The Difference Between Labour Law and Employment Law

Employment Law vs Labour Law: What Is The Difference?

At Achkar Law, we have expertise in a range of legal matters including employment law, labour law, and human rights law. However, not all lawyers who practice employment law also practice labour law. So, what is the difference between labour law and employment law in Ontario?

What Is Employment Law in Ontario?

Employment law broadly covers a range of workplace matters between the employer and an employee. Employment law deals with non-unionized employees, so the focus is on the relationship between the individual relationships between the employer and employee.

The types of issues that often come up in employment law revolve around the terms of employment, discipline, and termination of an employee. Other common problems include the employer not complying with legislated employment standards and/or human rights laws.

Depending on the issue, there are a variety of forums where an employment matter may be addressed. For instance, employees can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour for violations of legislated minimum standards that define rights in the workplace. In Ontario, this may include violations of the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Employees or employers may also find themselves litigating cases in court or at various tribunals such the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (or for federal matters, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal).

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Employment Lawyers

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-800-771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

What Is Labour Law in Ontario?

Labour law generally covers the issues that apply in a unionized workplace. Canada’s system of collective bargaining is found in federal and provincial labour relations acts and labour codes.

A major difference between employment law and labour law is the way that workplace disputes are addressed and resolved. A union that has been certified as an agent for a particular bargaining unit has the exclusive right to negotiate with the employer on behalf of the employees.

Generally, the collective agreement outlines how disputes will be handled. Often, disputes are handled through a grievance and arbitrations process. Unionized employees are usually prevented from suing their employer in court. However, there are certain types of disputes that an employee can still litigate without the assistance of their union (if desired), such as human rights discrimination.

Where an employee has problems with the union’s representation itself, s/he may bring a claim against a union if the union acted unfairly, discriminatorily, or arbitrarily.

Are There Similarities between Employment Law and Labour Law?

Although labour law and employment law are two distinct areas of law, there are similarities as both areas deal with issues arising in the workplace. As such, both labour lawyers and employment lawyers should have familiarity with employment legislation, human rights legislation, employment insurance, workers’ compensation legislation, occupational health and safety, and privacy laws, among others.

Further, both labour law and employment law in Ontario are regulated by a myriad of statutes, but also through a robust body of common law in each area.


Although there are similarities between the areas of employment law and labour law in Ontario, these are two distinct areas. That is why it is critical to seek a lawyer who has experience specific to your circumstances.

Regardless of whether your issue falls within labour law or employment law, you can always seek independent legal advice on your rights and legal options.

Related Readings

Can Unionized Employees Start Human Rights Complaints?

What Do I Do If My Union Won’t Advance My Grievance?

Can I File Complaints Against My Union for Discrimination?

Labour Law and The Common Employer Doctrine

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employer or an employee and need assistance dealing with a workplace issue, our team of experienced team of labour lawyer and employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.