What day was it on Monday?

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω

Is the point of statutory holidays really just greed? - Photo by Di Bedard/ Flickr Creative Commons

Is the point of statutory holidays really just greed? – Photo by Di Bedard/ Flickr Creative Commons

As I’m sure most of you are aware — at least those who have classes scheduled on Mondays — the province of British Columbia observed its first ever Family Day on Feb. 11 this year.

Province wide, hourly workers either had the day off and got paid for it anyway — if they meet the requirements (see below) — or worked and got paid extra for doing so. Those workers on salary supposedly had the day off, as well, assuming their employers didn’t require them to work, in which case they’re supposed to get a different day off. These are mandated employee/employer criteria and are the case for every statutory holiday.

Section 45(1) of the British Columbia Employment Standards Act (ESA) stipulates that employees are entitled to a day off on a statutory holiday and those employees shall be paid their average earnings (calculated by dividing the total amount paid by the number of days worked over the past 30 calendar day period) for that day off.

This equation is used as long as an employee has “worked or earned wages for 15 of the 30 calendar days preceding the statutory holiday,” according to section 44 of the act.

This is where it gets finicky. Actually, “finicky” is maybe the wrong word there — the better word is probably “cheap” or “greedy.” Actually, let’s just call it what it is: Capitalism.

You see, many employers purposely staff the majority of their workers on a part-time basis to avoid incurring extra costs mandated by legislation such as the ESA and take full advantage of these sections.

I know I’ve personally worked in jobs where the manager in charge of staff scheduling was instructed by the owner of the business to schedule employees very carefully leading up to a statutory holiday to ensure the fewest number were eligible to receive statutory holiday pay. They then schedule the fewest staff possible on the actual day itself. You probably noticed this phenomenon if you tried to go out somewhere to have dinner with your family on Family Day.

But most of you probably didn’t, in fact, spend Family Day with your family. Many of you couldn’t, because you aren’t anywhere near them while you attend school and a three-day weekend just isn’t long enough for that (not to mention the financial cost of doing so).

But even for those of you who do have family here, you likely didn’t celebrate the newly-formed holiday as it was supposedly intended. There’s a reason for that.

For those of you who have jobs while you pursue your educational goals — and let’s face it, for most of us it’s the only way to survive — think about how your thoughts coalesce as you approach a statutory holiday.

You are probably either excited that you get a day off with pay or are excited to be working on a day for which you get paid more than usual. The reason for the day itself is likely inconsequential.

I got an email from a student over the weekend before Family Day expressing how important family is to people and how we should recognize that “Family is the greatest gift of nature. It provides an enshrinement like a nest in a tree where family members can feel protected and supported so that they may be able to gain foothold in the foundation of life, fulfilling all its aspects like self preservation, pleasure and procreation. If family is not there, living is much more difficult than we think.”

I completely agree. Unfortunately, a statutory holiday is not going to convince people of this, make people think about their family life or consider those unfortunate among us who are lonely due to family estrangement, etc. Statutory holidays are engrained into us as a financial benefit.

Maybe if the situation were such that there was enforceable (and enforced) legislation in place so that businesses were mandated to actually be closed instead of “punished” by staying open (by having to pay a bit more to those who they force to work but having loopholes they can work to avoid doing so), the first thought as a statutory holiday approaches wouldn’t be whether we want to work for bonus money or have the day off and get paid anyway.

Perhaps then we could turn our collective attention to the “why” of the holiday and not just the “how much?”