Queen Elizabeth II's holiday: What's the cost to Canadian employers?

Provinces announce office closures and 'days of mourning'

Queen Elizabeth II's holiday: What's the cost to Canadian employers?

Yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Monday September 19th 2022 would be a federal holiday, in honour of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. And while it may sound sweet to employees’ ears, the reality is that most Canadians will probably have to still work. Trudeau was forthcoming in saying that the holiday was ‘federal’ – making the 90% of employees that fall under ‘jurisdiction’ not technically eligible.

Do I have to give my employees the day off?

“We have chosen to move forward with a federal holiday on Monday,” he added. “We will be working with the provinces and the territories to try and see that we're aligned on this. There are still a few details to be worked out, but declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important.”

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These ‘details’ include whether or not individual provinces will follow suit and grant workers the Monday off – something which Quebec has confirmed they’re not on board with. Instead, Premier François Legault said the funeral would be a ‘day of commemoration’, but no time off for workers.

“It’s a federal holiday, so provincially regulated employers will likely not have to provide a day off, although many will,” Lorenzo Lisi, partner at Aird & Berlis told HRD. “However, employers with unionized workforces may have provisions in collective agreements which recognize new federal holidays. As such, they may be stuck. The short answer is, if you are a federally regulated employer, you get to stay at home. If you are provincially regulated, you have to attend work unless your employer provides you the day off; or a collective agreement recognizes the holiday.”

Similarly, Ontario has declared a ‘day of mourning’, with a moment of silence at 1pm, to give “Ontarians an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable life of Queen Elizabeth II and her unrelenting commitment to service and duty”. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador all follow suit – however, they’ll be closing schools and government offices. They’re also allowing private employers to decide on their own individual opening plans.

What’s it going to cost us?

The flurry of debate over whether or not to shut up shop for Queen Elizabeth II was met with staunch opposition from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“With a six-day notice, it would be deeply unfair for small businesses and cost the economy billions,” they revealed. “For many small businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and movie theatres, this would mean paying more in order to stay open. Small businesses are already struggling with labour shortages and requiring them to close or pay time and a half to their employees with no notice would be extremely costly or result in a day’s lost productivity.”

And the CFIB is right to be concerned. Speaking in a CBC story, Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter estimated that the cost on an extra holiday lands at somewhere between two and four billion.

"Presumably not all activity would be shut down,” he added. “Some could be made up at a later date and some activity occurs on weekends.”

Data from the UK found that their public holiday could hit the GDP hard – that’s according to Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst. “It’s estimated such events cost the country over £2bn – a cost often offset by additional spend on hospitality or retail,” she explained.

Do you agree that Canada should be commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral with a one-off public holiday? Vote here.

Provinces plans for closure

With individual provinces deciding on what Monday 19th will mean for their employees, it’s likely that the rules with differ from place to place. Here are the provinces plans for closure or commemoration thus far;

Ontario

Monday will be a ‘day of mourning’, not a statutory holiday. Schools will be open and there will be a moment’s silence at 1pm.

“This will give all Ontarians an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable life of Queen Elizabeth II and her unrelenting commitment to service and duty,” added Premier Doug Ford. “It also allows students to be in school learning about the many contributions the Queen made to the people of Ontario, Canada, and the entire Commonwealth, as well as the accession of King Charles III.”

Quebec

Monday will be a ‘day of commemoration’ but not a holiday.

“I think about the students and I wouldn’t like them to miss school, we’ve had enough with the pandemic. I think it’s not a good idea to close schools or put parents in a position where they wouldn’t be able to work,” said Premier François Legault, as reported by Global News.

New Brunswick

Government and schools to close. For non-union employees in government departments, this day will be treated as any other holiday. Collective agreements will apply to unionized workplaces.

British Columbia

All federal employees will have the day off of work – private sector employees can decide for themselves.

Public sector employees have been advised by the government to mark the day “in recognition of the obligations around federal holidays in the vast majority of provincial collective agreements”.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Monday will be a one-off provincial holiday, in which government offices and schools will be closed.

“The passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II marks a loss to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” added Premier Andrew Furey. “Declaring a day of honour provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the many ways she steadfastly served our province and country these past 70 years. May her memory live on as a reminder of her tireless service and dedication.”

Nova Scotia

Monday is a provincial holiday – schools and government offices will shut. Healthcare serviced and procedures will remain open and operational.

Prince Edward Island

Government and schools to close. The government added that essential services and organizations will need to remain open – reminding employers that the Employment Standards Act makes provisions for employees who work on holidays.

Saskatchewan

No holiday, but Monday will be a ‘day of commemoration’.

"Her late Majesty's seven decades of selfless public service is an honourable legacy," Premier Scott Moe said. "We will pay tribute to her incredible dedication and commemorate her 70-year reign in a memorial service in our capital city — the Queen City."

Manitoba

No holiday, but Monday will be a ‘day of mourning’. All non-essential government offices will close but schools will remain open.

“I encourage all Manitobans to take a moment to reflect on her late majesty’s special relationship with our province and her countless contributions to our country and the entire Commonwealth,” said Premier Heather Stefanson. “Queen Elizabeth II had a remarkable reign and an unwavering commitment to service and duty. May she rest in peace.”

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