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Understanding your Rights as an Employee

All Canadians have rights in the workplace. It’s important that you know these rights so that you are aware of when they are being infringed upon. Knowing your rights won’t just make sure that you have a safe and respectful work environment, but having an understanding of your rights can also keep you from being taken advantage of financially by employers.

Because knowing your rights is so important, here are some critical rights that you need to be aware of. Please note that this is not a comprehensive look at all employee rights. For more information on employee rights, visit the Government of Canada’s Rights in the Workplace website as well as comparable sites for the province or territory where you live.

Employment Standards

Many basic employment standards (such as hours of work, sick days, minimum wages, vacation policies, laws around severance provisions, and other such items) are legislated by the provinces and territories in Canada. This means your rights are different depending on where you live.

For instance, in Ontario, you are entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage (which is currently set at $14 per hour for most workers). You are also required to have a regular payday, you must receive a wage statement or pay stub that includes details of your pay, and there are limits to how many hours you can be required or allowed to work.

In most jobs in Ontario, overtime is payable after 44 hours in one week and this pay must be 1.5 times your normal hourly rate. Make sure that you keep a record of the hours that you work and that your records match up with the records provided by your employer.

Most employees in Ontario are also entitled to take off work for the nine public holidays recognized by the province and must be paid public holiday pay. Some employees in certain industries may be required to work on a public holiday. This includes people who work in hotels, motels, tourist destinations, restaurants, hospitals, taverns, or establishments with continuous operations.

Most workplaces in Ontario must follow the province’s Employment Standards Act and your rights as an employee are the same whether you work full-time or part-time.

Some Canadians work for organizations that are federally regulated. This includes banks, radio and television broadcasting companies, most federal Crown corporations, air transportation companies, telephone and cable companies, and several other businesses and industries. If you work for one of these industries, your rights are governed by the Canada Labour Code.

Your Rights if your Lose Your Job

You have rights if you lose your job in Canada. For instance, depending on your situation, your employer may owe you certain types of pay, including severance pay, termination pay, or vacation pay. The amount that you should receive will depend on the province or territory in which you live as well as how long you have worked for the employer.

For instance, if you live and work in Ontario, most employees must receive advanced notice and/or termination pay when an employer decides to end their employment, if they have worked for the employer continuously for at least three months. The amount of notice will depend on how long you have worked for the employer.

Termination pay is money that is paid by an employer instead of giving advanced notice. For instance, rather than giving you two weeks notice, an employer can ask you to leave the job that day and instead pay you two weeks of termination pay.

Severance pay is money paid by an employer if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Before you receive severance pay, you must receive and sign a severance pay agreement. You should review the agreement before signing and you may wish to consult with an employment lawyer if you have any questions.

In Ontario, and many other provinces, an employer does not have to provide a reason for ending your employment.

However, in Ontario, your employment cannot be terminated for asking about employment standards or for refusing to work in excess of the daily and weekly work maximums.

If you feel as though your rights are not being protected, you should contact the employee standards agency in your province to discuss your situation.