Employment Standards Act

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The Employment Standards Act is an Act of the Legislature of Ontario. which regulates employment in the province, including wages, maximum work hours, and workplace health and safety. It differs from the Ontario Labour Relations Act, which regulates unionized labour in Ontario.

The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), sets out the minimum standards that employers and employees must follow in regards to:

  • Continuity of employment
  • Payment of wages
  • Records
  • Hours of work and eating periods
  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage [1]
  • Public holidays
  • Vacation with pay
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Benefits plans
  • Leaves of absence (Pregnancy Leave, Parental leave, Family medical leave, Organ donor leave, Personal emergency leave, Emergency leave, declared emergencies, Reservist leave)
  • Termination and severance of employment
  • Lie detectors
  • Retail business establishments
  • Reprisal
  • Temporary help agencies
  • Building services providers


The Ministry of Labour administers the ESA and its regulations by:[2]

  • providing compliance support
  • conducting proactive inspections of payroll records and workplace practices to ensure the ESA is being followed
  • investigating and resolving complaints
  • enforcing the and its regulations

Compliance Support[edit]

The Ministry of Labour offers publications and services to help employees and employers understand their rights and comply with their obligations. These include an employment standards poster, which employers are required to post in their workplaces; a catalogue of fact sheets and information sheets covering a variety of topics; and interactive online tools and calculators to assist employers and employees to understand provisions of the ESA, such as the Termination Tool, the Public Holiday Pay Calculator and the Severance Tool.

Proactive Inspections[edit]

Employment standards officers conduct proactive inspections of payroll and other records, including a review of employment practices. An officer performing a proactive inspection will usually visit the employer's business location. Officers may notify the employer in writing before the inspection, but are not required to. A notice may set out a list of records and other documents the employer must provide during the inspection. The employer is required to produce the records requested and must answer questions that the officer thinks may be relevant. An officer is able to take away records or other information for review and copying.

Investigating Complaints[edit]

In most cases, employees should attempt to contact their employer or former employer (or the client of a temporary help agency, if applicable) about the employment standards right(s) they believe have been violated. However, there might be a good reason for an employee to not contact their employer (e.g. If the employee is afraid to contact the employer or he or she is a young employee).

Employees have an opportunity to tell the ministry on the Claim Form why they did not contact their employer, or that they have already contacted their employer. If the employer contacted the employer but the issue was not resolved, the employee does not have to contact his or her employer again. If the parties are unable to resolve the issue on their own, and if the employee has provided all the required information on the Claim Form, the matter is assigned to an employment standards officer for investigation.

The employment standards officer may conduct his or her investigation by telephone, through written correspondence, by visiting the employer's premises or by requiring the employee and/or the employer to attend a meeting. During an investigation, both parties have the opportunity to present the facts and arguments they believe are important to their case. If a claim has been submitted against the client of a temporary help agency regarding a possible reprisal or unpaid wages, employment standards officers have the same powers of investigation with respect to the client as they do for an employer.

The officer will make a decision based on the best available evidence which may include employer records, client records, employee records, and interviews.After investigating a claim, the employment standards officer makes a decision about whether the employer has or has not followed the ESA; If the officer finds that the employer has complied with the ESA :

  • The employee is notified in writing of this decision, and can apply for a review within 30 days. If the officer finds that the employer has not complied with the ESA :
  • The employer or the client of a temporary help agency may resolve the issue by voluntarily complying with the officer's decision (i.e., by paying money that is owing to an employee or employees, or by adopting new, or changing existing, workplace practices).
  • Issue an order against the employer. (For more information, see "Enforcement", below.)
  • Officers can also require an employer to post a notice containing specific information about administration or enforcement of the ESA, and/or a copy of the report or part of the report with the officer's findings.

Some small business owners have complained that the ESA treats them as though they were criminals. There are records of employees using the ESA to abuse their employers.[3]


  1. ^ http://canlii.ca/en/on/laws/stat/so-2000-c-41/latest/so-2000-c-41.html#sec22.2subsec3
  2. ^ "Role of the Ministry of Labour". Ontario Ministry of Labour.
  3. ^ Adami, Hugh (2012-09-21). "Adami: Labour ministry puts squeeze on small business wronged by fired worker". Ottawacitizen.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-24. Retrieved 2012-09-25.

External links[edit]