Minimum Wage

What Are The Rules Regarding Minimum Wage?

In Ontario, workplace policies, regulations, and expectations are set out in the Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA outlines what employees can anticipate from their workplaces, and what employers should provide their employees. 

 

One standard that the ESA regulates is minimum wage. The minimum wage is the minimum amount the government of Ontario requires employees to be paid. With some exceptions, everyone who is covered by the ESA must be paid minimum wage or higher by their employers. At the time of writing this article, the minimum wage in Ontario is set to increase to $15.50 an hour or $14.60 an hour for students on October 1st, 2022.

 

At first glance, minimum wage might seem like a simple topic. Employees should just be paid at least that amount, and there will be no other issues, right? That might be true in some cases, but there are several points that everyone should keep in mind when thinking about minimum wage. For instance, who does the minimum wage apply to, or what happens if an employer pays less to an employee who is covered by the ESA?

 

This article will go through the important details to know about minimum wage in Ontario and give you an overview of how it might apply to you, whether you are an employer, an employee, or just someone interested in knowing more. 

 

Who Does the Employment Standards Act (ESA) Cover?

 

The ESA is what regulates the minimum wage in Ontario, so in order for the minimum wage to apply to you, you must first be covered by the Act. Most employees and employers in Ontario are covered, however, there are few exceptions.

 

The following employment situations are NOT covered by the ESA:

  • Employers and employees who fall under the jurisdiction of federal employment law (meaning that Ontario employment laws do not apply to them, and they should instead refer to laws made by the federal government of Canada). Examples of this include employees of airlines, banks, federal civil service, post offices, radio and television stations, and inter-provincial railways.
  • Students whose employment is facilitated under a program run by a college of applied arts and technology or university.
  • Students in secondary school enrolled in a work experience program through their school which has been approved by the school board.
  • People who do community participation work are covered under the Ontario Works Act, 1997.
  • Police officers.
  • People performing work as part of a sentence or order of a court, and inmates who are working as part of a work or rehabilitation program, or.
  • People holding judicial, political, religious, or elected trade union offices.
  • Major junior ice hockey players who have met certain conditions related to scholarships.

 

Anyone who is part of this list is not covered by the ESA. That means that they should not refer to ESA guidelines to learn about their minimum wage entitlements. If you are part of this list, contact your employer to find out how your pay is regulated and determined. 

 

What Does the ESA Say About Minimum Wage?

 

The ESA explains that minimum wage is the lowest rate that an employer can pay their employees unless that employee is exempt. Minimum wage counts for all pay, whether the employee is part-time, full-time, or casual – regardless of if they are being paid by commission, flat rate, salary, or a piece rate. 

 

Employers should regularly check for changes to Ontario’s minimum wage before each pay period. 

 

Most employees will be entitled to at least the general minimum wage. Starting on October 1st, 2022, the general minimum wage is $15.50 an hour. Employees should receive no less than that rate for every hour they work, before deductions. Time spent eating or on break should not be counted when calculating pay. 

 

Are There Any More Exceptions?

 

Yes, as not all employees are entitled to the general minimum wage. Some exceptions include (as of October 1st, 2022):

  • Students, whose minimum wage is $14.60 per hour.
  • Employees who are hunters, fishers, and wilderness guides. Such employees have a minimum wage rate of $77.60 an hour if they work less than five consecutive hours in a day, or $155.25 per hour if they work five or more hours in a day. They receive this whether or not the days are consecutive. 
  • Homeworkers, have a minimum wage rate of $17.05 per hour.

 

A wilderness guide is a person employed to guide, teach, or otherwise assist someone who is engaging in an activity in an outdoor or wilderness environment, such as rock climbing, wildlife-viewing, survival training, canoeing, or similar. 

 

A homeworker is someone who is paid to do work in their own home, such as working for a call center or for a tech company.

 

Those who work on commission should be paid minimum wage minus whatever they make on commission. For example, that might mean that an employee makes $300.00 in commission one week while working 25 hours a week. Their employer would owe them the minimum wage for the number of hours that they worked ($15.50 x 25 = $387.50) minus the amount that they made in commission. That would mean that their employer would owe them $87.50 ($387.50 – $300 = $87.50). 

 

Employers can also pay less in situations where they are providing their employees with room and board. For more information about how to calculate room and board costs, please see the Employment Standards Act page

 

What Happens if Someone is Not Paid, Minimum Wage?

 

If your employer has paid you less than minimum wage and you are not exempt from the minimum wage requirement, you may be able to get the money you are owed by making a claim to the Ministry of Labour. There is a two-year limitation period to make a claim after your employer has violated your ESA rights, so it is best to speak with independent counsel as soon as possible. 

 

Conclusion

 

Employees who fall under the regulations of the ESA have a right to be paid at least minimum wage unless they are exempt. As of October 1st, 2022, the general minimum wage will increase to $15.50 an hour. 

 

As an employee, if you are worried that your employer is not following the ESA and paying you minimum wage, you can remind your employer of their obligation to follow the ESA. Otherwise, be sure to reach out to a qualified employment lawyer at Achkar Law who can help you get the best results.

 

Contact Us

 

If you are an employee who is concerned about your wages, or an employer who wants to make sure they are following the rules, our team of experienced lawyers at Achkar Law is happy to help. You can contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected]

 

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service legal support with same-day response times, please visit our Chief Legal Officer Program page for more information.