Most Canadians will soon have Monday off to observe the Thanksgiving statutory holiday, but what about folks who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving?
That’s a question that leadership at the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C. asked themselves when looking at how they could make their holiday policy more inclusive.
“The organization in building this policy was really wanting to be reflective of looking for barriers we didn’t even know existed,” president and CEO Carolyn Tuckwell said. “We always believed we were diverse and inclusive. We had a phrase in our statutory holiday policy that staff could ask to make a substitution and it would be considered. Until we started to do this work, we didn’t realize that in itself was a barrier.”
Under the new policy, staff will have the opportunity to substitute any of five statutory holidays: Thanksgiving, Victoria Day, Good Friday, Canada Day and Boxing Day. Tuckwell said these five days have strong ties to white, European-Canadian traditions and may not be observed by all of their staff.
Other stats like Remembrance Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation are off-limits as they are meant to be sombre observances, not simply a day off. Christmas Day is also off-limits, because most of the country shuts down on Christmas Day and New Year’s, making it complicated for businesses to operate.
“What we were after was finding the balance between our organizational need to maintain our services and programs to maintain predictability for our operations while finding a way to meet the call from employees to have some flexibility,” Tuckwell said.
The new policy comes into effect on January 1, 2022.
The idea to revise the statutory holiday policy came from a workshop on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. BCG followed up with a survey on the same topic and the need to substitute statutory holidays was identified by staff. The Boys and Girls Club then enlisted the help of labour lawyers and human resources experts to determine if the policy change was actually possible.
Tuckwell hopes the policy will inspire change across Boys and Girls Clubs across B.C. and potentially other businesses.
“A lot of employers think it can’t be done. A lot of them think employment standards won’t allow it… and I think there’s an underlying worry that it’s not logistically possible,” Tuckwell said. “We’re really keen to see how it plays out and potentially adapt it as we get feedback from our staff around whether it’s met their needs.”
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