To work or not to work ... where Boxing Day falls on a Saturday
There is a popular view in Jamaica that where a public holiday falls on a weekend, it should be celebrated on a weekday.
This year, Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, therefore, many workers feel it should be celebrated on Monday, December 28, so that date should be a "stay at home", and not a regular workday.
Not surprisingly, employers have a different understanding of the law and are insisting that Monday, December 28 is a regular workday.
Today, we will look at the relevant law to determine which side of the debate is accurate.
The Holidays (Public General) Act
The Holidays (Public General) Act (the Act) sets out the public holidays that are observed in Jamaica and how to treat them in the event that any falls on a weekend.
Since certain holidays such as Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ash Wednesday, and National Heroes Day occur on the same day each year, it is only New Year's Day, Labour Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day which are likely to fall on a weekend.
It is important to note, too, that under section three of the Act, most businesses are required to be closed on public holidays, hence "the stay at home, no workday", notion.
The Act clearly sets out how the various public holidays are to be treated if they fall on weekends. Generally, there are three categories:
1) those holidays which are
celebrated on a Monday if they fall on a Sunday
2) Labour Day, and
3) Christmas Day and Boxing Day
Public Holidays celebrated on Mondays
The Schedule to the Act stipulates that the following public holidays should be celebrated on a Monday where they fall on a Sunday, but makes no similar provision where they fall on a Saturday;
1. New Year's Day
2. The first day of August (Emancipation Day)
3. The sixth day of August (Independence Day)
Where the holidays just mentioned fall on a Sunday, they are celebrated on the Monday. However, since the Act makes no similar provision for those instances where these holidays fall on a Saturday, where that occurs, they are to be celebrated on the Saturday.
And, since Saturday, in any event, is not a workday for several Jamaicans, most workers, in essence, lose a holiday when the above-mentioned holidays fall on a Saturday.
Paragraph four of the Schedule to the Act provides that where May 23 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is observed as a public holiday.
Labour Day, therefore, is treated differently from the holidays referred to before as, if it falls on either a Saturday or the Sunday, then the holiday is celebrated on the Monday.
Since several Jamaican workers do not work on a Saturday or Sunday, when Labour Day falls on a weekend, most of us end up getting a long weekend off from work, that is, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Christmas and Boxing Days
Paragraph seven of the Schedule to the Act provides that the day after Christmas is a public holiday, or, where Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, then both December 26th and 27th are to be observed as public holidays.
This means that if Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, you will get both the Monday and Tuesday immediately following as holidays. However, if Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, Boxing Day will then fall on a Sunday. It will not move to the Monday, as Boxing Day is always the day after Christmas Day. Equally, if Christmas Day falls on a Friday, Boxing Day will be the Saturday, as it is this year.
Of the public holidays, it is only Labour Day, therefore, that is changed if it happens to fall on a Saturday. I suppose this is so because Labour Day is, as the name suggests, really a day to go out and work, and given that there is a relatively large number of Jamaicans who observe the Seventh-day Sabbath, it would not be prudent to observe Labour Day on Saturday if you wanted their participation.
Like any public holiday falling on a weekday, whenever a public holiday happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, all businesses are still required to be closed and no worker is to be asked to work unless he is being paid specially as prescribed under the Holidays With Pay Act.
An employer is also prohibited under the Act from entering into contracts with workers that will see them giving up their rights to public holidays.
So there you go, my friend. If you do not normally work on Saturdays, unless the Minister comes to our rescue and declares Monday the 28th a public holiday (which presumably would have been done already), you will get only one day at home this Christmas season. Happy Holidays!
- Shena Stubbs is an attorney at law and legal commentator. Send feedback to - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter:@shenastubbs