Ontario Employment Standard's Act, 2000

Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000: Your Handbook

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) governs provincially-regulated and non-unionized employees and employers in Ontario. As the ESA outlines the fundamental rights and obligations, such as work hours, wages, and leaves, it is beneficial for both employers and employees to have an understanding of the legal standards that govern their employment relationships.

This article will discuss what you should know about the Ontario Employment Standards Act and best practices to ensure compliance.

What is the Ontario Employment Standards Act?

The ESA establishes the rights and obligations of employees and employers in Ontario. It covers several important aspects of employment, including:

  • Minimum wage;
  • Standard hours of work;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Public holidays;
  • Vacation leave and pay;
  • Leaves of absence;
  • Termination pay; and 
  • Severance pay.

It is highly recommended that both employers and employees familiarize themselves with the basics of the ESA to ensure legal compliance.

Compliance with the ESA is a legal obligation. There are consequences for an employer if they violate an employee’s minimum standards. Employers should ensure that employment contracts and workplace policies align with the ESA.

It is also beneficial to seek professional advice to understand how the ESA applies to your specific situation.

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

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-866-561-2176 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

Minimum Wage, Hours of Work, and Overtime

The ESA establishes the following rules and standards for hours of work and pay:

  • Minimum Wage: The minimum wage is the lowest wage rate employers must pay their employees. It applies to most employees, including full-time, part-time, casual, and those paid on an hourly, commission, piece rate, flat rate, or salary basis.
  • Hours of Work: The ESA limits the number of hours employees can work a day and week. The maximum amount is 8 hours per day or 48 hours per week. Employees can work beyond these limits only if there is an electronic or written agreement between the employee and employer. 
  • Overtime Pay: Overtime pay is 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay and applies to hours worked beyond the standard limits (more than 44 hours in a week). Overtime pay calculations differ depending on the employee’s pay structure, whether they are paid hourly, on a fixed salary, or have a fluctuating salary. It is also important to note that some positions and professions are exempt from receiving overtime pay.

These minimum standards aim to ensure that employees receive fair compensation for their work and establish limits on working hours to protect their well-being. However, it’s important to seek legal advice for precise and current information regarding employment standards in Ontario.

Vacation & Leaves of Absence

The ESA establishes mandatory provisions for vacation and various types of leaves of absence:

  • Paid Vacation: Employees are entitled to vacation time and pay depending on the length of employment. Employees with less than five years of employment receive a minimum of two weeks of vacation time and vacation pay of at least four percent of gross wages. Employees with five or more years of employment are entitled to a minimum of three weeks of vacation time and vacation pay of at least six percent of gross wages. 
  • Leave of Absence: The ESA provides provisions for various types of leaves of absence, including pregnancy leave, parental leave, sick leave, and family medical leave. Each type of leave has specific conditions outlined regarding eligibility and notice periods. 

Termination and Severance

Regarding termination, generally speaking, an employer can end an employee’s employment without cause, provided they give written notice in advance of the termination date or provide pay in lieu of notice. 

In accordance with the ESA, employees who have completed at least 3 months of continuous employment with an employer have the right to a minimum of 1 week of notice period pay. This increases by 1 week for each year of service, capped at a maximum of 8 weeks under the ESA. Employees may also be entitled to common law reasonable notice period pay.

It is important to note that the ESA differentiates between notice period pay and statutory severance pay. 

To qualify for statutory severance pay, the employment must have been severed and: 

  • The employee was employed for 5 or more years; and
  • Their employer:
    • Has a global payroll of at least $2.5 million; or
    • 50 or more employees lost their employment within a six-month period because all or part of the business permanently closed.

The maximum amount of severance pay an employee can receive under the ESA is 26 weeks’ pay.


Employers have a legal obligation to comply with the ESA. The ESA provides minimum rights to employees, and there are serious consequences for employers who violate these minimum standards.

The ESA provides minimum standards regarding minimum wage, hours of work, overtime pay, termination pay, leaves of absence, and more. There are exceptions to the minimum standards, and thus understanding the ESA is fundamental for both employees and employers in navigating the world of work. 

Whether you’re an employee trying to understand your rights or an employer aiming to comply with employment laws, knowledge of the ESA is essential. 

Contact Us About the Ontario Employment Standards Act

If you are an employer or an employee and have questions about the Ontario ESA, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help.
Contact us today at +1 (866) 545-5801 or email
[email protected], and let us help you find the solutions you need to move forward.

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