The Employment Standards Act (ESA) is the law that protects workers’ rights in Ontario. Basically, it tells employers how to treat workers fairly. The ESA does have some exceptions; workers in federally regulated businesses like transportation and banks and those with provincial legislation that covers their employment, like police, are not covered by the Employment Standards Act.

While you can learn more information directly from professional employment lawyers, we’ll discuss the ESA and what rights it promises and protects.

You have the right to:

  • work in a safe and healthy workplace;
  • be trained to deal with workplace hazards;
  • be treated fairly at work; and
  • join a trade union.

1. You should work in a safe and healthy workplace

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) lays down the rights you have and the duties your employer has regarding keeping the workplace safe and healthy. Basically, you have the right to know about any hazards in your workplace, and you have the right to be trained so that you know how to protect yourself from harm. Your employer must also make sure all of its supervisors have gone through basic health and safety awareness training.

You have the right to refuse unsafe work, including those situations where you think you’re in danger of workplace violence. You cannot be fired or disciplined for refusing unsafe work, or for requesting your employer investigate or address a health and safety problem. If you are penalized for this, the ESA considers this an unlawful reprisal.

Workers also have the right to participate in the identification and resolution of workplace health and safety concerns.

2. You should be treated fairly in the workplace

You have basic rights under the ESA, like getting paid for the regular hours you work, getting paid for overtime, and getting time off for certain holidays. Full-time employees are also supposed to be paid vacation time and pay. Your employer is also limited when it comes to making deductions from your wages.

Lastly, if you’ve been working continuously for three months, your employer must provide to you advance notice in writing or termination pay if they end your employment. The amount of termination pay or notice received depends on how long you’ve been working there.

3. You are entitled to a regular pay day

You should have a regular pay day and you should receive an accompanying statement, either on paper or online. Most employees have the right to earn at least the provincial minimum wage, with a few exceptions like students, servers, hunting and fishing guides, and homeworkers.

Most employees have to be paid for overtime after they’ve worked 44 hours in a week. Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times their regular rate.

4. You are entitled to your rightful holidays

Ontario has nine public holidays each year, and most employees are entitled to take these off of work and be paid public holiday pay. If they have to pay, they will be paid public holiday pay plus premium rate for the hours worked on the public holiday, or their regular rate for the hours they worked on the holiday, plus another day off in lieu with public holiday pay.

Most workers earn at least two weeks of vacation every 12 months they work. You are entitled to be paid at least four percent of the total wages earned as vacation pay, and any vacation pay that is outstanding when you leave your job is owed to you.

When it comes to deductions from your pay, your employer can only make three types: those that are statutory, like taxes; those authorized by you in writing, like extra tax deductions or deductions for benefits or a pension; and those ordered by the court. This means that if a customer leaves without paying their bill, or you make a mistake that costs your employer money, they can’t take that amount off your wages.

5. You have the right to join a trade union

Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) gives you the right to join a trade union and participate in union activities. It’s illegal for employers to discriminate against you or to fire you for your past association with a bargaining agent, for joining a union, or for exercising any of your other rights under the LRA.


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Alison is one of the writers working at Ultimate Business News. If you have any media inquiries, please contact Alison for further questions and feedback.

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