Manitoba

Winnipeg poised to ask province to allow workers to switch up statutory holidays

The City of Winnipeg is considering a symbolic move toward making the observance of holidays more inclusive. A motion coming before city council's human rights committee calls on the province to change the Manitoba Employment Standards Code to allow workers to substitute statutory holidays for days that are more meaningful to them.

Change sought to employment code so people can observe holidays of their choice

Worshippers celebrate Eid at RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg last spring. There is no statutory day in Manitoba to recognize the Muslim holiday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg is considering a symbolic move toward making the observance of holidays more inclusive.

A motion coming before city council's human rights committee calls on the province to change the Manitoba Employment Standards Code to allow workers to substitute statutory holidays for days that are more meaningful to them.

In a report to city council, Winnipeg equity, diversity and inclusion co-ordinator Diane Burelle says some workers cannot observe their most important holidays and cultural observances because they can't get the time off — and this constitutes a form of cultural discrimination.

"Holidays, days of observance, and celebrations that are important to respondents reflect the diverse interests and traditions of various nations, cultures, and religions," Burelle wrote in the report, listing off a handful of major holidays celebrated by a variety of cultures and religions.

Some federal and provincial employment codes allow for substituting statutory holidays or days of observance, but the Manitoba Employment Standard Code does not give the City of Winnipeg this flexibility, she added.

"Under human rights legislation, an employer should consider any request and determine what can reasonably be accommodated," Burelle wrote. 

"It is also important to note that granting such accessibility and accommodations for interested employees does not take anything away from other employees who wish to observe the legislated statutory holidays as they are written."

The recommendation comes before city council's human rights committee on Friday. It moves to executive policy committee and then council as a whole in February.

Both Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham and human rights committee chair Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) said they will support the motion.

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, a clinical psychologist who specializes in cross-cultural inclusion, said he would like to see it go further. He said he'd like to see the number of statutory holidays increase so that all workers can observe all major cultural holidays.

"If all of us have that time off, we're all being educated and informed about the values, beliefs and the cultures of different groups of people," he said in an interview.

now