Many employers will recall that last year marked the first year the federal government declared September 30 to be National Truth and Reconciliation Day (NTRD) a statutory holiday. However, the federal declaration only legally applied to the approximately 6% of employers who fall under federal employment jurisdictions, mainly larger “connecting” businesses like airlines, interprovincial truckers, telecoms and banks. For the vast majority of employers in Canada, including B.C., recognition of NTRD was voluntary. Now the B.C. government has signaled its intent to add NTRD as a statutory holiday in B.C. by circulating a survey.
By way of background, B.C. (and most other provinces) currently has 10 legal statutory holidays: New Years, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, B.C. Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day and Christmas Day. Boxing Day, although widely recognized as a “stat” is not a legal statutory holiday, unlike in some other provinces. Easter Monday is also voluntarily recognized as a stat by a smaller minority of employers. Thus B.C. employers already have to pay for a relatively high number of stat holidays, typically 11 to 12. This is more than most other provinces and well above the number recognized in other countries, even in Europe.
The survey clearly signals the B.C. government’s intent to add an 11th legal statutory holiday for NTRD.
There is broad support for this but many employers while supporting recognition of NTRD will be concerned about adding another stat holiday with no compensating adjustment to the existing schedule of stats.
The government also needs to realize that adding a stat not only amounts to adding .42% to the overhead cost of an employee who does not work on a stat but, for employers who operate on stats, adds 50% to wage costs on that day. This can seriously affect profitability of operating on the day and thus lead to closures, with corresponding reduced services and production. Moreover, such an increase would come on top of imposing 5 paid sick days on the 65% of B.C. employers who did not previously pay for sick days, effective this January. That change increased wage costs for affected employers by 2% with no offsetting increase in productivity. Along with other amendments to employment legislation and for some employers the Employer Health Tax, the cost of being an employer in B.C. has risen substantially under the NDP. If NTRD is simply added to the list of legal stats, some employers may respond by canceling current voluntary stats like Boxing Day and Easter Monday.
Unfortunately, the survey fails to seek feedback on key implementation issues such as:
Would respondents support NTRD being substituted for another existing stat such as Family Day? Or employers being given the option to do so?;
Does it make sense to insert NTRD on its current date, September 30, closely packed between Labour Day, in early September, and Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October? Of course, moving the date would entail consultation with Indigenous peoples.
They may also want to contact the Minister of Labour or their MLA to share their views on the how to best recognize NTRD while balancing the costs and other impacts of simply adding an additional statutory holiday.
About the Authors
Geoffrey Howard is the founder and principal of Howard Employment Law where he provides strategic and practical advice on employment and labour law matters and represents clients in employment-related litigation.
Geoffrey has extensive experience representing both employers and employees in all aspects of the employment relationship, including employment agreements, termination of employment, and human rights issues such as discrimination and the duty to accommodate. Geoffrey also has considerable experience advising employers on benefit plans, including pension, disability and group insurance coverage and regulatory compliance issues. He advises companies and owners on shareholder disputes arising out of termination of employment.
Sebastian Chern is an Associate with Howard Employment Law. Practicing in employment and labour law, Sebastian provides strategic and practical solutions and advice for workplace issues to both employers and employees.
He represents clients in employment-related litigation and disputes in the BC Supreme Court and Small Claims Court, the Human Rights Tribunal and the Employment Standards Branch, where he has appeared as counsel numerous times. Sebastian provides cost-effective service at HEL, particularly for employee clients.
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