By: Dilina Lallani

Employees in Canada are guaranteed benefits by law. Entitlement to benefits is governed by the Employment Standards Act and Canada Labour Code. The ESA provides minimum standards for employee rights and benefits. The Canada Labour Code sets federal labour standards for those working in federally regulated jurisdictions.

Employment Standards Act (ESA)

The ESA governs most employees and employers in Ontario if the employee’s work is performed in Ontario or is performed both in and outside Ontario but is a continuation of the work in Ontario. The Act does not apply to employees or employers working under federal employment laws.

The ESA outlines rights and benefits including: [1]

Minimum wage:

Full-time, part-time, casual, hourly-rate, commission-based, piece rate, flat rate, or salary-based employees are entitled to minimum wage. As of January 2022, the general minimum wage has increased to $15.00 per hour and $14.10 per hour for students under the age of 18 years.

Hours of work limits and overtime pay:

Maximum work hours in one day is eight hours and 48 hours in one week unless there is an electronic or written agreement between the employer and employee to extend work hours beyond the limit. Any agreement still requires that the employer pay the employee overtime pay. Employees are not deemed to be working when they are eating, sleeping, or participating in private activities. Any employee who works past 44 hours a week will be entitled to overtime pay: 1.5 times their regular pay rate.

Sick Leave:

Up to three days of unpaid sick leave per year. The paid infections disease emergency leave was created in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and has been extended until July 2022. The paid infectious disease emergency leave requires employers up to three days of leave due to COVID-19-related reasons. [2]

Pregnancy and Parental Leave:

Pregnant employees have the right to take a pregnancy leave of up to 17 weeks of unpaid time off work, and new parents may time parental leave of up to 61 or 63 weeks of unpaid time off work.

Termination Pay:

Termination pay is compensation provided in place of required notice for termination of employment. If an employer terminates an employee’s employment of three months or more and does not give the employee proper written notice of termination, they are required to give termination pay to the employee.

Severance pay:

Severance pay is compensation provided to a long-term employee who loses their job. An employee whose employment has been severed may qualify for severance pay if they have worked for their employer for five or more years. The maximum amount of payments is 26 weeks.


Employees with less than five years of employment shall receive two weeks of vacation per year with at least 4% of the gross wages earned in the year. Those with greater than five years of employment are entitled to three weeks of vacation per year, and at least 6% of the gross wage earned in the year.

Benefit Plans:

Employers are not required to provide benefit plans; however, if they do, they cannot discriminate based on the employee’s age, sex, or marital status. Benefit plans may include:

  • Pension plans
  • Life insurance plans
  • Disability insurance plans
  • Disability benefit plans
  • Health insurance plans
  • Health benefit plans

Contravention of the ESA and misclassification

If employees feel the ESA has been contravened, or in other words, violated, they may file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor. Suppose an employer is found to have violated the ESA. In that case, they may be ordered to comply, pay the employee, pay a penalty, or be prosecuted. [3] However, an officer will not order an employer to pay wages, fees, or compensation if the complaint was filed more than two years after the contravention occurred. [4]

If employers misclassify employees as a worker that is not covered by the ESA, including independent contractor or volunteer, the employer may be exposed to financial liability. [5] An employee has the right to file a claim for the benefits they were not provided during the period of misclassification.

Canada Labour Code

The Canada Labour Code governs employment conditions for employees working for federally regulated businesses. Federally regulated businesses include: 

  • Banks
  • Airlines
  • Federal civil services
  • Television sectors

The code sets standards, including work hours, wages, vacations, and severance pay. [6]


The MyOpenCourt’s Employee or Contractor Tool is a tool that allows you to input information about your job to learn more about the employment rights and benefits you are entitled to.

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[3] Ibid.