Skip to Main Content

Employment rights and obligations for all employees

Acts governing the rights of workers are a relatively recent phenomenon. There hasn’t really been much until the 19/20thth centuries and the rise of industrialism.

In Canada, basic employment rights are protected by provincial and territorial employment standards. Every province and territory has their own version of an employment standards act.

What do employment standards acts cover?

These acts cover and regulate a variety of issues, such as:

  • Hours of work and overtime rules apply to most workers and vary significantly across Canada. However, most jurisdictions have established an overtime rate equivalent to one and a half times an employee’s regular rate of pay.
    • Employers cannot refuse to pay overtime rates and cannot force workers to work excessive hours, nor can they fire workers or have them deported if they refuse or complain about overtime work.
  • The minimum wage is the lowest wage rate that an employer can pay a worker and varies widely in Canada according to provincial or territorial law.
  • Employees must be paid at regular intervals and given a statement showing their wages and deductions for that pay period.
  • Most workers have the right to an annual vacation with pay. In British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec, employees must receive two weeks of paid vacation after completing one year with an employer. There are notable differences across the country with respect to entitlements and eligibility.
  • A public holiday enables most workers to have the day off with pay or receive overtime if they work. Every province and territory provides for a number of public holidays.
  • Most jurisdictions in Canada provide workers with a meal break of at least half an hour after each period of five consecutive hours of work. Employers are not normally required to pay workers for time spent on a meal break.

However, it must be noted that not all employees may get the protection of the ESA or they may face special rules under the ESA, depending on the industry in which they work and the job they hold. For example, independent contractors who may not be considered employees are often not covered.

There are also other acts which protect workers from hazardous situation, because workers have the right to know about hazards at work, to refuse work if it’s too dangerous and to receive proper training. Such issues are covered by occupational health and safety/workplace safety acts.

Depending on province and territory, there may also be pay equity and labour relations acts that further protect worker’s rights.

Furthermore, many workplaces which are non-unionized have employment contracts in place, which also outline some rights and obligations for employees. In unionized workplaces, further rights and obligations of employees are usually outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

However, workers also have employee obligations and duties by which they must abide.

Employee obligations

Next to having rights, employees also have obligations to their employers.

Those include but are not limited to:

  • Take direction from their employers in regards to work;
  • Come to work on time and be ready to work;
  • Work the hours agreed upon;
  • Keep confidential information private;
  • Perform work duties with reasonable skill and care;
  • Abide by restrictive covenants and non-competition agreements.

If you are having issues with your employee rights at your workplace, you may want to consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Worker’s Rights in Canada

Workplace Rights Ontario