Second Annual Family Day

Monday February 16, 2009the second annual Family Day statutory holiday will take place in Ontario.

Due to the freshness of this holiday compared with established holidays, three issues may arise for employers:

  1. Employers may not fully understand their legal obligations in terms of staffing.
  2. Employers may opt to “complain” about the expense, lack of productivity, and hassle of Family Day, rather than strategically seeing it as an opportunity to support employees, and ultimately, boost workplace morale, loyalty and productivity.
  3. Many Employers’ first reaction is to eliminate the non-legislated holiday in August, Civic day now that a new mandatory statutory holiday has been introduced. It is within an employer’s right to do this however there are many employee relations issues and possibly some legal implications that an employer should be aware of before proceeding.

You may find yourself facing one or more of these issues. And so in order to help you benefit the most from Family Day – even if this only means avoiding the unwanted consequences of breaching your legal obligations provided by the Ontario Employment Standards Act – we have prepared this brief to ensure that you are positioned to succeed.


There continues to be confusion surrounding Family Day in terms of staffing. Your understanding should be informed by the following basic facts:


  • Family Day is a statutory entitlement provided by the Ontario Employment Standards Act.  If you are governed by this act, then you must provide for the holiday in the same way you would Christmas Day, Labour Day, Canada Day or any of the other public holidays listed.
  • Family Day is not the same as the Civic Holiday in August, regardless of what some employers may still believe or proclaim. The Civic Holiday in August is not a public holiday as listed in the Act, and so employers do have some choice with that one.  This is not the case with Family Day. [/listdot]

It is in your best interest to know these facts, and to dismiss as misinformation anything that suggests otherwise. To support you, we are here to help you fully understand your Family Day staffing obligations.


Rather than view Family Day as an expensive, unwanted hassle or even a “necessary evil,” we advise employers to strategically use Family Day as an opportunity to reach out to employees, thank them for their hard work, and encourage them to enjoy their day off. Such a gesture can improve workplace morale and have other positive benefits.

In reaching out to employees, it’s important to include all employees, and not just those with “traditional” or “conventionally-defined” families.  Employees without children can, and should, be encouraged by you to benefit and enjoy the Family Day holiday.

It’s also important for employers to remember that not all employees embrace this holiday either; it can interfere with their work-related schedule, or simply provide them with a day “out of nowhere” with nothing productive (or relaxing or enjoyable) to do.

Employers can help by suggesting potential activities (e.g. museums, art galleries, movies, outdoor skating rinks), and providing related information for those activities, such as hours of operation, directions, links to websites, or any promotional information that may be helpful.

Family Day: Good HR and Good Business Strategy

Ultimately, if you are governed under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, then Family Day is a reality for you and your employees. Making the best of this holiday and “getting behind it” – rather than riling against it — is both good human resources, and good business strategy.

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