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Employment Standards Act Information Session

At the beginning of 2018, Bill 148 brought changes to the Employment Standards Act that many small business owners are still trying to navigate through to ensure their business is compliant. Click here to learn more about what has changed.

The province-wide Ministry of Labour blitz will focus on the construction industry this year. Additionally, Eastern Ontario will also pay particular attention to independent grocery stores. Be sure you are prepared for these visits.

The Chamber hosted an ESA Information Session with guest speaker, Kelly Howe, Regional Program Coordinator with the Ministry of Labour. Kelly discussed aspects of the ESA that business owners often have questions about, and the recent changes as a result of Bill 148.

Please Note: This blog post is for information only. For full details, please refer to and the Employment Standards Act Guide. For information regarding your specific needs, please contact the Employment Standards Act Information Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551.

Below are some of the topics that were discussed. For more details, please click the links. Also remember to use the ‘special rule tool’ for any modifications applicable to your industry.

Learn more about industries and jobs with exemptions and special rules.

You can also contact the Employment Standards Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551.

ESA Poster

As of January 1st, 2018 employers are required to provide employees with the most recent version (7.0) of the Employment Standards poster published by the Ministry of Labour. The poster must be posted in the workplace where it is most likely to come to the attention of employees. The poster must be displayed in English, unless the majority language of a workplace is a language other than English.

Visit to download the ESA Poster (7.0).

New hires must also receive a copy of the poster from their employer within 30 days of their hiring date. The employer may provide the poster as a printed copy or electronically, if they are equipped to receive it.

Payment of Wages & Minimum Wage

Employers must establish a regular pay period and pay date for employees.

A wage statement must be provided to the employee on or before an employee’s pay day. The statement must include:

  • the pay period for which the wages are being paid;
  • the wage rate, if there is one;
  • the gross amount of wages and – unless the employee is given the information in some other manner (such as in an employment contract) – how the gross wages were calculated;
  • the amount and purpose of each deduction;
  • any amounts that were paid in respect of room or board;
  • the net amount of wages.

Employers should keep electronic or hard copies of these pay statements for three years.

Learn more about Payment of Wages.

As of January 1st, 2018 to December 31st, 2018 Minimum Wage Rates have increased to the following:

  • General Minimum Wage $14.00 per hour
  • Student Minimum Wage $13.15 per hour (under 18 and returning to school)
  • Liquor Servers Minimum Wage $12.20 per hour (must regularly receive tips)

Learn more about Minimum Wage.

Hours of Work

Daily Limit

  • The maximum daily hours most employees can be required to work in a day is eight hours, or the number of hours in an established regular workday, if more than eight hours.

Weekly Limit

  • Maximum number of hours required to work in a week (for most employees): 48 hours

The only way the daily or weekly maximum can be exceeded is with an electronic or written agreement between the employee and employer. Prior to signing, the employee must be given the Ministry Information sheet on Hours of Work and Overtime. It should be noted that averaging overtime for the pay period can only be done with Ministry approval.

Learn more about Daily and Weekly Hours of Work.

Daily Rest

Weekly or Bi-Weekly Rest

Employees must receive at least:

  • 24 consecutive hours off in a work week, OR
  • 48 consecutive hours off in a period of two consecutive work weeks

Learn more about Weekly and Bi-Weekly Rest.

Eating Periods and Breaks

An employee must not work for more than five hours in a row without getting a 30-minute eating period free from work. Or, the employee and employer can agree to split the eating period into two eating periods within every five consecutive hours. Together these must total at least 30 minutes. This agreement can be oral or in writing.

Meal breaks are unpaid unless otherwise indicated in the employee’s employment contract.

While employees are required to provide employees with eating periods as described above, employer do not have to give employees “coffee” breaks or any other kind of break.

Learn more about Eating Periods and Breaks.

Click here for more information on Hours of Work, including information on:

  • Work Time
  • Electronic and Written Agreements
  • Director Approval Required to Exceed Weekly Hours of Work
  • Hours Free from Work
  • Exceptional Circumstances

Over Time Pay

Overtime pay must be paid for most employees (including full-time, part-time, students, temporary, and casual workers) after 44 hours of work in a week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay rate.

An employee and employer can have an electronic or written agreement where the employee receives paid time off (“banked” time, or “time off in lieu”) instead of overtime pay. Banked or lieu time must be used within three months. Click here for the Hours of Work and Overtime Tool.

Click here for more information on Overtime Pay including exceptions, overtime pay calculations, and what cannot be done.

Public Holidays

Most employees are entitled to have public holidays off work and be paid public holiday pay.

Ontario’s nine public holidays are:

  1. New Year’s Day
  2. Family Day
  3. Good Friday
  4. Victoria Day
  5. Canada Day
  6. Labour Day
  7. Thanksgiving Day
  8. Christmas Day
  9. Boxing Day

Instead of having the public holiday off work, employees can agree electronically or in writing to work on the holiday.

The employee can work the holiday and be paid:

  • Public holiday pay plus premium pay for all hours worked on the public holiday. They would not receive another day off (“substitute” holiday.) OR
  • Be paid regular wages for all hours worked on the public holiday and receive another substitute holiday and be paid public holiday pay.

The method of calculating public holiday pay has changed. Only the previous pay period is used, rather than previous four weeks. Vacation pay is no longer included in the calculation – only regular wages.

Many businesses with part-time employees have found the new method greatly increases the public holiday pay. If this is creating a hardship for you be certain to inform your MPP.

Learn more about Public Holidays and Public Holiday Pay, including information on calculating public holiday pay.

Personal Emergency Leave

The ESA now requires all employers to give employees 10 personal emergency leave days per year, including two paid days. Employees are entitled to the days as soon as they begin work. When the employee has been employed for one week or longer, two days are paid.

Reasons a personal emergency leave may be taken include:

  • personal illness, injury or medical emergency OR
  • death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter relating to the following family members:
    • spouse (includes both married and unmarried couples, of the same or opposite genders)
    • parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse
    • spouse of the employee’s child
    • brother or sister of the employee
    • relative of the employee who is dependent on the employee for care or assistance

Attending a child’s soccer game or a friend’s wedding does not qualify as an urgent matter.

There is no pro-rating of the 10-day entitlement. An employee who begins work partway through the calendar year is still entitled to 10 days of leave for the rest of that year.

Generally, an employee must inform the employer before starting the leave that he or she will be taking a personal emergency leave of absence.

If this isn’t feasible, notice should be given as soon as possible after starting the leave.

Employees cannot require employees to provide a medical note from a physician, registered nurse, or psychologist as proof of eligibility for personal emergency leave.

Click here for more information on Personal Emergency Leave.

Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave

This new leave is a job-protected leave of absence. It provides up to 10 days and 15 weeks in a calendar year of time off to be taken for specific purposes when an employee or an employee’s child has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence. The first five days of leave taken in a calendar year are paid, and the rest are unpaid.

Learn more about Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave.

Vacation Time & Pay

Employees with less than five years of employment are entitled to two weeks of vacation time after each 12-month vacation entitlement year. Employees with five or more years of employment are entitled to three weeks of vacation time.

The vacation time earned for a vacation entitlement year or a stub period must be taken within 10 months after completing that year or stub period. The employer has the right to schedule vacation as well as an obligation to ensure the vacation time is scheduled and taken before the end of that 10-month period.

An employee can give up some or all of their earned vacation time with the employer’s electronic or written agreement, and the approval of the Director of Employment Standards, Ministry of Labour.

Vacation pay must be at least four per cent of the gross wages (excluding any vacation pay) earned in the 12-month vacation entitlement year or stub period (where that applies) for employees with less than five years of employment. Employees with five or more years of employment at the end of a 12-month vacation entitlement year or stub period (if any) are entitled to at least six per cent of the gross wages earned in the 12-month vacation entitlement year or stub period.

In most cases, the vacation pay earned during a completed vacation entitlement year or stub period must be paid to an employee in a lump sum sometime before they take the vacation time earned. Exceptions to this are:

  • when the vacation is being taken in periods of less than one week
  • the employee has agreed electronically or in writing that their vacation pay will be paid on each pay cheque as it accrues
  • the employee has agreed electronically or in writing that their vacation pay will be paid at some other time
  • if the employee is paid by direct deposit into an account at a financial institution the employee must be paid vacation pay on or before the pay day for the period in which the vacation falls.

Learn more about Vacation Time and Vacation Pay.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) an employer cannot pay an employee less than another employee based on sex, or employment status. Differences due to merit, seniority or piece-work are acceptable if clear, documented and communicated to employees as part of employer policies.

As a result of the changes from Bill 148, it is mandatory for employers to pay:

  • casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees, who are doing substantially the same work as full-time/permanent employees, the same rate of pay as full-time/permanent employees
  • temporary help agency employees (also known as assignment employees), who are doing substantially the same work as employees of the client, the same rate of pay as employees of the client

Learn more about equal pay for casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees.

Visit the Employment Standards Act Guide for details on the topics listed above, and more. The guide clearly outlines all aspects of the ESA including examples, exceptions, and tools. Click here for the ESA Guide.   

Click here for Employment Standards Tools, including:

  • Public Holiday
  • Hours of Work and Overtime
  • Severance
  • Termination
  • Employment Standards Workbook
  • Special Rules and Exemptions
  • Pay Calculator

If you have further questions regarding the ESA, contact the Employment Standards Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551.