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The Maze of Ontario Holiday Pay

So, Sears plans to open this Victoria Day, trying to get around the requirement to close in the Retail Business Holidays Act by claiming it is an “invite” only event.   If assume Sears can get away with this, what does it mean for the employees?  Do they have to work Victoria Day if  they would rather not?Short answer: No.  In fact, employees of retail businesses in Ontario have a general right to refuse to work not only public holidays, but also Sundays.  But then it gets confusing. Employees can “agree in writing” to work Sundays when they are hired, and to work holidays.  In  theory, employees can’t be disciplined or punished for not “agreeing” to work these days.  In practice, an employer can make working Sundays a condition of hiring, and a person who refuses to work a holiday when their employer requests may find that they are dismissed suddenly when they next arrive late for work.  This is a problem with legislative schemes that permit employees to “agree” to waive statutory entitlements.  Employees usually lack the power to refuse in practice.  But at least the Ontario scheme still provides the employee who agrees to work a holiday with certain options in return.And here comes the fun part.  Sit down with a glass of wine, and try to figure out the rules about holiday pay in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (sections 24 through 32).   I bet you couldn’t design a more complicated system if you tried.   So, what does an employee get who “agrees in writing” to work a public holiday?  [If you prefer the "Coles' notes" version, try the MOL's "Fact Sheet"summary.]    

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