not getting paid for Heritage Day, consider helping to organize a union at your workplace. Then the union can negotiate Heritage Day as a paid holiday for everyone. More than 30% of working people in Nova Scotia have a union that represents them! Ask me how to do it!

Featured Painting: Cafe 1 by George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)

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