By Melany Hallam
Nobody is really sure where the Boxing Day tradition comes from. One story is that it began in Europe in the middle ages, with wealthy families giving gifts and food to the poor (in boxes, presumably). Another is that it began in the late Roman/early Christian era, with metal boxes placed outside of churches to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which falls on the day after Christmas. Mention Boxing Day to an American and they won’t know what the heck you’re talking about, unless they’re already familiar with Canadian or British customs.
Where ever it began, Boxing Day is now known more for post-Christmas sales and line-ups of shoppers at electronics stores than for acts of charity. It kind of scares me to think of being a sales person in one of those stores!
I’m lucky in that I’ve never had to work on Boxing Day. Pretty much every employer I’ve ever had has paid me for it as a statutory holiday, so it came as a bit of a shock when I found out that this isn’t the case for everyone. The only employers which consider Boxing Day a stat holiday in BC are those that are federally-regulated, such as government offices and educational institutions. If you do get the day off with pay from another employer it will likely be because your union negotiated it for you – or you have a really nice boss. (Fun fact: Ontario is the only province that has designated Boxing Day a stat holiday.)
All this talk of stat holidays does bring up an important topic: are you getting the stat and annual vacation pay that you’re entitled to, according to the Employment Standards Act (ESA)? Here are some of the BC regulations to keep in mind, no matter who your employer is:
- There are 10 stat holidays in BC: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, BC Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas Day.
- To be paid for a stat, you must have been employed for at least 30 calendar days preceding the holiday, and have earned wages on at least 15 of those days, or have earned wages under an agreement to average hours of work. This includes any wages earned for vacation days.
- As an eligible employee, you are entitled to an average day’s pay when you are given a day off on a stat holiday, or when the stat falls on your regular day off.
- An eligible employee who works on a stat is entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for the first 12 hours worked and double-time for any work over 12 hours; plus an average day’s pay.
- “Total wages” does not include overtime pay when calculating an average day’s pay.
- You are entitled to a minimum of 4% annual vacation pay after one year of employment, or 6% after five years. This applies to both permanent and seasonal workers.
- After one year of employment, you are entitled to two weeks annual vacation. After five years, you are entitled to three weeks. Note: these are minimums. If you get more vacation, you probably have a nice boss or a good union!
- Your vacation must be scheduled in periods of one or more weeks, unless you request otherwise.
- Your vacation must be taken within 12 months of being earned.
All of the above percentages and calculations sound fairly straightforward, but commissioned sales people beware! Some employers break the ESA regulations by applying the required vacation pay percentage to base salary only for commissioned workers. In fact, vacation pay must be calculated on total earnings, which includes all salary, commission, bonuses and other incentive earnings (there are a few specific exceptions). Vacation pay cannot be incorporated into your commission rate and the amount of vacation pay paid must be indicated on your pay statement.
So if you’re on the other side of the locked glass door looking out at a Boxing Day shopper line-up, just repeat to yourself: “The more commission I earn, the bigger my vacation pay cheque will be!” (And try not to panic.)
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