By: Nora Duricic
Substantial federal regulation exists to regulate how much employees can work. However, more exceptions exist than you may expect, leading employees to be unaware of their rights and obligations.
What is the Standard?
To establish a national standard, the best course of action is to look at the rules for federally regulated workplaces. In Canada, the standard hours of work for an employee are considered to be 8 hours in any 24-hour period, or 40 hours in any seven-day period. You are also entitled to one day a week off. If a week includes a national holiday, the hours you are expected to work that week decrease by 8. Any hours worked over these hours is considered overtime work. The standard is that employees should be paid 1.5 times their standard rate of pay for all overtime hours worked. This universally does not apply to workers in a primarily managerial role, as they are not entitled to overtime pay at all.  Finally, overtime is calculated on a weekly or monthly basis, never daily.
In Canada, every province has the right to determine a significant amount of its own labour regulation laws, including the rules regarding overtime pay. Many elements of each province’s rules are the same as the federal standard. However, some provinces have exceptions at the provincial level, and not simply by industry. In Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick, employees aren’t entitled to overtime pay until they’ve worked over 44 hours in a week. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, employees aren’t entitled to overtime pay until they’ve worked over 48 hours in a week. It is also interesting to note that Manitoba has a system in place where overtime hours can be used as “extra” vacation days, if used within 3 months, rather than being paid for the extra day of work directly.
Differences by Industry
While many provinces have minor divergences from the federal standard, it is the differences by industry that are most complex and numerous. Certain sectors are exceptions to standard overtime rules nationwide, including road transportation, postal work, marine/fishing, the grain/farming industry, rail and air transportation, banking, and telecommunications/broadcasting. Employees in these sectors are entitled to overtime pay, but different criteria apply. Typically, they are sectors where an employee must work over 110 hours in a 2 week period to be entitled to overtime. In most provinces, it is also the case that employees in professions with their own licenses/regulatory bodies are not entitled to overtime pay at all. These professions include pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, dentists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychologists, veterinarians, optometrists, and engineers.
In Canada, most provinces have somewhat different regulations regarding standard hours of work and overtime pay. Compounding this with different standards for each industry can make it very hard for employees to keep track of their rights.
If you are unsure about whether you are being tasked with legally acceptable work hours for you industry, and whether you are being fairly compensated, please consult the employment tool on MyOpenCourt via https://tool.myopencourt.org/employee-or-contractor. Here, you can answer simple questions about the terms of your employment to determine if you are working overtime, and if so how much you should be compensated for it.