City weighs recommendation to let workers swap holidays

A recommendation to allow workers to swap holidays for another day more meaningful to them is being considered at city call, but some worry it would be a step backwards.

A new report from the City of Winnipeg’s human rights committee of council is recommending employees be allowed to swap one statutory holiday for days that are more meaningful to them – such has Eid, Sundance ceremonies and Hanukkah

Councillor Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River), the committee chair, said Manitoba has grown as newcomers settle.

“Immigrants that are here now have traditionally celebrated those holidays and observances, as well as here in Canada consulting our Indigenous leadership,” Chambers said. “The recommendations that have come forward have been about substituting some of the days that perhaps some individuals don’t observe.”

The report recommends the province amend its employment standards code, allowing employees to substitute statutory holidays for ones that hold more meaning to them.

Derek Rolstone, president of Stone HR Strategies, said employers already make arrangements to accommodate holidays.

“I get calls every day with tough HR issues that have to be solved,” Rolstone said. “This issue hasn’t come up.”

He said it would be logistically difficult.

“If people were to take other days off, I think it causes a lot of logistical problems, possible mayhem.”

Chambers said the city recognizes the impact it could have on business.

“If we were to truly be an inclusive city this is something that we’ll have to engage in,” he said.

Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, who is a clinical psychologist and the founder of the advocacy group WinnLove, wants all major cultural holidays to be celebrated. He says that will amount to eight or 10 days per year.

“Everybody gets those days off. So it’s not about the substitution of days, it’s about literally all of us taking those days,” Abdulrehman said.

He said this will encourage people who do not celebrate the Christian statutory holidays to share their cultures.

The report and its recommendations are set to be discussed at the next committee meeting on Friday. 

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