Finding a job and working in Canada

Chapter 10: Labour standards regulations in Canada (hours of work, vacations, holidays, sick leave and more)

Published: 24-02-2020

Author

isa

Labour standards regulations in Canada (hours of work, vacations, holidays, sick leave and more)

Both the federal and provincial/territorial governments have authority over labour and employment law in Canada.

The Canada Labour Code sets out minimum standards that federally regulated employers and employees must follow. For instance, in industries like banking, radio and TV broadcasting, navigation, transportation that crosses provincial boundaries, the federal public sector, Crown Corporations, etc., the labour rights and responsibilities are defined by the Canada Labour Code.

Employment that is not subject to federal jurisdiction is governed by the laws of the province or territory where the employment takes place.

In many large companies, collective agreements offer better benefits than the minimum standards to follow, for example more paid vacation time, sick leave, longer breaks, etc.

Where can I find information applicable to the province/territory where I work?
To learn about your rights as an employee, refer to the employment laws of your province/territory.

Alberta: The Employment standards page details the rules, regulations and compliance measures for employers and employees in Alberta workplaces. The Employment standards guide (PDF) offers a comprehensive overview with information on minimum wage, vacation pay, general holidays, overtime, etc. A similar brochure is available for different industries: Employment standards guide for the hospitality industry, Employment standards guide for the construction industry and Employment standards guide for the retail industry.

British Columbia: The Employment standards page offers an overview and a two-page brochure, Working in British Columbia (PDF), that contains information about the Employment Standards Act and regulations.

Manitoba: The Employment standards page features an informative FAQ on most common issues.

New Brunswick: The Employment standards page offers a series of informative PDF documents on topics such as paid public holidays, vacation pay and minimum wage.

Newfoundland and Labrador: The Labour Standards Division Government of Newfoundland and Labrador released a 30-page PDF document, Labour relations at work.

Northwest Territories: The Employment standards page offers an informative FAQ.

Nova Scotia: The Employment rights page features information about labour standards rules.

Nunavut: The Labour Standards Compliance Office offers information about its role and services and the legislation. Fact sheets are available.

Ontario: The Ministry of Labour offers information on the Employment standards page, as well as a useful FAQ section.

Prince Edward Island: The Employment standards page offers comprehensive information.

Québec : The Commission des Normes, de l’Équité, de la Santé et de la Sécurité offers information about your rights as an employee. Educaloi, a registered charity dedicated to improve access to justice, also features a comprehensive section about Work.

Saskatchewan: The Employment standards page offers information about workplace rights and responsibilities.

Yukon: The Employment standards page features basic information about minimum wage and statutory holidays.

As a foreign worker, remember that an employer can’t take your passport or work permit and keep it. An employer can’t deport you from Canada either—and if an employer is threatening you, you can file a complaint with your provincial or territorial labour standards office. For more information about your rights as a temporary foreign worker, read this manual from Employment and Social Development Canada.

Overview of labour law in Canada

Province/territory Standard hours of work Overtime Breaks Vacation time and pay Notice of termination (employer) Notice of termination (employee) Sick leave
Alberta 8 hours in a day or 44 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less or for dismissal for just cause – 1 week’s notice for at least 90 days but less than 2 years of employment No notice required for 90 days or less on the job / 1 week’s notice after 1 year on the job / 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years or more on the job No law requiring employers to provide sick days or pay for sick days
British Columbia 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 2 times after 12 hours in a day 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 5 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week for more than 90 days of employment and 22 weeks after a year of employment No notice required (even if etiquette dictates the employee should) No law requiring employers to provide sick days or pay for sick days
Manitoba 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 4 years on the job No notice required for 30 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 31 days but less than 1 year of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years of employment No notice required for 30 days or less on the job – 1 week’s notice after 30 days but less than 1 year on the job – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years or more on the job No law requiring employers to provide sick days or pay for sick days
New Brunswick 44 hours in a week 1.5 times the provincial minimum wage for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation (or at least one day per month worked) after 1 year on the job No notice required for 180 days of employment or less – 2 week’s notice after 6 months of employment No notice required (even if etiquette dictates the employee should 5 days every year of unpaid sick leave after 90 days on the job
Newfoundland & Labrador  40 hours in a week 1.5 times the provincial minimum wage for hours worked 1 hour of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job for the first 15 years in the company No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 90 days but less than 2 years of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years but less than 5 years of employment No notice required for 90 days or less on the job – 1 week’s notice after 30 days but less than 2 years on the job – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years but less than 5 years on the job 7 days of unpaid sick leave every year after 30 days on the job
Northwest Territories 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 5 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 90 days but less than 3 years of employment No statutory provisions 5 days of unpaid sick leave every year
Nova Scotia 48 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 8 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 1 year of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years of employment No notice required for 90 days or less on the job – 1 week’s notice after 30 days but less than 2 years on the job – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years or more on the job 3 days of unpaid sick leave
Nunavut 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 5 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 2 week’s notice after 3 months of employment No statutory provisions No law requiring employers to provide sick days or pay for sick days
Ontario 44 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 5 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 90 days but less than 1 one of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 1 year but less than 3 years of employment “Reasonable notice” 10 days of personal emergency leave every year (including 2 paid days)
Prince Edward Island 48 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 32 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 8 years on the job No notice required for 180 days of employment or less – 2 week’s notice after 6 months of employment no notice required for 180 days or less on the job – 1 week’s written notice after 180 days on the job 1 day of unpaid sick leave for every month on the job up to 12 every year
Quebec 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 5 years on the job No notice required for 90 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 90 days but less than 1 one of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 1 year but less than 5 years of employment “Reasonable notice” Up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave every year after 3 months on the job
Saskatchewan 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 3 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job / 4 weeks’ paid vacation after 10 years on the job No notice required for 13 weeks of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 13 weeks but less than 1 one of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 1 years but less than 3 years of employment No notice required for 13 weeks or less on the job – 2 week’s notice after 13 weeks on the job 12 days of unpaid sick leave every year after 13 weeks on the job
Yukon 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week 1.5 times your wage rate for hours worked 30 minutes of rest within every five hours of work (unpaid) 2 weeks’ paid vacation after 1 year on the job No notice required for 180 days of employment or less – 1 week’s notice after 180 days but less than 1 year of employment – 2 weeks’ notice after 1 year but less than 3 years of employment No notice required for 180 days or less on the job – 1 week’s written notice after 180 days but less than 2 years on the job – 2 weeks’ notice after 2 years but less than 4 years on the job 1 day a month (maximum 12 days a year – unpaid)

Note that these standards don’t apply in all industries and sectors and some employees are exempt as well. For instance, in several provinces, managers and supervisors are exempt from the overtime provisions. The overtime threshold can also be more than the standard set hours in a work week in a few positions.

Where is my employment contract?
In retail and in the food service industry, employees don’t usually sign a written contract of employment. Common practice isn’t always best practice—in case of disagreement with your employer, you don’t have a document to refer to. However, you do have a verbal contract with your employer and employment standards in your province/territory still apply.

Your employer has to give you proper wage statements (“pay stubs”) and a T4 Statement of Remuneration Paid slip (which shows how much money you earned and how much was withheld and remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency) by February 28 at the latest.

Standard hours of work and overtime pay
The standard for full-time employment is typically from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week. In Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario, you may be entitled to overtime pay if you work more than 44 hours in a week, while in Nova Scotia and in Prince Edward Island, you have to work more than 48 hours in a week for overtime pay to be triggered.

Note that parties can agree the employee will receive time off in lieu of overtime pay.

In an office environment, a typical workday starts around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. with an unpaid 30-minute or one-hour lunch break.

In call centres, employees work the morning shift, the afternoon shift or the night shift.

In retail, you can expect to work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Annual vacations and Paid Time Off (PTO)
The basic entitlement is two weeks of vacation for every completed “year of employment.” Saskatchewan is an exception, employees are entitled to 3 weeks of vacation pay. Vacation pay is calculated as a percentage of the gross wages an employee earns during the “year of employment.” Where the vacation entitlement is 2 weeks, vacation pay is 4 percent of earnings in the entitlement year; where the entitlement is 3 weeks, the vacation pay is 6 percent of earnings.

Paid time off is a bargaining chip employers use. You’ll see job postings promising three weeks of vacation after one year of employment, a paid day off on your birthday (!), etc. Vacation entitlement usually increases with seniority.

You can always try to ask for another unpaid week of vacation time—this kind of request is part of the negotiable non-monetary benefits to talk about after the job offer is made.

Don’t forget to keep a few vacation days—employers have the right to assign when vacation time will be used and many small businesses close between Christmas and New Year, for instance.

Sick leave and unpaid leave
The Canada Labour Code provides protection against dismissal, lay-off, suspension, demotion or discipline because of absence due to illness or injury (“sick leave protection”) but there is no provision for paid leave of absence. The exception is Ontario, where as of January 1, 2018, employers must provide all employers with a minimum of 10 days off, two of which are paid.

Companies may offer paid sick leave as part of their benefits package—inquire when a job offer is made.

Some companies also provide employees with a number of leaves, some of which are paid—parental leave, compassionate care leave, bereavement leave, etc.

Unions
Nearly 30% of Canadian workers belong to unions. Unions in Canada are regulated by federal and provincial legislation and are required by law to be democratic and financially accountable to their members. Members pay “union dues” to their local union. Most of the dues stay in the local to fund activities such as servicing, representation, organizing, legal costs, education and so on. A small portion goes to the national union to fund activities and programs.

Collective agreements
Collective agreements are negotiated “collectively” between management (on behalf of the company) and unions (on behalf of employees). The collective agreement regulates the terms and conditions of employees in the workplace, their duties and the duties of the employer. It is usually the result of a process of collective bargaining between an employer (or a number of employers) and a trade union representing workers.

Collective agreements can offer employees better benefits than the minimum provincial/territorial employment standards.

Chapter 10 of 12

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