Who gets paid for the holidays? You might get paid for Xmas, but not for Boxing Day

Christmas Eve – very cold, and the sun is starting to drop in the west.  Almost all of the buses are empty or have a handful of passengers. In part it’s due to passenger fear of getting the Omicron variant of Covid. In part, it’s due to employers once again allowing almost anyone who can, to work from home. 

Decked out bus, Sydney, Australia (credit: The Daily Telegraph)

Still Metro Transit tries to run a full rush hour service every Xmas Eve.   You would think most people are off work, and the rest would already be home by early afternoon.   Sure, some people get at least a half the day off on Christmas Eve. 

But if you work in a restaurant, a bar, a hotel, a coffee shop, a drug store, a grocery store, a mall, or a gas station, you are probably working till 5 or even 6 pm Christmas Eve.  These jobs typically pay minimum wage, $12.95 per hour, or perhaps a dollar plus more.  These are the people who ride the buses at rush hour on Christmas Eve. 

The January 2021 report by the NS Minimum Wage Review Committee’s report revealed that

  • 8.5% of workers or 39,620 people earned minimum wage from January to June 2019, up 7.1% or 7,300 from 2018. This was before Covid pushed employers to cut hours and working conditions for thousands of employees.
  • 62% of minimum wage earners are women
  • 73% of minimum wage earners work in retail, and in food and accommodation
  • 56% on minimum wage are under age 25, and
  • nearly 60% work part-time

For more on Nova Scotians and minimum wage read my article here.

The few workplace rights these workers have are governed by the pitiful provisions and outdated rules in Nova Scotia Labour Standards Act.  The Act identifies only 6 days a year as public holidays (statutory holidays), including Christmas day. According to the Act, even annual vacation can be limited to a paltry two weeks per year.  

Two Maud Lewis paintings stolen from a home in Smith’s Cove, Digby County NS

Christmas Day is a paid holiday only if an employee has worked 15 of the last 30 days. In addition, the employee has to work their work shift immediately before, and their shift immediately after Christmas Day.  That is another reason why low-paid workers cannot afford to take off on Christmas Eve. If they do, they will not have worked their regular shift before Christmas Day, and may not be paid for the holiday.  In Nova Scotia, all stores and services (except for some small convenience or drug stores) must be closed on Christmas Day.  

If someone does have to work on Christmas day, they are entitled to a regular or average day’s pay plus one and a half times your regular rate of pay for the hours you do work that day.

Another indignity to Nova Scotia’s low paid workers is “Boxing Day”— held on Dec. 26.   

In Nova Scotia, Boxing Day is a retail closing day so it is an unpaid holiday.  While you will get paid for Christmas day (because it’s a public holiday), unless you are in a union, you probably will not get paid for Boxing Day.  It’s just another unpaid holiday in NS – like Thanksgiving.  A day shops and services must shut, but not a paid holiday for employees. 

On the up-side, January 1 is coming. That’s a public holiday, so the rules around getting paid are the same as they are for Christmas day.

The CBC- do they understand why employers don’t hire in December?

A couple of weeks ago a human resources “specialist” from Toronto was interviewed on CBC Radio One.  She was asked why so few people are hired in December—despite the tens of thousands of jobs available across the country according to Statistics Canada, and a TD Bank report.  The HR person came out with the acceptable excuses including:  most managers are busy in the Christmas season; managers go on holidays in December; the end of the year is a busy time.

But what is the real truth? Bosses don’t want to pay for employees’ holidays at Christmas unless they have to. If they hire a new person in early Dec., that new hire qualifies for a paid day off at Christmas and also New Year’s Day. In a unionized environment, workers are often paid for the Boxing Day holiday as well.  That’s three days off with pay – or for those who don’t pay staff for Boxing Day – two paid days off.  Little wonder employers don’t like to hire staff in December—unless it’s in retail, usually a minimum paid and temporary position. 

Featured Image: Two Oxen in Winter by Maud Lewis (credit Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County, Ont.)

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