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Working Conditions in Canada

1. Minimum Working Conditions

Employment standards in each Canadian jurisdiction sets minimum legislative standards, or a “floor of rights”, with respect to matters such as minimum wages, hours of work, overtime pay, vacations and holidays, and leaves of absences. Employees and employers may not contract out of these rights except to provide for terms more favourable to employees.

2. Salary

Employees must be paid an amount equal to or greater than the applicable minimum wage. Minimum wages in Canadian jurisdictions range from $10.45 per hour to $13.00 per hour. Where employees are paid a salary rather than an hourly wage, the employer must nevertheless ensure that employees’ compensation is at least equal to the minimum wage in light of hours worked.

3. Maximum Working Time

Most jurisdictions have legislation governing the maximum hours of work that an employee may work. Generally, such legislation sets out maximum daily and weekly figures (typically 8 hours per day and between 40 and 48 hours per week). In certain situations, these maximum hours of work may be exceeded, such as: where overtime is paid; where employees agree; or where there is an emergency situation. Specific provisions also exist in some jurisdictions, which permit employers to implement “compressed” four-day work weeks or “continental shifts” with 12-hour work-days.

4. Overtime

Each jurisdiction’s employment standards legislation includes provisions governing overtime pay when an employee works in excess of a certain number of hours (typically time-and-one-half). Overtime entitlements apply to both salaried and hourly employees. However, most jurisdictions specifically exclude certain employees from this entitlement, such as managerial or supervisory employees and certain types of professionals.

5. Holidays

Employment standards legislation provides employees with a statutory entitlement to vacation and vacation pay for each year worked. In all provinces, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation per year; in Saskatchewan, employees are entitled to three weeks per year. In many provinces this entitlement will increase with an employee’s length of service. As well, employees are entitled to between 6 to 10 paid statutory holidays per year. If an employee is required to work a holiday, the employee is entitled to premium pay (typically time-and-one-half) as well as to holiday pay for that day.

6. Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace

Occupational health and safety legislation exists in all jurisdictions and places an obligation on both employers and employees to minimize the risk of workplace accidents. Regulations are enacted that create specific requirements for and expectations of each workplace, including industry-specific requirements governing the use of hazardous substances and dangerous equipment. These expectations are enforced through well-funded bureaucracies and the threat of quasi-criminal or actual criminal prosecution of the employer or other workplace participants if there is a breach of the legislation or applicable regulatory provision. Legislation also provides employees with certain rights designed to promote workplace safety, including the right to be informed of hazards and the right to refuse work that they reasonably believe is dangerous. As noted above, in many Canadian jurisdictions, there is a growing movement to require that employers assess the risk of, and develop programs to deal with, violence and harassment in the workplace.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Canada, please contact Robert Bayne, Partner at Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti (www.filion.on.ca) at rbayne@filion.on.ca
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