Canada has recently made a number of changes to labor laws both provincially and federally. This article is a guide to key changes both currently in place and happening in the near future.

It will discuss:

  • Federally Regulated Workplaces Subject to Labor Code Changes 
  • Bill 66: Ontario Changes to the Employment Standards Act
  • Ontario: Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules

Federally Regulated Workplaces Subject to Labor Code Changes

Canadian parliament’s Bill C-86 will be executing changes to labor legislation for federally regulated workplaces. Most changes are taking place in 2019 and will be implemented in staggered dates. (Most changes will take effect September 1, 2019)


Medical leave: Employees are entitled to 17 weeks medical leave for illness, injury, organ/tissue donation, or medical appointments. If leave is 3 days or more the employee may be required to provide a health care certificate proving inability to work.

 Personal leave: After 3 months of continuous employment employees will be eligible for 5 days personal leave with 3 of those days paid. Employees with less than 3 months continuous work are eligible for leave but unpaid.

Family violence leave: Employees with at least 3 months of continuous employment are entitled to paid leave for the first five days of leave.

Court or jury duty leave: unpaid leave is given to employees who act as a witness, act as a juror, or participate in a jury selection.

Pregnant or nursing women leave: Employees who are pregnant or nursing are entitled to leave from the start of their pregnancy to the end of the 24th week following birth.

Maternity, paternity, critical illness, or death leave: 6 months of continuous employment is no longer required to be entitled to these leaves. 


Every employee is entitled to vacation and vacation pay.

  • At least 2 weeks for at least 1 year of employment. 4% vacation pay
  • At least 3 weeks for at least 5 years of continuous employment with the same employer. 6% vacation pay
  • At least 4 weeks for at least 10 years of continuous employment with the same employer. 8% vacation pay

Holiday Pay

For each general holiday an employer must pay an employee holiday pay equal to at least one twentieth of the wages, excluding overtime pay, that the employee earned in the 4-week period preceding the holiday week.


Breaks during work: Employees are entitling to a 30 min break every five hours of continuous work. Employees requested to work during their break must be paid for their time.

Medical break: Employees are permitted to take unpaid breaks for medical reasons. Per written request by employer, employees shall provide a certificate issued by a health care provider informing on length and duration of such breaks.

Nursing break: Unpaid breaks must be given to any employee required to nurse.

Rest between shifts: Eight-hour rest period must be granted between work periods or shifts.

Equal Pay

Employers must provide equal pay to full time employees who perform the same job. The rule doesn’t apply to employees who have claim to seniority, merit or production. An employer cannot reduce an employer’s wage to create equal pay.

Employees who believe they are receiving unequal pay may provide the employer with a written request to review their wages. The employer has 90 days to provide a response, and either raise the employees wage or give a written explanation justifying the difference in pay.

Pay equity

The Pay Equity Act applies to Employers with 10 or more employees and employers with 100 or more employees will be required to establish a pay equity committee.


Minimum Service Requirement Notice Period
3 months continuous service 2 weeks
3 years continuous service 3 weeks
4 years continuous service 4 weeks
5 years continuous service 5 weeks
6 years continuous service 6 weeks
7 years continuous service 7 weeks
8 years continuous service 8 weeks

Group termination: The current requirement of employers providing 16 weeks written notice to the minister, employers will simultaneously need to provide employees at least 8 weeks’ notice, pay in lieu or a combination of the two.

Unjust dismissals: Allows for employers to counter and suspend unjust dismissal claims made by employees to the Canada Industrial relations board.

Bill 66: Ontario Changes to the Employment Standards Act

Approval from the director of employment standards is no longer required for employers to make agreements regarding:

  • Permitting employees to work more than 48 hours a week
  • Employers making agreements that allow for them to average their employee’s hours of work for the purpose of determining the employee’s entitlement to overtime pay.

Averaging Agreements: When averaging the employee’s hours, it should be done in accordance with the terms of the averaging agreement between employer and employee and over a period that does not exceed four weeks.

No posting of posters: The director of employment standards and not the minister, is now in charge of publishing a poster providing information about the act and regulations. Workplaces are no longer required to post the poster.

Changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995: Bill 66 amends the LRA to deem certain entities and municipalities to be “non-construction employers”. Now they will be released from collective agreements, labor relation laws as it applies to the construction sector and trade unions will no longer represent employees in the construction industry. An election procedure exists to opt out of these new rules.

Ontario: Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules

When looking to hire abroad in a specific country it’s important to know what laws apply to the job or industry in which you wish to employ. That’s because different regulations and acts can affect each sector differently.

In Ontario most employees are covered by the Employment Standard Act which provides minimum rights, responsibilities and standards for employees and employers in most workplaces.

These standards include:

  • hours worked & overtime
  • minimum wage
  • employment termination
  • holidays
  • leave
  • severance pay
  • vacation
  • tips & gratuity

However, certain industries and jobs are not completely covered by the Employment Standard act. These employees who are not covered by all parts are known as “exemptions”. Employees can also be covered by special rules that change how the act applies to them.

Before hiring an employee it’s important to know if their job places them under the full Employment standard act, exemptions, or special rule changes. By not properly determining your employee’s status and classifying them correctly, can lead to regulation issues and payroll complications.

For instance, a main payroll issue that can arise is overtime pay.

The ministry of labor in Ontario requires that employees receive overtime unless their job description fits the criteria as exempt from overtime provisions. So, if you believed your employee was exempt, but is in fact not, you would then be obligated to pay them 1.5 times the regular rate or 1.5 hours of vacation for each hour of work exceeding the weekly 44 hours in addition to their usual pay. They will also be required to fill in timesheets for attendance by the hour and paid bi-weekly.

Other employment standards differ depending on job or industry, so in order to avoid complications, click here to see the full list of jobs that have exemptions and special rules applied to them. As well as industries and jobs that are not covered by the Employment Standards Act.

Our general guide to Canada’s payroll and employment benefits will show you how Canada compares to other countries with regards to paid time off, employers tax and other criteria.

If you are looking to hire in Canada without opening a local entity see our Canadian professional employment service.