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General Guidelines by Province

To the right you will find general guidelines on key points of Employment and Labour Standards, with links to some of the legislation. If you can't find the information you need or are wondering what your next step should be, we encourage you to visit our Get Help page.

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All Canadian jurisdictions legislate minimum employment standards for working conditions and basic entitlements such as minimum wage, vacations, statutory holidays, maternity and parental leave, overtime, severance and termination pay. Some provinces cover additional benefits you may be entitled to such as sick leave, bereavement leave and certain rights to help you meet your family responsibilities in case of emergencies.

These laws are commonly referred to as the Employment Standards Act or Labour Standards Code.

It is important to remember that Employment Standards are minimum standards only and do not prevent your employer from providing you with a greater benefit.

You cannot be asked, or agree, to contract out of an employment standard unless there are specific provisions such as averaging agreements for hours of work.

Not all workers are subject to employment/labour standards and regulations. Independent contractors, for instance, are not covered in most jurisdictions because they are not considered to be employees. Some occupations, such as police officers, architects and accountants, could be exempt from certain provisions or not covered at all. Exemptions are generally found in the subject area of the employment standards or in the corresponding regulations. It is essential that you establish if you are covered by the standard before proceeding with any complaint. It is in the regulations that the fine details of the employment standard exist.

If you believe your employer is violating employment standards, you can file a complaint. Depending on the province in which you work, your complaint must be filed anywhere from 45 days to two years from the time of the infraction. You should make detailed notes of the circumstances surrounding your complaint as you are likely to be required to produce such documentation.

In most jurisdictions, you are expected to first try to resolve the problem with your employer. If that proves unsuccessful, an employment standards officer would investigate and either issue a compliance order or dismiss the case. If the matter is not resolved, complaints can be heard by a tribunal or board for final and binding determination.

It is against the law in all jurisdictions for your employer to discriminate or retaliate against you because you exercised your rights under employment standards legislation.

Determining your rights under employment standards legislation can be a difficult task. It requires careful reading of the appropriate section(s) of legislation and corresponding regulations. In addition there are numerous exceptions and exemptions that may need to be considered.

Alberta

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With the exception of those who fall under federal legislation, most employees in Alberta are covered by its Employment Standards Code.

• Standards deviate or do not apply at all to certain groups of employees in specific industries. In most cases, the text of a particular standard will indicate what occupations or job classes are exempt.

• If you want to file a complaint, it must be done within six months of your last day of employment. The director of Employment Standards can grant an extension in some circumstances such as illness.

• The code stipulates that an employee who is required to report for work must be paid at least three hours at minimum wage.

British Columbia

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In British Columbia the Employment Standards Act, which sets out minimum standards only, is overseen by a branch of the Ministry of Labour and Citizens Services.

• The B.C. legislation defines an employee as “a person, including a deceased person, receiving or entitled to wages for work performed for another, a person an employer allows, directly or indirectly, to perform work normally performed by an employee, a person being trained by an employer for the employer’s business and a person who has a right of recall." It does not include independent contractors.

• For the most part, the act does not distinguish between part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent employees.

• Occupations such as doctors, lawyers, architects, dentists, insurance agents, chartered accountants and realtors are not subject to the Employment Standards Act.

• As a worker, you are not permitted to waive any requirement of the Employment Standards Act.

• If you believe your rights are not being respected, you must first make an attempt to resolve the matter with your employer. A Self-Help Kit that guides you through this process is available from an Employment Standards office or on the internet. A special tribunal was established in 1995 to enforce the Employment Standards Act.

Federal

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The Canada Labour Code covers about 10 per cent of the country's workforce. It regulates employment standards in a variety of industries including banking, marine shipping, ferry and port service, air transportation, railway, road transportation that might involve crossing provincial or international boundaries, telephone and cable systems, broadcasting, grain elevators and uranium mining.

• The code makes no distinction between casual, part-time and full-time employees.

• The code's hours of work provisions do not apply to managers or people working in architectural, dental, engineering, legal or medical professions.

• When an inspector confirms that the Canada Labour Code has been violated, the employer is asked to correct the infraction and to submit an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. In some cases, an order may be filed in Federal Court to ensure it is enforceable.

• You should make a complaint as soon as possible if you believe your rights as an employee have been violated. Claims for unjust dismissal must be made within 90 days of losing your job.

Manitoba

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The Employment Standards Code that came into effect in 2007 is enforced through investigation of complaints and educational programs. The Employment Standards Branch of the Ministry of Labour and Immigration says the new code provides “clearer, more comprehensive employment standards that benefit both employees and employers."

• Agricultural workers, babysitters, professionals, part-time domestic workers and family members working in family-run businesses are examples of jobs not covered by all aspects of the code.

• In order to collect wages owed to you in Manitoba, a claim must be made within six months of your not being paid or within six months of your last day of work. A claim for holiday or vacation pay can be made within a 22-month period.

• Claim forms are available online or at Employment Standards Branch offices.

New Brunswick

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The Employment Standards Act of New Brunswick sets out minimums for such things as wage rates, overtime and vacation pay, leaves for illness, maternity, bereavement and child care as well as rules governing pay equity.

• Not all classifications of employees are covered by the N.B. act and a number of professional occupations are exempt.

• The duty of the Employment Standards Branch is to make sure the act is followed to ensure fair and equitable workplace practices. If you think your employer is violating the act, you must make a complaint within 12 months of the infraction to the nearest Employment Standards Branch office. If an officer is unable to resolve the issue, it is referred to the Labour and Employment Board for a binding determination.

Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Labour Standards Act applies to a majority of the province's workplaces, accounting for 60 per cent of employees (not including unionized workers). The act sets out minimum standards for such things as hours of work, minimum wage, overtime rates, vacation pay, statutory holidays and termination pay.

• Upon being hired, employees must be provided with a "contract of service" that outlines basic terms and conditions of employment including wages, hours of work, vacations and, if the position is temporary, the exact termination date.

• Professional groups such as accountants, architects, engineers, teachers and veterinarians are exempt from provisions of Newfoundland and Labrador's Labour Standards Act.

• You have two years from the date of the infraction to file a complaint if you believe your rights under the act have been violated. However, if you are no longer employed, your complaint must be filed within six months of termination.

Nova Scotia

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The Ministry of Labour and Workforce Development administers the Labour Standards Code, which establishes rules for wage minimums, vacations, holidays, leaves of absence, employment records, equal pay for equal work, employment of children and termination of employment.

• Not all employees in Nova Scotia are covered under every section of the code. For instance, holiday pay regulations do not apply to farm workers, real estate agents, commissioned sales staff, anyone who works on a fishing boat, etc.

• Complaints regarding violations of the code must be made to the Labour Standards Division within six months of the infraction occurring. The identity of the complainant can be withheld although there are some circumstances in which this would be impractical.

Ontario

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The Employment Standards Act, with some exceptions, regulates working conditions in Ontario and spells out processes for enforcement and compliance by the Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards Branch, which is also charged with providing information and education. Among other things, the act addresses hours of work, minimum wage, overtime, various types of leaves, vacation, termination of employment, severance and temporary help agencies.

• Deadlines for filing complaints about violations of the Employment Standards Act vary according to the nature of the infraction. For instance, you have six months from the date the problem occurred to complain about a monetary matter. If it's vacation pay that is at issue or if the employer has committed multiple infractions of the same standard, the complaint must be filed within 12 months. Complaints for non-monetary issues must be filed within two years.

• Complaints are investigated by an officer of the Employment Standards Branch who can issue orders to comply. Should an employer fail to do so, the matter may be referred to Ontario's Labour Relations Board.

Prince Edward Island

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The Employment Standards Act protects P.E.I.'s workforce by regulating such things as minimum wage rates, vacation pay, statutory holidays, notice of termination, maternity/parental leave and overtime pay.

• The Prince Edward Island act does not apply to farm labourers or people whose main source of income is sales commissions.

• The act requires that an employer "confirm with an Employment Standards Branch inspector that a contract employee was made aware they were hired as a self-employed person, that the amount agreed upon is all monies to be paid and that the employer has no further obligations under the act, i.e., vacation pay, statutory holidays, etc.”

• The branch performs regular workplace inspections and routinely offers information sessions to employers and workers.

• Complaints about violations of the act are handled at the branch level. If a dispute is unresolved, it will be referred to the Employment Standards Board, an independent tribunal that is ultimately responsible for interpretation and enforcement of the Employment Standards Act.

• There is a two-year statute of limitations after which an employer cannot be prosecuted for a violation of the act.

Quebec

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Labour standards in Quebec are overseen by the Commission des norms du travail which, by Statistics Canada's reckoning, cover 92 per cent of employees (56 per cent have the act as their only protection). The act sets minimum standards for such things as wages, hours of work, statutory holidays, leaves of absence, sick leave and notice of termination.

• The act provides for recourse against dismissal if it can be shown that it was not for “good and sufficient cause.”

• The conditions contained in any agreement between employer and employee must not be less than those set out in the act.

• As in other jurisdictions, certain types of occupations are excluded from provisions of the act.

• Complaints about labour standards violations must be filed within 45 days of the infraction or your dismissal.

Saskatchewan

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The Labour Standards Act, which applies to all employees in Saskatchewan except the self-employed or immediate family members working for a family business, determines annual holidays, hours of work, minimum wages and other basic rules involving the workplace. • Variations from the core standards, permitted only with approval of the director of Employment Standards, include hours averaging permits, exceptions to meal break rules, posting of work schedules and substitutions for public holidays.

• Saskatchewan provides special exemptions for employees in the mining-exploration and forestry industries. Agreements to average hours or compress work weeks are allowed if proper permits are acquired from the director of Labour Standards.

• Claims for unpaid wages must be filed within one year.

• You must be reimbursed for non-refundable deposits, penalties and other expenses if an employer cancels an approved holiday.