Overview of minimum wage,
hours of work laws across Canada

By Rhonda Levy, George Vassos and Monty Verlint

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

This article is the second in a series in which we provide a general understanding of the laws and regulations that impact employment and labour in Canada. While every effort has been made to cover developments up to the date of publication, the current status of any legislation should be verified by counsel.

The series will provide a general understanding of the following legislation with which Canadian employers must be compliant: Employment standards; human rights; occupational health and safety; worker’s compensation; privacy; labour relations; pay equity; and accessibility.

The first portion of the series is an overview of employment standards legislation. It will appear in four parts on four different dates; the first part appeared on Sept. 18, 2019. The second part appears below. The balance of the legislative overviews will be published regularly in the coming weeks.

Minimum wage

Minimum wage is established across all jurisdictions in Canada and it is variable by jurisdiction. Provincial minimum wage spans $11.06 to $15 per hour, with Alberta the only province offering minimum wage at $15 per hour. Ontario’s minimum wage is frozen at $14 per hour, subject to annual adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index, which will restart on Oct. 1, 2020.

Territorial minimum wage varies from $12.71 to $13.46. There is no federal minimum wage; instead, employees falling under federal jurisdiction are paid the prevailing minimum wage of the province or territory in which the work is performed. In some jurisdictions, there are exemptions for who must be paid minimum wage.

For example, in Ontario students in training for specified occupations are not protected by the section of the employment standards legislation that requires employers to pay employees minimum wage. In some provinces, workers in specific occupations are entitled to a minimum wage per day, per week or per month rather than per hour.

In Ontario, employees who serve liquor in licensed establishments and students under age 18 employed up to 28 hours in a week or during a school holiday have a lower minimum wage than the general minimum wage rate.

Hours of work 

All Canadian jurisdictions place limits on the amount of time an employer can require or permit an employee to work and also impose restrictions on how working hours can be scheduled. The statutes express hours of work limitations either as a maximum amount of time the employee can work in a day or week (for example, in Ontario, an employer may Password1not require an employee to work more than 48 hours per week), or a minimum amount of time the employee must be free from work in a day or week (for example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, employees must have eight consecutive hours free from work in each 24-hour period, and at least 24 consecutive hours free from work every week). Employees who refuse work beyond these limitations are acting within their rights and may not be disciplined.

Most jurisdictions permit the employer to exceed these statutory limits by entering into an Excess Hours Agreement with the employee or union, or by applying for a permit to the applicable Director of Employment Standards. The enforceability of an Excess Hours Agreement depends on compliance with specific rules. For example, to exceed statutory hours of work limitations in Ontario, an employer must obtain the employee’s written agreement.

In addition, before entering into the Excess Hours Agreement, the employer must provide the employee with an Information Sheet from the Ministry of Labour outlining the rights of employees with respect to hours of work and overtime pay. If the Excess Hours Agreement does not indicate this was done, it will not be enforceable.  

There are varied exclusions from hours of work standards in each jurisdiction. Common exclusions include employees performing supervisory or management functions, certain professionals, including medical, legal and information technology professionals, firefighters, teachers, employees in certain forms of agriculture and oil and gas, construction and domestic workers. In addition, employees may be required to work in excess of hours of work limits in an emergency situation but only for as long as is necessary to address the emergency.

Employees are typically entitled to 30-minute eating periods.

This is part two of a series. Part one: Overview of laws that impact employment, labour in Canada

As knowledge management counsel for Littler LLP, Rhonda B. Levy is responsible for satisfying the firm’s Canadian knowledge management needs, for monitoring legislative, regulatory and case law developments and for drafting and editing publications. E-mail her at rlevy@littler.com. As partner at Littler LLP, George J. A. Vassos focuses his practice on advocacy before trial and appellate courts and before various labour boards, arbitrators, mediators, adjudicators and other administrative tribunals. E-mail him at gvassos@littler.comA partner at Littler LLP, Monty Verlint’s practice encompasses all areas of labour and employment law. He is actively involved in Employment Standards Act and workplace policies. E-mail him at mverlint@littler.com.

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The Lawyer's Daily

This article was originally published by The Lawyer's Daily – providing Canadian legal news, analysis and current awareness for lawyers and legal professionals who need a real-time view on the shifting legal landscape.