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Know Your Rights: Ontario’s Employment Standards Act

Posted by: NIC Online Date: July 27, 2022 Category: Blog
Employment and job interview.

Did you know that all workers in Ontario are protected by the Employment Standards Act (ESA)? What is the ESA? The ESA is a set of guidelines that provides information on the minimum standards that employers must follow. These standards relate to pay, working hours, and time off. Rights are the same for all part-time and full-time workers. Furthermore, workers do not need to be Canadian Citizens, Permanent Residents, or hold a work permit to be covered by the ESA.

Continue reading to learn more about your rights when working in Ontario!

Minimum Wage

The Employment Standards Act also states that workers should get a regular paycheck or direct deposit on a pre-determined schedule. The rate of pay must be at least minimum wage. The minimum wage refers to workers' compensation for every hour of work.

As of January 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Ontario is $15 per hour. However, Ontario plans to raise the minimum wage to $15.50 per hour by October 1, 2022. On the other hand, students under 18 years old receive a minimum of $14.10 per hour. Student wages are also expected to rise to $14.60 after Oct 1, 2022.

Working Hours

Generally, workers should not work more than 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week. However, an employer can ask the employee to work more than this weekly maximum. This agreement must be in writing or electronically recorded and approved by the employee. Overtime pay occurs after working 44 hours a week. Workers should receive 1.5 times regular hourly compensation for each overtime hour worked.

During working hours, workers are also entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break during each 5-hour work period. Alternatively, if both sides agree, the 30-minute break can be split into two 15-minute breaks within the 5-hour shift.


Most workers are entitled to two weeks of vacation after a full year (12 months) of work. After working five or more years, workers receive three weeks of vacation time. Additionally, employees must receive 4% of their wages as vacation pay. After five years of work, vacation pay becomes 6%. Vacation pay is generally paid out when you take your vacation or if you agree to have it paid out regularly.

In Ontario, there are nine public holidays each year:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Family Day
  • Good Friday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Boxing Day

Most employees are entitled to take these nine days off work and be paid public holiday pay. On the other hand, employees that work on a public holiday can agree to receive premium compensation of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate. Alternatively, employees can work on a public holiday with regular hourly pay and then choose to take another day off in the future with public holiday pay.

Job-Protected Leave

Workers can take leave in certain instances without fear of losing their jobs. Some examples of these forms of unpaid leave include:

  • Sick leave: up to 3 days for personal illness, injury, or medical leave
  • Family responsibility: up to 3 days for urgent family matters, including illness, injury, and medical emergencies
  • Bereavement leave: up to 2 days of leave due to the death of certain family members
  • Pregnancy leave: up to 17 weeks of leave for pregnant employees
  • Paternal leave: mothers who took pregnancy leave can take up to 61 weeks of leave, while other new parents can take up to 63 weeks

Click here to learn more about leaves of absence in Ontario.


If an employer decides to terminate a worker after three months of work, the worker should receive a written notice of the date they will be terminated.  Employers can immediately terminate workers who have spent less than three months as an employee. Terminated workers may be entitled to severance pay depending on how long they have been employed.

Learn more about your rights!

Newcomers to Ontario are encouraged to connect with the experts at NIC Online for more resources about settlement and employment. Furthermore, NIC Online is hosting a webinar in August that will cover more information about Ontario's Employment Standards Act and worker rights in Ontario. Sign up now by clicking here.

Create your free NIC Online account to access helpful resources for newcomers in Ontario!

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