A Quick Guide on Employment Standards Act in


As an employee, it is important to know your rights. In Ontario, this is spelled out in the Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA is a government statute, which outlines the rights of employees and the responsibilities of employers in Ontario. Employers must provide the minimum employment standards set out in the ESA. If they do not, a complaint can be issued for violating the ESA.

What is the purpose of the ESA and who does it apply to?

The purpose of the ESA is to protect employees from unfair work conditions. The Act also provides the process for resolving employment disputes. For example, making a complaint to the Ministry of Labour.

Generally, the ESA applies to most Ontario workers. However, if you are federally employed in industries like banking, telecommunications, and airlines, the ESA does not apply. Further, if you are an independent contractor, the ESA does not apply either.

What rights are covered in the ESA?

There are several topics in the ESA. Some of these include:

  1. Hours of work
  2. Minimum wage and overtime
  3. Pregnancy & parental leave
  4. Sick leave
  5. Bereavement leave; family responsibility leave; family caregiver leave; family medical leave; critical illness leave; and child death leave
  6. Public holidays & vacation
  7. Termination of employment and temporary layoffs
  8. Severance of employment
  9. Filing a claim

Any employee can exercise their ESA rights. An employee can make a claim for any issues relating to the ESA. An example of a violation could include penalizing an employee for taking leave that they are entitled to.

Employers are not allowed to penalize (also known as a “reprisal”) employees for doing so. If an employer is found to violate the ESA, they may be ordered to comply with the rule; pay their employees some sort of compensation; ordered to pay a penalty, or be prosecuted.

There are also other pieces of legislation that outline work-place related laws in Ontario, including the: Occupational Health & Safety Act; Workplace Safety & Insurance Act; Labour Relations Act; Pay Equity Act; and Human Rights Code.

The Common Law Notice

In Canada, government legislation – like the ESA – is not the only source of laws. Laws can also be developed within the common law through decisions made by judges.

With this in mind, the common law notice was developed through Canada’s judiciary. It is an employee entitlement that is invoked when an employee is terminated from a job without cause and they do not have a termination clause in their employment contract.

The entitlement includes either reasonable notice that they will be terminated or it can be pay in lieu of notice. Every non-unionized employee in Ontario, by default, has the common law notice within their employment contract.

It can be replaced, however, by including an enforceable “termination clause” in the employee’s contract. The question may become: “is my termination clause enforceable?” An employment lawyer can help you determine whether the clause is enforceable or not.

If you are looking for more information or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss your matter over a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

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