Canada: Overview of Minimum Wage Laws and Hours of Work in Canada


Overview of Minimum Wage Laws and Hours of Work in Canada

In Canada, rules governing employment, including hours of work and minimum wages, are largely dealt with by each Province in the form of Employment Standards legislation. Employment standards are the minimum standards established by law that define and guarantee rights in the workplace. Each Province and Territory in Canada has its own employment legislation, and about 90% of workers in Canada are protected by employment standards. However, employees in certain occupations, such as those working in the federal sector in the airline, banking, civil service or postal service industries, are not covered by provincial employment standards. Instead, these workers are protected by federal legislation. Commercial fishers, oil field workers, loggers, professionals, and managers might also have different employment rights that are not covered under provincial employment standards.

In Ontario, employment standards are enforced under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). No employee can agree to waive or give up his or her rights under the ESA, thus, no employer can contract out of these baseline rights. Rights that are covered by employment standards legislation across the country include such things as hours of work, eating periods, wages and overtime, minimum wage, pregnancy and parental leave, public holidays, and vacation time.

Minimum Wages:

For instance, minimum wage across Canada ranges from $9.75 - $11.00 per hour ($9.75 in Alberta to a high of $11.00 in Nunavut), with most Provinces having a minimum wage of just over $10 per hour. Some categories of workers may be subject to different pay standards. For example, farm workers may be paid a piece rate instead of a minimum wage.

Hours of Work:

Hours of work and overtime rules apply to most workers and vary significantly across Canada. Most jurisdictions have established an overtime pay rate equivalent to one and a half times the regular rate of pay. In Ontario, the maximum number of hours most employees can be required to work in a day is 8 hours, unless otherwise provided in the employment agreement. For every hour worked over 44 hours in a week, an employer must pay overtime pay. In most jurisdictions, an employee must receive at least 11 consecutive hours off each day, and at least 24 consecutive hours off in each work week. Employees must also be paid at regular intervals and have a right to annual vacation with pay (the normal minimum vacation period is 2 weeks per year).

Other Basic Employment Rights:

Other workplace related laws across Canada govern issues such as health and safety, human rights, and labour relations. For instance, all workers in Canada have the right to work in a safe and healthy work environment. In terms of human rights laws, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of such grounds as their race, religion, ethnicity, origin, sex, age, marital status, or disability amongst others.