Thanksgiving: Another Punishing Holiday

(updated from my article published in the NS Advocate which appeared in 2020: in memory of my friend and the Advocate’s publisher, Robert Devet)

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Thanksgiving, Mon. Oct. 10, is not a paid holiday for many workers in Nova Scotia. That is because  for employees, who are not union members, Thanksgiving is not one of the six annual “general paid holidays”.

If you work in hospitality, in a restaurant, a gas station, a bar, a convenience store or a small grocery store – for example – you may well have to work on Thanksgiving Day.  And if you do work, there is no extra pay, no premium pay. 

Thanksgiving: a Punishing Holiday

Thanksgiving, while not a general holiday, is a retail closing day in Nova Scotia. Most retail shops and services, including offices, large grocery or drug stores, hardware stores, retail malls must close on Monday.  Employees will get the day off – but they will not be paid for the holiday, unless the boss feels like paying them.  This is what I call a Punishing Holiday — stores and services must close so employees cannot work — but they do not get paid for the day off.

Another issue is this: If you do work in a place permitted to be open (the list is here and it’s long:  –see p. 20), you do not have the right to refuse to work on Thanksgiving Day. And if you work, you will have to work for regular pay, not time and a half or holiday pay.  

The Harvesters, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565 (the Netherlands)

In Nova Scotia, most unions have negotiated a paid paid holiday for their members on Thanksgiving Day.  For the non-unionized, expect a cut to your pay of 20% this week — yet you will likely get Monday off work. 

Featured Image: Fall Colours by Dorothy Knowles (Canadian). Read about her 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

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