Fair Holiday Pay for Alberta Workers

The festive season is here and the Government of Alberta has clear standards to ensure those working over the holidays are treated fairly.

Premier Rachel Notley at Transcend Coffee in Edmonton on April 15, 2016.

Health-care workers, first responders, utility employees, road crews, grocery staff and many in the hospitality industry will be working this holiday season to ensure Albertans are safe and can make the most of their time with friends and family.

“As you enjoy the holiday season, please take time to think about those who are working to make it a special time of year for all of us. Our government has the backs of the many Albertans who spend time working away from their families so that we can spend time with ours. Albertans believe in holiday pay as a Canadian standard, and they deserve the same rights and privileges as other workers in Canada. I urge everyone to do all they can to make sure their workplaces are safe, fair and healthy.”

~Christina Gray, Minister of Labour

Alberta’s labour laws were updated on Jan. 1, 2018 after remaining unchanged for decades and falling out of step with the rest of Canada. Albertans now hold the same basic rights as their colleagues across the country, including fair compensation ensured by rules around holiday pay and overtime.

Facts about general holidays and general holiday pay

  • Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are two of nine recognized general holidays in Alberta. Many employees in the province will be eligible for some form of general holiday pay for those days. However there are exceptions, so check online for full details.
  • December 26 is not a general holiday, although some employers set up agreements with employees to consider it one. If so, the same general holiday pay rules apply. If not, it is considered a normal work day.
  • To be eligible for general holiday pay, employees must not have been absent without consent on the last scheduled day before the holiday, or the first scheduled day after, AND must not have refused to work on the general holiday when requested or scheduled to.
  • When eligible employees work on a general holiday, their employers have two choices on how to pay them, either:
    • 1.5X their regular rate for hours worked PLUS their average daily wage, OR
    • their standard rate (plus overtime if applicable) for hours worked PLUS a day off at a future time along with their average daily wage.
  • Eligible employees who don’t work on a general holiday are entitled to their average daily wage, whether or not the holiday falls on a scheduled work day for them.
  • Average daily wage in Alberta is calculated as five per cent of the wages, vacation pay and any general holiday pay that was earned in the 28 days prior to the holiday. Calculations are different for farms and ranches or those in the construction industry.
  • Rules for general holiday pay will apply to unionized employees on Jan. 1 as well, if they haven’t already.

The Employment Standards website has examples of how to calculate general holiday pay as well as a self-assessment tool that helps employers determine if they are meeting the basic requirements. Free online webinars are also available, both live and previously recorded.

Employers and employees with questions about general holiday pay can reach the Employment Standards Contact Centre at 780-427-3731, or toll-free at 1-877-427-3731, or visit work.alberta.ca/es.