Employment Standards Act 101

The Canadian labour force is bound by some of the strictest laws in the world. The right to fair wages, equal treatment and safe practises are just some of the rights that Canadian workers are entitled to in this country. Each province has its own set of rules that protect its workers.

In Ontario, these rights are set out in writing in a piece of legislation known as the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

The purpose of the ESA is to set out the various rights of employees and outline the rules that employers must follow in Ontario workplaces. Most employees/employers fall under the ESA. However, federally-regulated jobs (such as those at banks, post offices, radio/TV) operate under federal labour standards. Yet, interns, inmates and police officers are protected under a different set of labour laws instead.

The ESA covers a wide range of employment standards. These areas include: minimum requirements for workplaces, assistance of employees with family obligations, and increased flexibility in work arrangements.

Some specific subjects under the ESA include: hours of work, meal breaks, family medical leave and equal pay for equal work.

Below are the top 5 areas covered and the provisions that apply to each…

1. Payment of wages

All employers must establish a regular pay period/payday for their employees.

Other than vacation pay that is accruing, an employer must pay all of the wages earned in each pay period no later than the employee’s regular payday.

These wages can be paid to the employee in cash, cheque or direct deposit into the employee’s account at a bank or financial institution.

2. Minimum wage

A minimum wage is the absolute lowest wage an employer can pay to an employee for work performed. In Ontario, the General minimum wage is $10.25/hour. The Student minimum wage is $9.60/hour. Meanwhile, a Liquor Server’s minimum wage is $8.90/hour.

3. Hours of work

Eight hours/day is the maximum number of hours most employees can be required to work. Meanwhile, the maximum number of hours an employee can be required to work is 48 hours/per week.

According to the ESA, the only way the daily and weekly maximums can be exceeded is by written agreement and approval by the Director of Employment Standards as mentioned by immigration service.

4. Vacation

Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation time after each 12-month vacation entitlement year. According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, a vacation entitlement year is a recurring 12-month period beginning on the employee’s date of hire.

Vacation pay must be at least four per cent of the “gross” wages (excluding any vacation pay) earned in the 12-month vacation entitlement year.

5. Public holidays

Ontario currently has nine public holidays. They are: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.

Most employees are entitled to take these days off work and be paid public holiday pay. Or, they can agree in writing to work on the holiday and they will be compensated as follows:

i) public holiday pay plus premium pay for the hours worked on the public holiday, or

ii) their regular rate for hours worked on the holiday, plus they will receive another day off (called a “substitute” holiday) with public holiday pay.

Familiarizing yourself with the ESA will not only secure your knowledge about provincial labour laws, but it will also protect you from unjust labour violations in your workplace.

You can find a copy of the ESA on the website for the Ontario Ministry of Labour.