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A Guide to Canadian Labour and Employment Laws

Canada is the second largest country in the world by land mass, but its entire population is equivalent to the single US state of California. With 17.2 million people working across 10 provinces and three territories, much of the employment law falls under regional jurisdictions.

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the nation’s labour laws, exploring minimum employee rights and standards by topic as set forth in the Canada Labour Code, as well as provincial and territorial legislatures.

Learn where the law stands when it comes to minimum wage, overtime rates, averaging hours, and recordkeeping.

Working Hours

Most employees are expected to turn in eight hours daily over a five-day workweek or 10 hours daily over a four-day workweek. The average workweek in Canada is 40 hours long before overtime kicks in. The same is applicable to federally regulated employees.

Most provinces and territories do not limit the number of hours worked past the weekly minimum, as long as the right wage rate is applied and agreed between the employer and the employee. Alberta caps the daily limit at 12 hours, while employees in Quebec can refuse to work more than four hours more than their usual daily hours (e.g. 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week)

Minimum Wage and Overtime Rates

Federally regulated employees receive 1.5 times the regular rate of pay per hour after eight hours.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $12.15
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: No less than the overtime rate ($18.23*) after 40 hours worked in a week.

Nova Scotia

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $12.55
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 48 hours worked in a week

Prince Edward Island

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $12.85
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 48 hours worked in a week

New Brunswick

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $11.70
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: No less than the overtime rate ($17.55*) after 44 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $13.10 / $10.45 if gratuities apply
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $14.25 general workers / $12.45 liquor server / $13.40 student under 18#
  • Daily Overtime Rate: No daily overtime+
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 44 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $11.90
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $11.45
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 or 10 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $15 general workers / $13 students under 18 (when school is in session)#
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 44 hours worked in a week

British Columbia

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $14.60 general workers / $13.95 liquor servers
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after eight hours worked in a day or two times after 12 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $13.71
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week

Northwest Territories

  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $13.46
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week


  • Minimum Wage (Hourly Rate): $16
  • Daily Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 8 hours worked in a day
  • Weekly Overtime Rate: 1.5 times after 40 hours worked in a week

* minimum wage + 0.5

+ unless specified otherwise in employment or collective agreement

# works less than 28 hours a week

Exemptions and Special Rules by Role or Industry

The general rule is that managers, superintendents and employees who carry out management functions are exempted from overtime. The same exemption is also applicable to professional employees, described as someone who:

  • Requires a specific education and designation.
  • Works under an act of the legislature.
  • Can go into business independently.

Examples would include architects, dentists, doctors, engineers, and lawyers.

The other good rule for exception would be unionized employees, as unions have collective agreements which dictate different provisions for overtime pay. This could also be the result of certain industries that are currently not covered under the Employment Standards Act, or that follow other regulations. The complete list of exempt professions can be found in Part 7 of the Employment Standard Regulations.

How an employee is paid, hourly or salaried, has no bearing in their overtime entitlement. Every employee is entitled to the statutorily prescribed overtime pay unless their duties and responsibilities fall under the provided “exemptions” listing below.

The same applies to the employee’s job title (e.g. Marketing Manager). It does not automatically define the allowed exemptions. By definition, a “true” manager has:

  1. The authority to direct, supervise, hire, terminate, approve time off, and assess the performance of other staff.
  2. The ability to participate in substantial decision-making that impacts the business’ operations and budgeting.
  3. To perform non-managerial/non-supervisory tasks only on an irregular or exceptional basis.

In Northwest Territories and Nunavut, overtime exemptions are only applicable to those employed in a managerial capacity.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Agriculture workers
  • Domestic helpers and workers

Nova Scotia

  • Farm employees
  • Apprentices employed under the terms of the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act
  • Anyone receiving training under government sponsored and/or approved plans
  • Anyone employed at non-profit playgrounds and summer camps
  • Real estate agents and car salespersons
  • Salespersons who work away from their employer’s premises and receive a commission
  • Insurance agents under the Insurance Act
  • Employees working on a fishing boat
  • Domestic helpers and workers
  • Employees in the logging and lumbering industry
  • Janitors and building superintendents
  • Athletes while engaged in activities related to their endeavour

Prince Edward Island

Instead of an exemption, the standard workweek for employees in certain industries differs from the 44-hour mark.

The 55-hour workweek applies to:

  • Highway construction and maintenance
  • Seafood processing
  • Trucking industry
  • Healthcare industry

The overtime for community care facility employees and domestic care helpers will start after the 96th hour over a two-week period.

New Brunswick

  • Agriculture workers
  • Domestic helpers and workers
  • Independent contractors (hired directly by homeowners)


  • Domestic helpers and workers
  • Employees who work outside the establishment whose working hours cannot be controlled
  • Employees assigned to canning, packaging and freezing fruits and vegetables during harvest periods
  • Employees of the fishing, fish processing or fish canning industries
  • Farmworkers
  • Students employed in a vacation camp or social or community nonprofit organization, such as a recreational organization


  • EMS, healthcare and health professionals
  • Manufacturing, construction and mining employees
  • Hospitality services and salespersons
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture, growing, breeding, keeping, and fishing
  • Household, landscaping and residential building services
  • Government employees and professionals
  • Student employees
  • Embalmers and funeral directors
  • Temporary help
  • Film and television industry
  • Live performances, trade shows and conventions


Employees who have substantial control over their hours of work and earn a regular annual income of at least two times the Manitoba average industrial wage are exempt from overtime. Both criteria are required for an employee to be exempt from overtime.


  • Federally regulated industries (airlines or broadcasting)
  • Family-owned business (where employees are immediate family members)
  • Self-employed individuals with no employees
  • Student learners (interns)
  • Domestic helpers and workers
  • Athletes while engaged in activities related to their endeavour


  • Ambulance attendants
  • Brush clearing
  • Caregivers
  • Domestic workers and helpers
  • Firefighters
  • Salespersons and direct sellers
  • Taxi drivers
  • Construction
  • Farm and ranch
  • Federally regulated industries
  • Field catering
  • Geophysical exploration
  • Highway and railway construction
  • Irritation district employees
  • Land surveying
  • Logging and lumbering
  • Nursery
  • Oilwell servicing
  • Road construction and servicing
  • Road construction and maintenance
  • Trucking industry

British Columbia

  • Agriculture
  • Aquaculture
  • Commission sales
  • Domestics
  • Employment agencies
  • Entertainment industry
  • Foreign workers
  • High technology
  • Loggers working in interior
  • Oil and gas
  • Resident caretakers
  • Silviculture
  • Taxi drivers
  • Talent agencies
  • Trucking industry


Guides, outfitters, farmworkers, domestics, watchmen or security guards (unless working for a security firm)

A person other than a percussion drill or diamond drill operator or drill helper, employed in staking, line cutting, geological mapping, geochemical sampling or testing, geophysical surveying or manual stripping activities.

Northwest Territories

  • Domestic helpers
  • Midwives
  • Truck drivers
  • Construction industry
  • Oil and gas industry


In Nunavut, overtime exemptions are only applicable to those employed in a managerial capacity.

Averaging Hours

The rules governing whether employers can average employee hours over multiple workweeks are contained in subsection 169 (2) of part III of the Canada Labour Code and section 6 of the Canada Labour Standards Regulations.

It’s a national approach where the averaging of worked hours may be adopted for two or more consecutive weeks due to:

  1. No regularly scheduled hours.
  2. Regularly scheduled hours where the number of hours actually worked differ.

It allows for:

  1. The removal of overtime after eight hours of work in a given day or 40 hours in a given week, or both.
  2. Removal of the 48-hour limit in a given week.

The types of employment averaging is applicable to tour bus operators, pilots or long-haul truck drivers, wherein the working hours are seasonal and may be affected by external factors such as the weather, traffic or geography, which can influence the duration of work.

Example of averaging hours

Simon is a tour guide in Surrey, British Columbia, where the agreed workweek between Simon and his employer is 44 hours. Over a two-week period, he has worked 56 hours in the first week and 36 hours in the second. He earns $12 an hour and his overtime rate is $18. So the calculation of his entitled overtime pay for this pay period would be:

Total hours: 56 + 36 = 92 (46 hours per week)

Overtime hours: 46 (average weekly hours) – 44 (agreed weekly hours) =

2 hours per week

Owed overtime: $18 x 4 = $72

But be warned

There must be averaging agreements with an expiry date in writing between the employer and employee to average the employee’s hours of work over a specific period for the conditions to take effect.

An employee cannot agree to give up the right to overtime but may accept time off in lieu of overtime pay.

An employee may work different jobs at different rates within the same organization and have averaging applied.

Pay Rounding or Partial Hours Worked

In Nova Scotia, an employee who has worked between 15 and 30 minutes must be paid the equivalent of at least 30 minutes at the minimum wage. An employee who has worked between 31 and 60 minutes must be paid for a full hour. However, Nova Scotia’s Minimum Wage Order says nothing about employees whose work time includes partial hours of less than 15 minutes.

Example A

An employee who has worked for seven hours and 21 minutes must be paid at least 7.5 hours.

Example B

An employee who has worked for seven hours and 40 minutes must be paid at least eight hours.

In a 2018 survey on Canadian time tracking habits, TSheets found 60% of employees say their employers round their timesheets, where 15 minutes seem to be the norm, whether it’s rounding up or down. The survey data also reveals the practice of “negative rounding,” where clock in times are rounded forward while clock out times are rounded back.

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The debate over “how much notice” when it comes to scheduling is coming under increasing scrutiny in Canada. Currently, only Alberta and Saskatchewan include this provision in their provincial employment standards, at 24 hours and one week, respectively.

In the US, state governments are beginning to pass ordinances regarding predictive or on-call scheduling. Some employers and industries are required to provide their employees with advance notice or be subject to fines when insufficient notice is issued. The effects are trickling into Canada, where the Canadian locations of Gap’s five brands and Victoria’s Secret will follow the new policy.

At the provincial level, Ontario has recently conducted a review to update laws on what it calls “changing workplaces” to ultimately include scheduling under the Employment Standards Act, where other provinces are expected to follow suit in time.

Reporting or “Call In” Pay

The purpose of this provision is to ensure that all employees who are called in to work, when it’s not part of their regular schedule or in the complete absence of one, receive fair compensation for their out-of-pocket expenses and other costs incurred by having to report to work. Employers must fulfill the reporting pay requirements even if a shift is cancelled or the called-in employee is no longer needed.

An employee who reports for work as regularly scheduled is not eligible for reporting pay. An employee who shows up at the work site to see if there is any work is not considered to be reporting “for work at the call of the employer.” However, if the employee is asked to work after showing up at the workplace, however, the reporting pay provisions would apply.

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Rests and Breaks

Workday breaks

The most common practice is a 30-minute break after every five hours of work, and employers are not required to pay for the break unless the employee:

  • Is not allowed to leave the workplace during their break.
  • Has no control over their break.
  • Has agreed to a contract that says otherwise.
  • Must be at the disposal of the employer during the break.
  • In Quebec, the employer is not required to pay for the meal break, but if additional shorter breaks are provided, they must be paid.
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Weekly rest days

  • While provincial laws and union agreements vary, the general rule of rest is that employers are required to allocate at least 24 to 32 hours of rest for employees per week. Our data shows 59% of employees were asked to work for seven to 28 days consecutively, without a day off.

What’s the longest an employer has ever asked you to work without a day off?

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Workday break duration (minimum requirements)

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Note: For employees required to work up to 28 consecutive days or 35 continuous days (if the additional seven days complete the project), the employee will earn one day of rest for every seven consecutive days worked. The rest days must also be taken consecutively.

Banked Overtime

The employer and employee can agree for the employee to receive paid time off instead of overtime pay. With banked overtime, employees earn 1.5 hours of regular pay time off for each hour of overtime worked. The option allows both parties to weigh what’s more important to the other and reach a consensus.

All provinces and territories in Canada allow for this practice, assuming it is agreed between the involved parties. However, the period in which the paid time off must be taken will vary geographically, from three to 12 months after the week from which the overtime was earned.


Section 24 of the Canada Labour Standards Regulations identifies the required records to be kept on file for inspection by an Inspector under the Canada Labour Code. For federally regulated employees, the employer must keep payroll and other employment records for at least 36 months.

The types of records may include (but are not limited to):

  • Annual leave
  • Overtime
  • Statutory holidays
  • Rates of pay
  • Wages

Duration of record-keeping

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