A complete guide to Canadian labour and employment laws

Learn where the law stands when it comes to minimum wage, overtime rates, averaging hours and record-keeping

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A good year in a big place

Canada is the second largest country in the world by land mass, but its entire population is equivalent to the single US state of California. With 17.2 million people working across 10 provinces and three territories, much of the employment law falls under regional jurisdictions.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the nation’s labour laws, exploring minimum employee rights and standards by topic as set forth in the Canada Labour Code, as well as provincial and territorial legislatures.

Photo of worker at a bakery
Photo of worker at a bakery

Working hours

Most employees are expected to turn in eight hours daily over a five-day workweek or 10 hours daily over a four-day workweek. The average workweek in Canada is 40 hours long before overtime kicks in. The same is applicable to federally regulated employees.

Most provinces and territories do not limit the number of hours worked past the weekly minimum, as long as the right wage rate is applied and agreed between the employer and the employee. Alberta caps the daily limit at 12 hours, while employees in Quebec can refuse to work more than four hours more than their usual daily hours (e.g 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week).

Minimum wage and overtime rates

Federally regulated employees receive 1.5 times the regular rate of pay per hour after eight hours.

Click on your province or territory to learn more.

Select a Province/Territory to see overtime rates:

Alberta

Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate)

$13.60 ($15 starting Oct 1, 2018)

Daily Overtime Rate

1.5 times after eight hours worked in a day

Weekly Overtime Rate

1.5 times after 44 hours worked in a week

* minimum wage + 0.5

+ unless specified otherwise in employment or collective agreement

# does not exceed 28 hours per week

The general rule is that managers, superintendents and employees who carry out management functions are exempted from overtime. The same exemption is also applicable to professional employees, described as someone who:

  • Requires a specific education and designation.
  • Works under an act of the legislature.
  • Can go into business independently.

Examples would include architects, dentists, doctors, engineers and lawyers.

The other good rule for exception would be unionized employees, as unions have collective agreements which dictate different provisions for overtime pay. This could also be the result of certain industries that are currently not covered under the Employment Standards Act, or follow other regulations. The complete list of exempt professions is found in Part 7 of the Employment Standard Regulations.

How an employee is paid, hourly or salaried, has no bearing in their overtime entitlement. Every employee is entitled to the statutorily prescribed overtime pay unless their duties and responsibilities fall under the provided “exemptions” listing below.

The same applies to the employee’s job title (e.g. Marketing Manager). It does not automatically define the allowed exemptions. By definition, a “true” manager has:

  1. The authority to direct, supervise, hire, terminate, approve time off and assess the performance of other staff.
  2. The ability to participate in substantial decision-making that impacts the business’ operations and budgeting.
  3. To perform non-managerial/non-supervisory tasks only on an irregular or exceptional basis

In Northwest Territories and Nunavut, overtime exemptions are only applicable to those employed in a managerial capacity.

Additional Exemptions/Special Rules by Role or Industry

Select a Province/Territory to see overtime rates:

British Columbia

Industry:

Agriculture

Aquaculture

Commission sales

Domestics

Employment agencies

Entertainment industry

Foreign workers

High technology

Loggers working in interior

Oil and gas

Resident caretakers

Silviculture

Taxi drivers

Talent agencies

Trucking industry

Note: In certain provinces and territories, different overtime rules and rates are applicable for those in the listed professions, so always check with your local municipality or provincial and territorial government for the latest information.

Averaging hours

The rules governing whether employers can average employee hours over multiple workweeks are contained in the subsection 169 (2) of part III of the Canada Labour Code and section 6 of the Canada Labour StandardsRegulations. It’s a national approach where the averaging of worked hours may be adopted for two or more consecutive weeks due to:

  1. No regularly scheduled hours.
  2. Regularly scheduled hours where the number of hours actually worked differ.

It allows for:

  1. The removal of overtime after eight hours of work in a given day or 40 hours in a given week or both.
  2. Removal of the 48-hour limit in a given week.

The types of employment averaging is applicable to includes tour bus operators, pilots or long-haul truck drivers, wherein the working hours are seasonal and may be affected by external factors such as the weather, traffic or geography, which can influence the duration of work.

Let’s look at an example of averaging hours:

Simon is a tour guide in Surrey, British Columbia, where the agreed workweek between Simon and his employer is 44 hours. Over a two-week period, he has worked 56 hours in the first week and 36 hours in the second. He earns $12 an hour and his overtime rate is $18. So the calculation of his entitled overtime pay for this pay period would be:

Total hours: 56 + 36 = 92 (46 hours per week)
Overtime hours: 46 (average weekly hours) – 44 (agreed weekly hours) =
2 hours per week
Owed overtime: $18 x 4 = $72

But be warned!

  1.  There must be averaging agreements with an expiry date in writing between the employer and employee to average the employee’s hours of work over a specific period for the conditions to take effect.
  2.  An employee cannot agree to give up the right to overtime but may accept time off in lieu of overtime pay.
  3.  An employee may work different jobs at different rates within the same organization and have averaging applied.

Pay rounding or partial hours worked

In Nova Scotia, an employee who has worked between 15 and 30 minutes must be paid the equivalent of at least 30 minutes at the minimum wage. An employee who has worked between 31 and 60 minutes must be paid for a full hour. However, Nova Scotia’s Minimum Wage Order says nothing about employees whose work time includes partial hours of less than 15 minutes.

Example A
An employee who has worked for seven hours and 21 minutes must be paid at least 7.5 hours.

Example B
An employee who has worked for seven hours and 40 minutes must be paid at least eight hours.

In a 2018 survey on Canadian time tracking habits, TSheets found 60% of employees say their employers round their timesheets, where 15 minutes seem to be the norm, whether it’s rounding up or down. The survey data also reveals the practice of “negative rounding,” where clock in times are rounded forward while clock out times are rounded back.

Scheduling

The debate of “how much notice” when it comes to scheduling is coming under increasing scrutiny in Canada. Currently, only Alberta and Saskatchewan include this provision in their provincial employment standards, at 24 hours and one week respectively.

In the U.S., state governments are beginning to pass ordinances regarding predictive or on-call scheduling. Some employers and industries are required to provide their employees with advance notice or be subject to fines when insufficient notice is issued. The effects are trickling into Canada, where the Canadian locations of Gap’s five brands and Victoria’s Secret will follow the new policy.

At the provincial level, Ontario has recently conducted a review to update laws on what it calls “changing workplaces” to ultimately include scheduling under the Employment Standards Act, where other provinces are expected to follow suit in time.

Reporting or “call in” pay

The purpose of this provision is to ensure that all employees who are called in to work, when it’s not part of their regular schedule or in the complete absence of one, receive fair compensation for their out-of-pocket expenses and other costs incurred by having to report to work. Employers must fulfill the reporting pay requirements even if a shift is cancelled or the called-in employee is no longer needed.

An employee who reports for work as regularly scheduled is not eligible for reporting pay. An employee who shows up at the work site to see if there is any work is not considered to be reporting “for work at the call of the employer.” However, if the employee is asked to work after showing up at the workplace, however, the reporting pay provisions would apply.

Reporting Pay Requirements

Rests and Breaks

Workday breaks

The most common practice is a 30-minute break after every five hours of work, and employers are not required to pay for the break unless the employee:

  • Is not allowed to leave the workplace during their break.
  • Has no control over their break.
  • Has agreed to a contract that says otherwise.
  • Must be at the disposal of the employer during the break.

In Quebec, the employer is not required to pay for the meal break, but if additional shorter breaks are provided, they must be paid.

Workday Break Duration

Weekly rest days

While provincial laws and union agreements vary, the general rule of rest is employers are required to allocate at least 24 to 32 hours of rest for employees per week. Our data shows 59% of employees were asked to work for seven to 28 days consecutively, without a day off.

What’s the longest an employer has ever asked you to work without a day off?

Workday Break Duration (Minimum Requirements)

Note: For employees required to work up to 28 consecutive days or 35 continuous days (if the additional seven days complete the project), the employee will earn one day of rest for every seven consecutive days worked. The rest days must also be taken consecutively.

Banked overtime

The employer and employee can agree for the employee to receive paid time off instead of overtime pay. With banked overtime, employees earn 1.5 hours of regular pay time off for each hour of overtime worked . The option allows both parties to weigh what’s more important to the other and reach a consensus.

All provinces and territories in Canada allow for this practice, assuming it is agreed between the involved parties. However, the period in which the paid time off must be taken will vary geographically, from three to 12 months after the week from which the overtime was earned.

Record-keeping

Section 24 of the Canada Labour Standards Regulations identifies the required records to be kept on file for inspection by an Inspector under the Canada Labour Code. For federally regulated employees, the employer must keep payroll and other employment records for at least 36 months.

The types of records may include (but are not limited to):

  • Annual leave
  • Overtime
  • Public holidays
  • Rates of pay
  • Wages

Duration of Record-keeping

Disclaimer: TSheets does not provide human resources or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and was accurate at the time of publication. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. Please consult your own advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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