You often hear people talk about working at minimum wage, but did you know that there are different wage rates for different types of jobs? Most people know the general minimum wage for their province or territory, but are you aware that these rates are reviewed annually? Take a closer look at Canada’s minimum wage rates, including how they vary across the country.
Understanding Minimum Wage
Like all other minimum employment standards, minimum wages are particular to each province or territory. Not only are the minimum wage rates different in each province or territory, but the categories are different as well. For example, Ontario categorizes its minimum wage by the types of work performed, including the following categories:
- General minimum wage or those that do not fall into any other category
- Student minimum wage
- Liquor servers minimum wage
- Hunting and fishing guides minimum wage
- Homeworkers minimum wage
Whereas Nova Scotia has only two categories of minimum wage rate:
- Experienced employees (someone who has more than three months of experience in a given type of work)
- Inexperienced employees
Generally, minimum employment standards apply to employees of all categories, no matter if they are full-time, part-time, casual, paid on a commission or paid by the hour.
How are Minimum Wage Rates Determined?
The government reviews minimum wage rates annually. According to the Bank of Canada, the Ministry of Labour uses measures such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to determine if the cost of living is higher since the last review. Depending on the CPI and other factors, the wage rate may remain the same for another year or it may change to take inflation into account. Since the organization reviews minimum wages annually, you need to adjust payroll records accordingly if any changes in the wages occur. Staying on top of the latest developments can save you time and money in the end.
Can You Pay Less Than Minimum Wage?
It’s against the law to pay an employee anything under the minimum wage rate. If the government finds you underpaying an employee, the employee may resort to legal venues for the unpaid or underpaid wages. In certain provinces, such as Ontario, the Ministry of Labour upholds exceptional business standards by conducting unannounced audits at any time. To protect your business from any penalties resulting from a surprise visit from a labour inspector or from an employee claim, it’s important to follow the provincial minimum wage rules and implement changes as necessary.
While employees certainly rejoice at a minimum wage increase, you don’t have to dread the news. Your business can adjust to the wage increase by raising prices or making other adjustments to your budget. Choosing to do one or both of these tactics is especially beneficial if you’re in the common small business circumstance of having a narrow profit margin.
Minimum Wage Law Resources
If you’re not sure if your business is meeting all the minimum wage requirements, conduct some research on your provincial or territorial website for minimum standards or contact the Ministry of Labour (or the equivalent, since the name differs by province or territory) for further information. Keep in mind that changes in laws may alter the previous standards you’re used to, so it’s imperative to stay up on labour-related news. The Retail Council of Canada provides an informative web page that tracks minimum wage increases for reference, and the federal government provides an extensive Labour Program contact list for every province or territory.
Taking the time to make sure that you meet the minimum wage standards and all other minimum employment standards benefits both you and your employees. Consider working with an employment lawyer to avoid possible employment violations.
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