Employment standards 

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To ensure that employees are treated fairly, the federal and provincial governments have established employment standards regarding:

  • Minimum wage
  • Annual vacations and other types of leave
  • Public (statutory) holidays
  • Hours of work, including standard hours, overtime and emergency requirements

Certain industries fall under federal regulations, while others must comply with provincial or territorial employment standards. If your employees are unionized, there may be additional standards set out in their collective agreement that go above and beyond what is required by law.

On this page:

Federally regulated industries

If your business is in a federally regulated industry, you need to comply with federal employment standards. The industry sectors that are regulated federally are:

  •     Banks
  •     Marine shipping, ferry and port services
  •     Air transportation, including airports, aerodromes and airlines
  •     Railway and road transportation that involves crossing provincial or international borders
  •     Canals, pipelines, tunnels and bridges (crossing provincial borders)
  •     Telephone, telegraph and cable systems
  •     Radio and television broadcasting
  •     Grain elevators, feed and seed mills
  •     Uranium mining and processing
  •     Businesses dealing with the protection of fisheries as a natural resource
  •     Many First Nation activities
  •     Most federal crown corporations
  •     Private businesses necessary to the operation of a federal act

General information on employment standards

These documents provide general information on all aspects of labour standards.

Sector-specific employment standards

  • Federal construction contracts

    Learn about the labour conditions and wage requirements that you must meet in order to win construction contracts with the federal government.

Wages and payroll

As an employer, you are required to pay your employees at least the minimum wage established for your province or territory. For most occupations, there is one hourly minimum wage that applies. However, there are some exceptions for young workers and people in specific occupations. When paying your employees, you will also need to take off taxes and other deductions and remit them to the government.

To find out more about wages and payroll requirements, browse these resources:

Hours of work and overtime

There are provincial and territorial standards that set out the number of hours an employee can be required to work per day and per week. The standards on hours of work also set out rules for meals and break periods. These standards apply to most employees and most situations. However, there are some exceptions and specific rules for overtime, emergencies and certain professions or job functions.

Public holidays

In most cases, you will need to pay your employees for public holidays. The list of public holidays and the specific rules regarding public holidays are set out in provincial and territorial labour standards.

Vacation and other types of personal leave

As an employer, you will also have to follow provincial and territorial labour standards relating to personal leave. The types of leave and exact terms used to describe them vary across the country, but generally include: vacation leave, sick leave, bereavement leave and leave to take care of sick family members.

Maternity and parental leave

All provinces and territories in Canada give parents the right to take leave from work when they become parents. The exact amount of leave and type of leave that employees are entitled to may vary slightly by province or territory, but is generally:

  • 15 weeks of pregnancy/maternity leave (must be taken by the mother), plus 35 weeks of parental leave (can be used by either the mother or father, or split between both) for birth parents
  • 35 weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents

In addition to being able to take time off, your employees may be eligible for benefits through the Employment Insurance Program (for all provinces/territories except Quebec) or the Quebec Parental Insurance Program.

EI or QPIP benefits only cover a portion of your employee's usual salary when on leave. As an employer, you can choose to add to those benefits. While this is not required, offering additional maternity or parental leave benefits, like other types of benefits offered by employers, can help you recruit and retain top talent.

You need to issue your employee a Record of Employment at the beginning of the leave period.

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