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The Basics: Ontario Employment Standards

What does the Ontario Employment Standards Act Do?

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) sets minimum standards governing such terms of employment as wages, hours of work, overtime, vacation pay and time off, public holidays, severance and termination notice and pay.

Who is Covered by the ESA?

  • The ESA covers all employees in Ontario with the following exceptions:
  • Farm workers and Building superintendents, who are considered a separate category for purposes of minimum wage or overtime pay;
  • Self-employed individuals;
  • Anyone employed in a federally regulated job, such as in the federal civil service, the armed forces, railways, banks, and telecommunications, is under federal jurisdiction. These individuals are covered by the Canada Labour Code, which is essentially the equivalent to the ESA.


Employees must be paid no less than minimum wage for every hour worked. In Ontario in 2024, the minimum wage has been raised to $16.55. This applies even if you do piece work or work on commission Students under the age of 18 who work no more than 28 hours a week receive a minimum wage of $15.60.

For most employees, the maximum hours of work for a day is 8 hours, and 48 hours for a week. Employees may be asked in writing by their employer to work more than the maximum weekly hours. There is no rule mandating the employer to provide a work schedule in advance, or schedule a certain number of hours a week.

Each employee must be provided a 30 minute unpaid break for every 5 hours of work. This may be broken up into two 15-minute breaks.



Whenever an employee works more than 44 hours in a week, they are entitled to overtime pay under ESA. Overtime pay is 1.5 times regular pay. This applies to salaried employees as well as employees earning an hourly wage.

Managers and supervisors, information technology professionals, and members of professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers are not eligible for overtime pay.

Employees may agree to take paid time off in lieu of overtime pay, and are entitled to 1.5 hours of paid time off for each hour of overtime.

Leaves of absence

Employees are entitled to the following job-protected leaves:

  • 3 days unpaid sick leave for illness, injury or medical emergency
  • 3 days unpaid leave for family responsibilities, involving illness, injury, or a medical emergency involving a family member
  • 17 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnant employees
  • 61 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers who took pregnancy leave
  • 63 weeks of unpaid parental leave for all other new parents



After one year of employment, an employee is entitled to 2 weeks of paid vacation. After 5 years with the same employer, that goes up to 3 weeks paid vacation.

Employees are entitled to vacation pay (distinguished from vacation time) from the very beginning of their employment.

Vacation pay is initially 4% of the employee’s wages. After 5 years working for the same employer, the employee is entitled to 6% vacation pay. Vacation pay may be paid out when the employee takes vacation, or it may be paid out over the year.

Public Holidays

Employees are entitled to 9 paid statutory holidays over the year: New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Boxing Day.

Employees can lose their public holiday pay if they fail to work their last regularly scheduled workday before the holiday, or all of their first regularly scheduled workday after the holiday.

Employees working on a statutory holiday can agree to be paid 1.5 their regular pay and public holiday pay, (which is their 4 previous weeks’ wages divided by 20). Alternatively, they can also work the statutory holiday at regular pay, and take another day off at vacation pay.


An employee may be terminated without notice if they have worked less than 3 months. After 3 months, employees being terminated must be given written notice of their termination date. If the employer does not provide notice, the employee is entitled to termination pay or some combination of termination pay and notice. After working for an employer for 8 years, employees are entitled to a maximum of 8 weeks termination pay.

Temp Agencies

People working for temp agencies generally have the same rights as other workers under the ESA. Agencies may not charge employees a fee for helping them find employment; if an agency fails to pay their contracted employee, the client company is obliged to pay the employee.


Employees may not sign away any of their rights under ESA, which covers all employees including temporary, part-time, and probationary employees. There is no requirement under the ESA for an employee to be a citizen or permanent resident, or to have a special permit to work.

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