Table of contents

Changes to employment standards rules in the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act are in effect.

Basic rules

An employee is entitled to general holiday pay if they have worked for the same employer for at least 30 workdays in the 12 months prior to the holiday.

Most employees are entitled to general holidays and receive general holiday pay if one of the following applies to them:

  • a general holiday is a regular day of work, or
  • they have worked on a general holiday that is not a regular day of work

If a general holiday falls on an employee's regular day of work:

  • employees who do not work on a general holiday must be paid at least their average daily wage
  • employees who work a general holiday are entitled to either:
    • pay of 1.5 times what they would normally earn for the hours worked in addition to an amount that is their average daily wage, or
    • their standard wage rate for hours worked plus a day off at a future date and an amount that is their average daily wage for that day off
  • to calculate average daily wage, employers can choose to divide the total wages earned by the number of days worked in either:
    • the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday, or
    • the 4 weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that immediately preceded the general holiday

If a general holiday falls on an employee's non-regular day of work:

  • employees who do not work the general holiday are not eligible for general holiday pay
  • employees who work a general holiday are entitled to pay of 1.5 times what they would normally earn for the hours worked

See Alberta’s general holidays for more information.

For a step-by-step guide to how general holiday pay applies to your situation, see the Employment Standards Self-Assessment Tool – General holidays.

Employee eligibility

Basic eligibility

An employee is entitled to general holiday pay if they have worked for the same employer for at least 30 workdays in the 12 months prior to the holiday.

Most employees are entitled to general holidays and receive general holiday pay if one of the following applies to them:

  • a general holiday is a regular day of work, or
  • they have worked on a general holiday that is not a regular day of work

An employee is not entitled to general holiday pay when they:

  • do not work on a general holiday but are required or scheduled to do so
  • are absent from employment without consent of the employer on the employee’s last regular working day preceding, or first regular working day following, the general holiday

General holiday pay

General holiday pay varies depending on:

  • whether the employee works on the holiday or not
  • whether the holiday falls on the employee's regular vs. non-regular day of work

Regular day of work

Regular day of work is every workday in an employee’s normal schedule: if the employee works the same days every week, those days are considered their regular days of work. Other days are not regular days of work.

Not working on a general holiday:

  • if an eligible employee does not work on a general holiday, the employee is entitled to their average daily wage

Working on a general holiday:

  • if an eligible employee works on a general holiday, the employee is entitled to either:
    • pay of 1.5 times what they would normally earn for the hours worked in addition to an amount that is their average daily wage, or
    • their standard wage rate for hours worked (and overtime, if applicable) plus a day off at a future date and an amount that is their average daily wage for that day off

Employees who do not work the same days every week

Even if an employee works an irregular schedule, some days in their schedule may still be considered regular days of work. To see which days those are, we look at what happens the majority of the time:

  • if in the last 9 weeks before the holiday, the employee has worked 5 of the same weekdays, then that weekday is considered a regular day of work – that is, if a holiday falls on a Monday, and the employee has worked 5 Mondays in the last 9 weeks before the holiday, then Monday is a regular day of work for them – and the rules for regular days of work apply

This rule is sometimes called ‘The 5 of 9 rule’.

Not a regular day of work

Not working on a general holiday:

  • employees not working on a general holiday on their non-regular days of work, are not eligible for general holiday pay

Working on a general holiday:

  • employees who work a general holiday are entitled to pay of 1.5 times what they would normally earn for the hours worked

Average daily wage

Average daily wage is calculated as the employee's wages divided by the number of days the employee worked in either:

  • the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday, or
  • the 4 weeks ending on the last day of the pay period that immediately preceded the general holiday

Employers can choose whichever option best suits their needs.

Overtime pay is not included in the calculation of average daily wage.

Example average daily wage calculation

A general holiday is on Monday, February 15. A company’s last pay period prior to the general holiday ended on Sunday, February 7. An employee works a regular schedule of 5 days per week (or 5x4 = 20 days in 4 weeks) and makes $2000 in wages over the period of 4 weeks.

To calculate the average daily wage, the employer can choose between:

  • average daily wage = total wages earned between January 17 and February 14 ($2000) divided by 20 days worked = $100, or
  • average daily wage = total wages earned between January 10 and February 7 ($2000) divided by 20 days worked = $100

Table 1. Summary table of general holiday pay

General Holiday Pay
  Regular day of work Not a regular day of work
Employee works Hours worked x hourly wage x 1.5 + average daily wage

Or

Hours worked x hourly wage + future day off at average daily wage

Hours worked x hourly wage x 1.5
Employee does not work Average daily wage Not eligible for general holiday pay

Example calculation of general holiday pay

Regular day of work

An employee works regular hours 5 days per week, and makes $25 per hour. In the 4 weeks (28 days) leading up to the July 1 holiday (between June 3 and June 30), the employee worked 20 days and made $2000 in wages.

To calculate how much the employee should be paid for the general holiday:

  1. Average daily wage = $2000 (wage earned in 4 weeks) / 20 days worked = $100
  2. The total owed is based on whether the employee works on the general holiday.

Table 2. Summary of general holiday pay for regular work day

Regular day of work Calculation/details Total
If the employee does not work
on the general holiday
Average daily wage $100
If the employee works on
the general holiday
(Hours worked x Hourly wage
x 1.5) + Average daily wage
Or
(Hours worked x Hourly wage)
+ Paid day off at rate of average daily wage
(8 hours x $25/hour x 1.5) +$100 = $400
Or
(8 hours x $25/hour) = $200
+ day off at $100

Not a regular day of work

An employee makes $25/hour and works an irregular schedule. The general holiday falls on a Monday. The employee has only worked 3 Mondays in the 9 weeks prior to the holiday: according to the 5 of 9 rule, Monday is not a regular day of work.

Table 3. Summary of general holiday pay for not a regular day of work

Not a regular day of work Calculation/details Total
If the employee does not work on the general holiday Not eligible for general holiday pay $0
If the employee works on the general holiday Hours worked x Hourly wage x 1.5 8 hours x $25/hour x 1.5 = $300

When a general holiday falls during a vacation

If an eligible employee is on vacation when a general holiday occurs, the employee can take a day off with pay on the first scheduled working day after their vacation. Or, in agreement with their employer, they can take another day that would otherwise have been a work day before their next annual vacation.

General holiday pay and overtime

The hours worked on the holiday do not count when calculating overtime hours worked for the week in which the holiday falls.

However, there is one exception to this rule: When an employee on a regular schedule works a general holiday, instead of paying them the general holiday pay, the employer may offer a day off in lieu. In this case, the general holiday is treated like a standard workday. For the hours worked on the general holiday, the employee receives their standard wage rate and standard overtime rules apply. For the day off in lieu, the employee receives their average daily wage.

General holiday pay for employees paid by incentive pay plans

Basic rules

Incentive pay plans include commission, flat rate, mileage or piecework compensation.

If an employee paid by incentive pay works on a general holiday, they are entitled to their average daily wage plus 1.5 times the hourly wage.

If an employee paid by incentive pay does not work on the general holiday, they are entitled to their average daily wage.

To calculate average daily wage, employers can choose to divide the total wages earned by the number of days worked in either:

  • the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday, or
  • ending on the last day of the pay period that immediately preceded the general holiday

Calculating average hourly wage for incentive pay

To calculate the hourly wage for an employee paid by incentive pay, determine if the employee is paid entirely by commission or incentive pay or if they also earn a salary:

  • if an employee is paid entirely by commission or other incentive-based pay, then, for the purpose of calculating pay for time worked on a general holiday, the employee’s wage rate is deemed to be the minimum wage
  • if an employee is paid partly by salary and partly by commission or other incentive-based pay, then, for the purpose of calculating pay for time worked on a general holiday, the employee’s wage rate is based on the salary component of the wages if the salary component is greater than the minimum wage
    • if the salary component is less than the minimum wage, then the salary component is deemed to be the minimum wage

General holidays owed at termination

General holidays can be postponed to a later date. If an employee’s employment is terminated before a postponed holiday is taken, the following applies:

If the employer terminates the employment, the employee must receive:

  • an average daily wage, plus
  • 1.5 times the regular wage rate for all hours worked on the general holiday less any money previously paid for wages and overtime on the general holiday

If the employee quits, they will be paid the average daily wage for each general holiday deferred and still not taken.

See Termination and termination pay for more information.

Exemptions and exceptions

Exemptions to the minimum standards for general holidays and holiday pay

The following employees are not eligible for general holidays and general holiday pay:

  • salespersons selling automobiles, recreational vehicles, trucks, buses, manufactured homes, farm machinery, and heavy-duty construction and road equipment
  • registered or licensed salespersons selling investments, stocks or bonds
  • authorized salespersons of real estate and salespersons selling homes for the builder of those homes
  • licensed insurance salespersons who are paid entirely by commission income
  • salespersons, other than route salespersons, who solicit orders principally outside the employer’s place of business and are paid in whole or in part by commission
  • extras in a film or video production
  • counsellors or instructors at an educational or recreational camp that is operated on a charitable or not-for-profit basis for: children, handicapped individuals or religious purposes
  • salespersons who are at least 16 years old and are engaged in direct selling for licensed direct sellers
  • teachers

Exceptions to the minimum standards for general holidays and holiday pay

The following industries have different rules for the entitlement to general holidays and general holiday pay.

Construction workers

Due to the nature of the employment and work in the construction industry, construction employees are not usually given general holidays off with pay.

The Employment Standards Regulation creates special rules for on-site construction workers. These rules provide a benefit equal to that of employees in other industries who are given a day off with pay for each general holiday.

Construction employee rules specify that:

  • construction employees are entitled to general holiday pay immediately upon employment
  • construction employees are not entitled to additional pay for working on general holidays, or to these days off with pay
  • both full-time and part-time construction employees are entitled to general holiday pay equal to 3.6% of the employee’s wages

General holiday pay must be paid to construction employees:

  • on or before December 31 of each year
  • on termination of employment
  • on each pay period

Farm and ranch workers

Due to the nature of employment and work in the farm and ranch sector, waged, non-family farm and ranch employees are not usually given general holidays off with pay.

Farm and ranch employee rules specify that:

Regular day of work

If an employee works on a general holiday as their regular workday, the employer must pay an amount that is at least equal to the employee’s wage rate for each hour of work on the general holiday and either:

  • provide one day’s holiday on a day that would normally be a work day for the employee, to be taken within 30 days of the general holiday or at a later time agreed to, in writing, by the employer and employee, and pay the employee holiday pay in an amount that is at least equal to 4.2% of their wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.
  • pay additional general holiday pay for the day of an amount that is at least 4.2% of the employee’s wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

If an employee does not work on a general holiday as their regular workday, the employer must:

  • pay the employee general holiday pay of an amount that is at least 4.2% of the employee’s wages, vacation pay and general holiday pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

Not a regular day of work

  • If a farm and ranch employee works on a general holiday that is not their regular workday, the employee will be paid regular wages for all the hours they worked on that day.
  • If an employee does not work on a general holiday that is not their regular workday, they are not entitled to general holiday pay.
  • General holiday rules prior to November 1, 2020

    See below for the previous general holiday pay rules. All other rules are valid prior to November 1, 2020 except for:

    Average daily wage

    Average daily wage is calculated as 5% of the employee’s wages, general holiday pay and vacation pay earned in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the general holiday.

    Regular day of work

    An employee works regular hours and makes $20 per hour. The employee's vacation pay is paid out on each cheque. In the 4 weeks (28 days) leading up to the July 1 holiday (between June 3 and June 30), the employee worked 141 hours.

    Table 4. Calculation of holiday pay for regular day of work prior to November 1, 2020

      Calculation/details Total
    Wages Hours worked in previous 28 days x Hourly wage 141 Hours x $20/hr = $2820
    Vacation pay 4% of wages $2820 x 0.04 = $112.80
    General holiday pay (from previous general holidays)* There were no general holidays between June 3 and June 30 0
    Average daily wage 5% of (Wages + Vacation pay + General holiday pay) ($2820 + $112.80 + $0) x 0.05 = $146.64

    * The first step in calculating general holiday pay is to calculate average daily wage.

    Then we can calculate the total owed based on whether the employee works on the general holiday.

    Table 5. Calculation for work on the general holiday

    Regular day of work Calculation/details Total
    If the employee does not work on the general holiday Average daily wage $146.64
    If the employee works on the general holiday (Hours worked x Hourly wage x 1.5) + Average daily wage
    Or
    (Hours worked x Hourly wage) + Paid day off at rate of average daily wage

     

    (8 hours x $20/hour x 1.5) + $146.64 = $386.64
    Or
    (8 hours x $20/hour) = $160 + Day off at $164.64

     

    Not a regular day of work

    An employee makes $20/hour and works an irregular schedule. The general holiday falls on a Monday. The employee has only worked 3 Mondays in the 9 weeks prior to the holiday: according to the 5 of 9 rule, Monday is not a regular day of work.

    Table 6. Calculation for general holidays for not a regular day of work

    Not a regular day of work Calculation/details Total
    If the employee does not work on the general holiday Not eligible for general holiday pay $0
    If the employee works on the general holiday Hours worked x Hourly wage x 1.5

     

    8 hours x $20/hour x 1.5 = $240

     

How the law applies

Part 2, Division 5 of the Employment Standards Code provides the general requirements and entitlement to general holidays and general holiday pay.

Part 4 of the Employment Standards Regulation provides different rules for general holidays and general holiday pay for construction employees.

Disclaimer: In the event of any discrepancy between this information and Alberta Employment Standards legislation, the legislation is considered correct.

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