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By the time it gets to the snowy, cold heart of February, many of us are ready for a break from winter and from our commute to work. Fortunately for Ontarians, the third Monday in February every year is the Family Day holiday!

Family Day

What is Family Day?

Family Day was introduced by the provincial government in 2008, and it means that employees covered by the holiday provisions in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) are entitled to this public holiday with pay. It’s a nice reprieve between New Year’s Day and Easter, and an opportunity for employees to spend time with their family and loved ones.

Who is entitled to the holiday?

Employees covered by the ESA are entitled to a minimum of nine public holidays each year. This includes full-time, part-time, permanent or limited-term contract workers. Some employers offer ten (or more) paid holidays, in which case you may not automatically have Family Day off. Contact your employer or union if you are not sure.

Who is not entitled to Family Day?

Some employees working in Ontario may not be entitled to the Family Day holiday. These types of workers include:

1. Employees not covered by the ESA. For example, federally regulated workers who work at banks, airlines or who are federal civil servants. Provincial law does not apply to these workers.

2. Employees who are covered by the ESA, but who fall into one of the following categories:

a) Employees who work in a “continuous operation” workplace (such as a hospital, hotel or restaurant) may be required to work on Family Day. The employer will usually provide a substitute day off or offer a higher premium pay rate for working on the holiday.

b) Some occupations are exempted. For example, seasonal workers, taxicab drivers, certain professionals, and firefighters.

3. As mentioned above, workers – such as unionized employees – who have a more generous collective agreement or employment contract concerning public holidays.

What do I get paid for Family Day?

The ESA sets out how your pay will be calculated for the holiday. With the passing of Bill 148, some changes were made to this calculation – it will now depend on what your earnings were for the preceding pay period.

There is more information on the Ministry of Labour website here, and you will find a Public Holiday Pay Calculator here, where you can work out how much you will be paid given your particular employment circumstances.

Can my employer refuse to give me Family Day off?

Family Day is an entitlement under the ESA, and if your employment is governed by this legislation (and you don’t fall into one of the exceptions above), then you should have the day off with pay.

If your employer denies you this holiday, or is otherwise not complying with the ESA, you should contact the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Information Centre. Complaints are investigated by an employment standards officer who can order the employer to comply with the ESA. Unionized workers should use the grievance procedure under their collective agreement if they believe there is an issue with their paid holidays.


If you are not sure whether you have the Family Day holiday off, you should review your existing employment contract or collective agreement, or speak to your employer.

For more about public holidays and employment standards, contact our Employment Law Group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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