Out of 195 countries, Cambodia tops the rank with the highest number of public holidays. The country enjoys the greatest number of non – working days with 28 public holidays in a year. Iran stands second the list. Iranian workers are entitled to one month paid annual leave and 27 paid public holidays. Norway is at the bottom of the list with only two public holidays. The average between the lowest and the highest the average stands at eleven days.

From an employer’s point of view, the issue is not the number of holidays, but the issue of payment of wages. In this regard, the United States has zero paid public holidays. This means that although there are ten legal public holidays in the United States, there is no law that prohibits an employer from deducting wages during these non-working holidays. However, as many labor law issues in the United States are left to contract and collective bargaining, most workers are paid on non-working public holidays as determined by agreement.

Public Holidays in Ethiopia

How many public holidays are there in Ethiopia? Although a direct answer to the question will be ‘thirteen’, it is important to note the disparity between the law and its application. The current law, which governs holidays across the country, was enacted in 1975. The Dergue’s Proclamation of Public Holidays and Rest Day No. 16/1975 Provided for 14 public holidays. Another Law which was proclaimed in the same year, the Public Holidays Celebration Proclamation no. 28/1967 only determines the manner of ceremonies of the public holidays. Proclamation No. 16/1975 was amended by Public Holidays and Rest Day /Amendment/ Proclamation No. 29/ 1996. The amendment, however, did not bring changes to the total number of holidays. What it did was, replace ‘Adwa Victory Day’ which was being celebrated on March 2, with ‘Victory Day’ to be celebrated on May 5.

Considering the list of public holidays on proclamation no. 16/1967, it is true that our answer to the above question is thirteen. However, the ‘Revolution Day’ mentioned in the proclamation is not being observed since the fall of the Dergue. When we reconcile the law with the practice, this will reduce the total number to twelve. However, reconciliation does not stop there. Although it is not known by law, ‘Dergue Downfall’ has been celebrated every year for the past 30 years under as ‘Ginbot 20’. This would actually increase their number to thirteen. Meanwhile, the holiday is not being observed at least nationally since 2018.

From the Labor Law perspective, as ‘Ginbot 20 is not legally proclaimed as public holiday, the employer is not obliged to pay wages if work is not performed on this day.

In addition to number if holidays, the structure of the federal system also raises further questions about the scope of the Labor proclamation. The ‘right to paid public holidays is a constitutionally recognized right. However, there is no indication whether the right applies only to ‘Federal Public Holidays’ or includes holidays legally recognized by the regional states. It is true that enacting labour code is within the jurisdiction of the Federal government. When it comes to public holidays, states may proclaim regional holidays. One should expect variation in religious and cultural festivals among the regions. When a certain regional state adopts its own regional holiday, is the employer obliged to make payment for work not done during such holiday. In other words, the issue is whether the labour proclamation covers o applies to regional holidays?

Article 73 of the labour proclamation provides convincing argument to answer the above question in the affirmative. The article reads:

Public holidays observed under the relevant law shall be paid Public Holidays.

Looking at the content of the provision, it does not appear to be interested in only public holidays recognized by federal law. ‘Relevant law’ should be understood as including relevant regional laws.

Next, we will look at the legal consequences of public holidays in terms of workers’ rights.

Not working on a holiday

Salary and work are two sides of the same coin. This general principle of Article 54/1/ shall not apply to work not performed on public holidays. This means, there is no deduction from the employee’s salary for not working on public days. This however, does not apply to non-salaried workers. Article 74/1/ excludes workers who are not paid on monthly basis. The fate of workers who are paid daily, weekly or piece rare etc… is left to be determined by contract of employment or collective agreement.

It is totally unclear why the law makes such distinction based on manner of payment of wages. The monthly/non-monthly standard to distinguish between temporary and permanent workers. Relying on manner of payment of salary should be categorically dismissed as arbitrary.

Working on public holiday

In cases where it is necessary to work on public holidays, in addition to the regular working hours, one hour’s salary is doubled for each hour worked on the day. It is not clear whether workers not paid on monthly basis are also entitled for the payment. As per article 74/1/ if their wage is not deducted on public holidays, they should be entitled for additional payment if they are required to work on holidays.

Working overtime on public holiday

Overtime work is defined in article Work 66/1/ as work done in excess of the normal daily hours of work. In the case of overtime work done on a public holiday, the rare of payment is 2.5 multiplied by the ordinary hourly rate. This applies to all category of workers irrespective of the manner of payment of wages.

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4 thoughts on “Public holidays: Entitlement and Pay

    1. First by definition a regional holiday is also a public holiday. Second article 73 refers to Public holidays observed under the relevant law. A regional law determining regional public holiday is ‘a relevant law’ lastly, Federal government has jurisdiction only on labour law not public holidays. Practically, it is expected that regions may proclaim public holidays to reflect their regions cultural and religious beliefs. So, when calendar is closed on regional public holiday and work is not to be performed by the worker, does it comply with labour law to deduct wage from the worker?

      1. I don’t see the legal ground for regional governments to proclaim Holidays , isn’t it against the constitution ? ( Art 55(2)(f)) ? It seems the sole power of the federal parliament to enact laws related with calendar= holidays+ working days

      2. Calendar is a system for determining the beginning, length, and order of years and their divisions Like Ethiopian calendar, Gregorian calendar, Jewish calendar, Julian calendar, Revolutionary calendar, Roman calendar. It has nothing to do with holiday. holiday is a Federal /National/ or Regional holiday recognized by law when most businesses and other institutions are closed.

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