ontario break laws article

What Are The Break Laws in Ontario

Employers in Ontario are mandated to provide breaks to their employees, which may include lunch breaks and coffee/rest breaks throughout the workday. However, it is important to address common misunderstandings regarding the duration and frequency of these breaks. Not every workplace follows the same rules, so let us clarify these misconceptions.

What Breaks at Work Am I Entitled?

Break laws in Ontario are covered by Part VII of the Employment Standards Act (“ESA“), outlining regulations for work hours and meal breaks. As per the norm, employees typically are granted a 30-minute unpaid eating period, ensuring they do not work more than 5 consecutive hours without this break.

A common misconception arises around the idea of two 15-minute breaks each day. This stems from the allowance for employees to agree to two eating periods totalling 30 minutes within each 5 hours. However, it is essential to clarify that the law does not mandate employers to provide any breaks beyond these designated eating periods.

Naturally, there are differences based on factors such as job type, negotiated agreements, workplace policies, industry standards, and human rights accommodations. For instance, agreements between parties may allow employees to work beyond the specified limits, or employers may opt to offer additional breaks.

Importantly, if an employee is required to remain on the premises during an extra break, they are entitled to compensation. Regardless of whether these breaks are paid or unpaid, they do not contribute to overtime calculations. It is crucial information for ensuring compliance with employment regulations.

 What Does the Law Say About Meal Breaks Exemptions?

Certain professions and industries are exempt from portions of the ESA including limits on work hours and meal breaks. Remember, these resources are not a substitute for legal advice.

We recommend consulting with an employment lawyer if you have any concerns. An experienced workplace lawyer can alert you to whether your rights are being violated and present you with your options. 

Ontario Workplace Break Times

In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) outlines the rights of employees when it comes to breaks. For most employees (with some exceptions), if you work for five consecutive hours or more, you are entitled to take a 30-minute break for a meal. This break does not have to be paid, but your employer may choose to pay you for that time. It does not count as part of your working hours, vacation time, or overtime pay.

Breaks Based on Shift Length

For a 4-hour shift in Ontario: Employees working less than five consecutive hours are not entitled to a break. However, they must be given permission to use the bathroom during this time.

For a 5-hour shift in Ontario: The ESA requires that employees be given one 30-minute break for a five-hour shift. You can use this break however you like, and your employer can agree to split it into two 15-minute breaks. Employers are not required to provide more than 30 minutes of break time for a five-hour shift.

For an 8-hour shift in Ontario: Employees are entitled to one 30-minute break under the ESA for an 8-hour shift. Another break is not required until after another five hours.

For a 12-hour shift in Ontario: Employers must provide two 30-minute breaks during a 12-hour shift, with one break every five hours of work.


Shift Length Break Entitlement Additional Details
Less than 5 hours No scheduled break Employees are not entitled to a break but must be permitted to use the bathroom.
5 hours 1 x 30-minute break Can be split into two 15-minute breaks with mutual agreement. Employers not obligated to exceed 30 minutes.
8 hours 1 x 30-minute break Another break is not required until after another five hours of work.
12 hours 2 x 30-minute breaks One break required every five hours of work.

Remember, these rules are set by the ESA to ensure fair treatment for employees in Ontario. If you have any questions or concerns about your break entitlements, it is a good idea to discuss them with your employer.

Can my employer make me work during my break?

No, in Ontario, according to the Employment Standards Act, your employer cannot require you to do work during your legally owed break time. Whether the break is paid or not, your employer cannot compel you to work during that break.

What should I do if my employer doesn’t provide a 30-minute break?

If your employer does not give you the required 30-minute unpaid break after 5 hours of work, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. They will investigate the issue and work to resolve it.

Are employers allowed to set break times in Ontario?

Yes, employers have the right to schedule when their employees take breaks. This helps them ensure sufficient coverage during shifts. Employers may ask employees to stagger breaks to avoid overlapping and maintain staffing levels. If you prefer a specific break time, you can request it, but unless you have a medical reason, your employer is not obligated to accommodate the request.

Do I get paid during my break?

No, in Ontario, your employer is not required to pay you for your break time unless your employment contract states otherwise. It is important to note that breaks do not count towards your total hours worked each day.

Is my employer required to give me bathroom breaks?

Absolutely. Bathroom breaks are a basic human need, and employers in Ontario are obliged to respect the bodily requirements of their employees, as outlined in Canada’s human rights laws.

Now, there is no specific employment or labour law in the country that spells out bathroom break details. It is left to workplaces to handle these breaks reasonably.

Both employees and employers should know: it is entirely within a worker’s rights to use the restroom when nature calls.

Do bathroom breaks count as part of my break time?

No, your employer should not count your restroom time as part of your designated break time. Breaks on the job are meant for eating or rest.

Can my employer put a limit on how many bathroom breaks I take?

In Ontario, employers cannot restrict the number of bathroom breaks you take, unless there is a legitimate reason to believe the breaks are being misused.

What if I Get Fired for Asking for My Permitted  Break?

If you are disciplined or terminated for enforcing your rights, this is illegal and may amount to reprisal. There are various routes you can take depending on the particular circumstances. For example, you may want to:

  • Further negotiate with your employer;
  • Contact the Ministry of Labour;
  • Commence litigation in court; or
  • Start an application at the appropriate administrative tribunal such the Ontario Labour Relations Board, or the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Determining the most appropriate route is not always a straightforward decision. It is usually a fact-specific inquiry, so we recommend that you seek legal advice from an experienced employment lawyer to understand your rights and options.

Contact Achkar Law

If you believe your employer is not complying with employment laws, speaking with an employment lawyer  can assist you in understanding your rights and taking appropriate action.

Don’t Wait for Matters to Escalate

Schedule Your Confidential Consultation Today – Reach out to us to discuss your situation in a private and secure setting. Our consultation process is designed to give you the insights and options you need to move forward.

Your initial consultation is the first step towards resolving your employment law concerns.

Call us today toll-free: 1 (800) 771-7882.

Let’s work together towards a positive outcome.

Are Your Break Rights Being Ignored? Contact Achkar Law for Guidance

If your employer is not allowing proper breaks as mandated by employment law, it’s important to understand your rights. Achkar Law can help ensure you receive the breaks you are entitled to. Don’t let your employer overlook your rights. Reach out for professional legal advice to uphold your working conditions.


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