St. John the Baptist Day – a Primer on Employers’ Obligations

April 23rd, 2014

Summer is at hand (almost) and summer vacations as well. 

Every year, employers become concerned about their obligations in connection with the St. John the Baptist Day National Holiday. First of all, this statutory holiday is governed by a specific statute, namely the National Holiday Act, and not by the Labour Standards Act, which governs all other statutory holidays. 

June 24, St. John the Baptist Day, is a paid holiday, such that when it falls on a Sunday, employees who normally don’t work on Sundays get the day off on June 25. 

The only condition for entitlement to this holiday is being employed on June 24. 

Who can be required to work 

While employers can generally ask an employee to work on a statutory holiday, it is more difficult to do so when it comes to St. John the Baptist Day. 

This is because the National Holiday Act specifies that the only employees who can be required to work on St. John the Baptist Day are those who work for a business that “by reason of the nature of its activities” cannot dispense with their services on that particular day. 

The expression “by reason of the nature of its activities” is interpreted relatively narrowly by the Commission des normes du travail. Only businesses that can show that they cannot interrupt their activities because doing so would be incompatible with the very nature of those activities, or who can show that interrupting their activities would be truly detrimental to the sound operation of the business, can remain open and require their employees to work on St. John the Baptist Day. Here are some examples of such businesses: 

  • hotels;
  • restaurants;
  • convenience stores;
  • factories that operate 24 hours a day where the employer can show that restarting the factory’s machinery after a shutdown would take an inordinately long time. 

Thus, in principle an employer cannot justifiably require its employees to work on St. John the Baptist Day in order to finish urgent work or to merely maintain productivity. It should also be noted that retail businesses can interrupt their activities. Moreover, the Act respecting hours and days of admission to commercial establishments provides that commercial establishments governed by that statute must close on June 24, but may open on June 25. 

Calculating the holiday indemnity 

  • Employees with standard remuneration
    An employee entitled to a paid holiday on St. John the Baptist Day is thereby entitled to an indemnity equal to 1/20th of the wages, including tips, earned during the four complete weeks of pay preceding the week of June 24, excluding overtime. 
  • Commission employees
    However, the indemnity for an employee remunerated in whole or in part through commissions must equal 1/60th of his or her wages, including tips, earned during the 12 complete weeks of pay preceding the week of June 24. 

An employee who must work on June 24 due to the nature of the employer’s business is entitled to his or her wages for that day plus the statutory indemnity. However, the employer may, in lieu of the indemnity, give the employee the day off on the working day preceding or following June 24.

If an employee is on vacation on June 24, he or she will be given a compensatory holiday to be taken on a date agreed upon by the employer and the employee. 


It should be noted that some employees are excluded from the application of the National Holiday Act, particularly employees of businesses that are subject to the Canada Labour Code

Final observations 

The National Holiday Act is a public-order statute. Nevertheless, benefits more attractive than those under the Act may be provided for in individual employment contracts or in collective agreements. 

Finally, an employer’s failure to comply with a provision of the Act could result in the imposition of a fine.