The Employment Insurance Act is a fundamental restructuring of the old Unemployment Insurance program and was fully implemented in January, 1997. The Act is designed for today's labour force, providing assistance where it is most needed and offering incentives for claimants to return to work.

What is the Employment Standards Act?

The Employment Standards Act, 2000, known as the ESA, is the law that sets out minimum standards for informed, fair and productive workplaces in Ontario.

Why is there an ESA?

The government is committed to safe, fair and healthy workplaces. The ESA gives employees and employers flexibility to design work arrangements that reflect today's personal and business needs. The ESA helps workers get fair treatment; employers become more productive; and Ontario to attract jobs and investment and stimulate growth.

Who is covered by the ESA?

The ESA covers every employer and employee in Ontario except:

  • employers and employees in sectors under federal jurisdiction such as banking, airlines, interprovincial transportation and radio and television broadcasting;
  • employees of the Crown, who are excluded from most, but not all, provisions of the ESA;
  • police officers;
  • people who hold political, judicial, religious or trade union offices;
  • participants in work experience programs authorized by school boards, colleges or universities;
  • people required to do community participation to qualify for social assistance;
  • inmates taking part in work programs.

There are other exemptions and special rules. You should check the ESA and regulations for details (see "For More Information" at the end of this brochure).

What are some of the key provisions of the ESA?

Pregnancy Leave and Parental Leave

Birth mothers are entitled to take 17 weeks of pregnancy leave and 35 weeks of job-protected parental leave. All other new parents can take up to 37 weeks of leave. As a result, if each parent of a newborn child elects to take the maximum allowable job protected leave at separate times, the child could have a parent at home for up to 89 weeks.

(Note: Maternity and parental benefits are employment insurance payments from the federal Employment I nsurance program. The rules about these benefits are different than the rules about pregnancy and parental leave under the ESA. For information about these benefits, please call the nearest Human Resources Development Canada office in the Blue Pages of your telephone book.)

Emergency Leave

Unpaid, job-protected emergency leave of up to 10 days each year is available for any employee who works for a company that regularly employs 50 or more people. It may be taken in the case of personal illness, injury, or medical emergency and the death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter concerning specified family members.

Hours of Work and Overtime

The daily limit is eight hours of work a day, or the number of hours in an established regular work day that is longer than eight hours. The weekly limit is 48 hours. Employees can agree, in writing, to work more than the longer daily and weekly limits, up to a maximum of 60 hours a week.

Most employees must receive overtime pay after 44 hours of work each week. The overtime rate is at least 1� times the regular rate of pay. Employees can take time off at the rate of 1� hours for each hour of overtime worked, instead of overtime pay, if they and their employers agree in writing. If an employee and employer agree in writing, the employee's hours of work can also be averaged over a period of time not to exceed four weeks for the purpose of determining whether overtime is due.

Rest Periods

The daily rest period requirement is 11 consecutive hours off in a 24-hour period. An employee must be allowed 24 consecutive hours off in each week or 48 hours off (two consecutive days) every two weeks. An employee must also have eight hours free from work between shifts - unless the total time worked on successive shifts is 13 hours or less, or unless the employee and employer agree to another arrangement in writing. These requirements are also subject to certain exceptions, e.g. on-call employees or employers' emergency staffing needs.

Direct Deposit

Employers can deposit wages directly into employees' bank accounts if certain conditions are met. For example, the financial institution must be within a reasonable distance from the workplace, unless the employee agrees otherwise in writing.

Vacation Time and Vacation Pay

Employees are entitled to four percent of their wages as vacation pay. Employees earn two weeks of vacation time each 12-month vacation entitlement year. Employers must generally schedule vacations in one- or two-week blocks, unless employees request their vacation time be scheduled in other ways. If an employee requests in writing, and an employer agrees in writing, vacation can be taken in periods as short as one day at a time.

Public Holidays

There are eight public holidays in each calendar year in Ontario: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Dec. 26).

Most employees are entitled to public holidays regardless of how long they've been working. Unless otherwise prescribed, public holiday pay is the regular wages earned plus vacation pay payable to an employee during the four work weeks prior to the holiday, divided by 20.

Termination and Severance

In most cases, when an employer ends the employment of someone who has been continuously employed for three months or more, the employer must provide either advance written notice of termination or termination pay or a combination of the two.

How much advance written notice or termination pay is required generally depends on how long someone has been working for an employer. The requirements may also be affected by the number of employees terminated in a four-week period.

Employers must continue to make the contributions required to maintain an employee's benefit plans during the notice period. This applies even if the employee has received termination pay instead of working part or all of the notice period.

Posting requirements

Employers must post in their workplaces a Ministry of Labour document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under the ESA. Employers are required to post this information in the majority language of the workplace if such a poster is available from the Ministry of Labour.

Employees can't be penalized

Employers cannot penalize employees in any way because the employee:

  • exercises or tries to exercise any rights under the ESA;
  • asks questions about their rights under the ESA;
  • asks their employer to comply with the ESA;
  • files a complaint under the ESA;
  • gives information to a Ministry of Labour employment standards officer or participates in a proceeding under the ESA or section 4 of the Retail Business Holidays Act;
  • is or will become eligible to take, plans to take, or takes a pregnancy, parental or emergency leave;
  • was the subject of a court order or garnishment that requires the employer to pay the employee's wages to a third party.

Enforcing the law

Ministry of Labour employment standards officers have the right to look into possible violations of the ESA and they can inspect workplaces.

Employers who violate the ESA can be ordered to:

  • pay the wages that are owing to employees (up to a maximum of $10,000 per employee);
  • pay an administrative fee;
  • comply with the ESA;
  • reinstate an employee;
  • compensate an employee;
  • pay a penalty.

    Employers can also be prosecuted and, upon conviction, ordered to pay a fine of up to $50,000 and/or serve up to 12 months in jail. Corporate employers can be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 for a first offence, $250,000 for a second offence and $500,000 for a third offence.

    How to file a claim

    If an employee thinks that an employer or former employer has not followed the ESA, they are encouraged to discuss the matter with their employer.

    They may also choose to send their employer a letter explaining the problem and asking to have it resolved. If they need help, they can contact the Ministry of Labour and can file a claim. Employees who are covered by a collective agreement must generally go through their union if they think their rights have been violated.

    For information on how to file a claim, please call the Employment Standards Information Centre (see the end of this brochure), or visit the nearest Ministry of Labour office (see the Blue Pages or our web site).


    This brochure contains only general information about some rules in the ESA. The ESA also sets out rules for Minimum Wage, Record Keeping, Retail Employees and Sunday Work, Equal Pay for Equal Work, Benefit Plans, and other topics. For more detail you should refer to the law itself. See below for information on how to get a copy of the ESA or where to go to learn more about it.

    For more information

    Call the Employment Standards Information Centre at 416-326-7160 or toll- free at 1-800-531-5551.

    Information on the ESA can also be found on the Ministry of Labour web site at and select "Employment Standards".

    Copies of the ESA, fact sheets, bulletins and other useful materials can be obtained from:

  • the web site at;
  • the Ministry of Labour Publications Sales Unit at 1-800-809-4731;
  • Publications Ontario, 1-800-668-9938; hearing impaired TTY 1-800-268-7095.


    The people of Ontario enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.

    Our economic growth is soaring. Our workforce is among the most highly educated, trained and skilled anywhere in the world.

    Ontario is a good place to live, work and raise a family - and we want to keep it that way.

    Keeping that high standard depends on maintaining our economic growth. Our vision is a province that encourages new investment, jobs and prosperity. It is a province that has labour laws designed to seize the opportunities of the global economy and workplaces of the 21st century.

    To do this, our workplaces need to be safe. They need to be fair. They need to be harmonious.

    What does the Ministry of Labour do?

    The goal of the Ministry of Labour is to have workplaces that are safe, fair and harmonious in Ontario.

    To achieve that goal, the ministry administers and enforces Ontario's labour laws through its three main business areas:

    occupational health and safety, employment standards and labour relations. Each area is responsible for administering specific laws, enforcing them where necessary and protecting the rights of employees who have the greatest need in the workplace.


    Occupational Health and Safety Program

    What is the ministry's role in occupational health and safety?

    The ministry sets, communicates and enforces standards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) and other legislation to ensure safe and healthy workplaces.

    The "Internal Responsibility System" is the basis of the Act. The Internal Responsibility System recognizes that injury and disease prevention is the shared responsibility of everyone in the workplace - employers, supervisors, employees and others.

    The ministry works with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and health and safety organizations funded by the WSIB. These agencies provide education, training and advice to employers and employees to ensure safe and healthy workplaces. With its partners the ministry focuses on injury and illness prevention in sectors such as industrial, construction and mining.

    Enforcement is a key role. Ministry health and safety inspectors, with technical support from engineers, physicians, hygienists, ergonomists and radiation physicists, enforce the laws by:

    - Inspecting companies, concentrating on those that need help in establishing self-reliance in their workplace, and on companies that have a poor track record;

    - Investigating fatalities, critical injuries, serious accidents, complaints, work refusals, work stoppages and disputes.

    Legislation and Regulations include:

    The Occupational Health and Safety Act and the regulations for:

    - Construction Projects/Manufacture and Repair of Ships
    - Industrial Establishments
    - Mines and Mining Plants
    - Designated substances such as asbestos, lead, mercury or isocyanates

    Smoking in the Workplace Act

    Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act

    Parts of the Hazardous Products Act

    Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)


    Employment Standards Program

    What is the role of the ministry in employment standards?

    The ministry sets, communicates and enforces standards under the Employment Standards Act to ensure fair workplaces.

    Employment standards staff educate employers and employees about the minimum standards. This helps both the employers and employees understand their rights under the law, become more self-reliant and able to comply with the law.

    The key standards include:

    minimum wage
    hours of work
    annual vacation
    termination of employment
    severance pay
    public holidays
    pregnancy and parental leave
    homeworkers and domestic workers

    Employment Standards Officers conduct workplace inspections, investigate employee claims in workplaces where employees (or past employees) are not covered by a collective agreement and help to resolve disputes. They enforce compliance when necessary.

    The Pay Equity Commission

    The Pay Equity Commission contributes to fairness in the workplace. The Commission is responsible for the Pay Equity Act and ensures that work traditionally done by women is paid at least the same as work of equal value traditionally done by men.

    The Pay Equity Office services include:

    education programs for the public

    dispute resolution to help employers, employees and bargaining units

    monitoring the implementation of pay equity plans

    enforcing compliance when required


    Labour Management Services

    What is the role of Labour Management Services?

    Labour Management Services help maintain balanced, stable and harmonious labour relations in Ontario while encouraging greater self-reliance in the workplace. Key to this is mediating disputes between employers and bargaining agents to achieve negotiated settlements.

    Labour Management Services delivers programs through the:

    Office of Mediation, which settles collective agreements through conciliation and mediation.

    Office of Arbitration, which processes requests for the appointment of arbitrators.

    Office of Collective Bargaining Information, which provides labour relations and collective bargaining research and information.

    Other agencies of the Ministry of Labour

    These boards and offices are independent or partially independent of the Ministry of Labour and carry out function that are related to the ministry's main businesses.

    The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board - plays a key role in Ontario's occupational health and safety system. It has a strong prevention mandate, provides insurance for injuries and illnesses that occur in workplaces covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, and works to help the employee's early and safe return to work.

    (The following two offices are funded by the WSIB and advise, represent and educate employers and employees in their dealings with the WSIB and WSIAT.)

    Office of the Employer Adviser
    - provides services primarily to employers with fewer than 100 employees.

    Office of the Worker Adviser
    - provides assistance to non-unionized employees.

    Public Service Appeals Board (PSAB) - comprised of the Crown Employees Grievance Settlement Board and the Public Service Grievance Board. The PSAB arbitrates and mediates disputes arising from collective agreements under the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, 1993. The board also hears grievances of management employees pursuant to the Public Service Act.


    Three tribunals adjudicate and hear appeals of cases. They have powers similar to law courts

    Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT)
    - hears appeals from employees and employers who disagree with decisions made by the WSIB concerning comprehensive claims. It is independent of the WSIB.

    Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal (PEHT)
    - has final authority under the Pay Equity Act to resolve disputes arising from a Pay Equity Commission order. The tribunal also determines applications for enforcement brought to it by the Commission.

    Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)
    - adjudicates matters under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. It certifies trade unions and can terminate a trade union's bargaining rights. It also hears appeals of cases under the Employment Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and other employment related laws.

    The OLRB also adjudicates matters under:

    Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act
    Colleges Collective Bargaining Act
    Education Act, as amended by the Education Quality Improvement Act
    Crown Employees' Collective Bargaining Act, 1993
    Public Service Act
    Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997
    Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act, 1997
    Smoking in the Workplace Act
    Environmental Protection Act and Environmental Bill of Rights


    Central Region

    Toronto East
    2275 Midland Avenue
    Unit #1, Main Floor
    Scarborough ON M1P 3E7
    Fax: 416-314-5410

    67 Thornton Road South
    Oshawa ON L1J 5Y1
    Fax: 905-433-9843

    Toronto North
    1201 Wilson Avenue
    Building E, 2nd Floor
    Downsview ON M3M 1J8
    416- 235-5330
    Fax: 416- 235-5080

    Toronto West
    1201 Wilson Avenue, Building E, 2nd Floor, West Building
    Downsview ON M3M 1J8
    Fax: 416-235-5090

    Peel North
    Peel South
    1290 Central Parkway West, Main Floor
    Mississauga ON L5C 4R3
    Fax:  905-615-7098

    1110 Stellar Drive, Unit 102
    Newmarket ON L3Y 7B7
    Fax:  905-715-7140

    114 Worsley Street, Suite 201
    Barrie ON L4M 1M1
    Fax:  705-726-3101

    Eastern Region

    Ottawa West
    Ottawa East
    1111 Prince of Wales Drive
    Suite 200
    Ottawa ON K2C 3T2
    Fax:  613-727-2900

    Beechgrove Complex
    51 Heakes Lane
    Kingston ON K7M 9B1
    Fax:  613-545-9831

    300 Water Street North
    3rd Floor, South Tower
    Peterborough ON K9J 8M5
    Fax:  705-755-4724

    Northern Region

    Sudbury East
    Sudbury West
    159 Cedar Street, Suite 301
    Sudbury ON P3E 6A5
    Sudbury East Fax:  705-564-7076
    Sudbury West Fax:  705-564-7437

    Ontario Government Complex
    P. O. Bag 3050 "D" Wing
    Highway 101 East
    South Porcupine ON P0N 1H0
    Fax:  705-235-1925

    Thunder Bay
    435 James Street South, Ste. 222
    Thunder Bay ON P7E 6S7
    Fax:  807-475-1646

    Sault Ste. Marie
    70 Foster Dr, Ste. 480
    Sault Ste. Marie ON P6A 6V4
    Fax:  705-949-9796

    Western Region

    1 Jarvis Street, Main Floor
    Hamilton ON L8R 3J2
    Fax:  905-577-1200

    1 Jarvis Street, Main Floor
    Hamilton ON L8R 3J2
    Fax:  905-577-1324

    1 Jarvis Street, Main Floor
    Hamilton ON L8R 3J2
    Fax:  905-577-1324

    301 St. Paul St, 8th Floor
    St. Catharines ON L2R 7R4
    Fax:  905-704-3011

    London North
    London South
    217 York St., 5th Floor
    London ON N6A 5P9
    Fax:  519-672-0268

    4510 Rhodes Drive, Suite 610
    Windsor ON N8W 5K5
    Fax:  519-258-1321

    155 Frobisher Drive, Unit G213
    Waterloo ON N2V 2E1
    Fax:  519-883-5694


    Employment Standards Inquiries
    and Information Centre:

    416-326-7160 (Greater Toronto Area)
    1-800-531-5551 (Canada-wide)

    Occupational Health and Safety

    1-800-268-8013 (Province-wide)

    Other: 416-326-7770 - Occupational Health & Safety

    416-326-7160 - Employment Standards

    Toll Free:
    800-268-8013 - Occupational Health & Safety

    Toll Free:
    800-531-5551 - Employment Standards

    416-326-6546 - On-Demand

    Web site:


                  400 University Ave
                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7


                                          General Inquiry: 416-327-0020
                                          Toll Free: 800-387-0774
                                          Fax: 416-327-0726
                                          Web site:
                                          OFFICE OF THE EMPLOYER ADVISER
                                          Suite 704
                                          151 Bloor St W
                                          Toronto ON M5S 1S4


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-7600
                                  Fax: 416-326-1449
                                  MINISTER'S OFFICE
                                  14th Flr
                                  400 University Ave
                                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-7606
                                  Fax: 416-326-0507
                                  DEPUTY MINISTER'S OFFICE
                                  14th Flr
                                  400 University Ave
                                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-9400 - Service Desk
                                  Other: 416-212-6000 - Service Desk
                                  Fax: 416-326-9424
                                  Eaton Tower
                                  33rd Flr
                                  250 Yonge St
                                  Toronto ON M5B 2N5


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-7586
                                  Fax: 416-326-7599
                                  14th Flr
                                  400 University Ave
                                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-7606
                                  Fax: 416-212-4455
                                  OPERATIONS DIVISION
                                  14th Flr
                                  400 University Ave
                                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7


                                  General Inquiry: 416-326-7558
                                  Fax: 416-326-7599
                                  14th Flr
                                  400 University Ave
                                  Toronto ON M7A 1T7



    Employment Legislations

    Employment Agencies - General

    Employment Agencies - Government

    Job Opportunities - General

    Job Opportunities for Students

    Self-created Jobs






    Migration to Canada
    I An Introduction I Health I Housing I Welfare Schemes I Your Rights & Duties