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Legal Scoop

Legal Scoop | When a public holiday falls on a Saturday

Published:Sunday | January 12, 2020 | 12:00 AMShena Stubbs-Gibson/Contributor
If Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, Boxing Day will then fall on a Sunday and will not move to the Monday as Boxing Day is always the day after Christmas Day.
Community volunteers take part in the Drews Avenue Primary and Junior High School Labour Day project on May 25, 2015. In that year, May 23 fell on a Saturday, so Labour Day was moved to the following Monday.
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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 both Emancipation Day and Boxing Day fall on a Saturday and, up to this point, there has been no indication that they are to be celebrated on a weekday. Labour Day also falls on a Saturday and that date, we have been told, is to be celebrated on the Monday. Today’s Legal Scoop will look at the relevant provisions which drive this important area of our lives.

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 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 3 of the act, most businesses are required to be closed on public holidays and, as such, since many workers do not work on a Saturday, in any event, a public holiday falling on a weekday becomes another day off from work.

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) the curious case of 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 6th day of August (Independence Day)

Where the holidays listed above, therefore, 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 said Saturday.

Labour Day

Paragraph 4 of the Schedule to the Act provides that where the 23rd of May falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then 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.

The curious case of Christmas and Boxing days

Paragraph 7 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 26 and 27 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.

Can the public holiday falling on a Saturday be observed on another date?

While it is unlikely that this lever will be pulled – it wasn’t pulled in 2015 when Boxing Day fell on a Saturday – Section 13 of the act does provide the minister with the right to amend the relevant provisions once certain steps are first observed.

Conclusion

Of the public holidays, it is only Labour Day that will be changed if it falls on a Saturday. Like any public holiday falling on a weekday, whenever a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, all businesses are still required to be closed and no worker is to be asked to work unless he/she 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.

- Shena Stubbs-Gibson is an attorney-at-law and legal commentator. Send feedback to shena.stubbs@gleanerjm.com, Twitter:@shenastubbs. The column is printed every other week.