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What is the labour law in Ontario?

When you arrive in Toronto to find a job, you wonder what the differences are between France and Canada. That's why I created this article in order to target as much as possible the general questions that one asks when arriving here. Be careful, each province/territory in Canada has its own laws, so what I write here is only valid for Ontario. Don't hesitate to ask your questions in the comments, if you want other subjects to be addressed.

The work contract

Before starting a job, make sure you have an employment contract. Indeed, some employers will try to play on this by telling you that they will give it to you later, so be careful. Contrary to France, there is no such thing as a promise to hire, if you receive a letter/email indicating that you are chosen for the job, as long as you do not sign the paper. However, in reality (in the restaurant industry for example), the beginning of the contract can be done verbally: I started my first job without a contract for 2 days for example.

And how much do I get paid net?

This is a question that comes up regularly. You will see that Canadians will often give you your salary in dollars/hour. And when you don't know how much it is per month or per year, you can feel a bit lost. As in France, the more you earn, the more you contribute. Note that the contributions are not the same: there are 4 main ones, which represent about 15% to 25% of your salary (up to 50% for very high salaries):

  • the federal tax deduction

  • the provincial tax deduction

  • CPP: Canadian Pension Plan ==> this is your retirement contribution

  • EI: Employment Insurance ==> you contribute for job seekers, maternity leave... By contributing during a certain period, you will also have access to these aids

To calculate your net salary, I advise you this very nice tool which will allow you to know directly your net salary, whatever the proposal (per hour/day/month ....) ==> the tool is here

Life at work

You will notice it while working, the life at work has nothing to do with what you know in France. Here, we don't take a lunch break as we would in France. Thus, it is not uncommon that your company does not have a lunch room and that you see people eating in front of their computer.

If you used to be an executive in France, you should know that here in Canada, we don't work "long hours" when we work in offices (after all, each case is different). So, it is not uncommon to see people working from 9am to 5pm and sometimes leaving before.

Working hours

The average Canadian employee works 35 or 37.5 hours per week.

Daily limit: 8 hours

Weekly limit: 48 hours

Overtime is counted as soon as you exceed the 44th hour of work in an average week and is paid at 1.5 times your gross salary.

Employers calculate your pay by 2 or 4 weeks. To put it simply, if you work 53 hours in the first week and 30 hours in the second week, you will not earn any overtime.

The three-hour rule

If you are working somewhere and your employer asks you to go home because of low activity, he will be obliged to pay you a minimum of 3 hours worked for that day.

However, this rule does not apply to:

  • employees with a normal occupation requiring less than three hours per day

  • certain situations beyond the control of the employer

Keep in mind that an employer cannot ask you to work more than 48 hours per week against your will. Exceeding this limit is an agreement between you and your boss. On the other hand, there is no indication of the maximum number of overtime hours that you must not exceed.

Meal breaks: These are to be deducted from your working hours as they are not paid. They generally last 30 minutes and must be allocated to you so that you do not work more than 5 hours.

Other breaks: In some companies, you will be given a 15-minute coffee break per half day with pay. Be aware that the employer is not obliged to give you this break.

The minimum wage

In Ontario in 2020, the minimum wage is $14,25 per hour and $12.45 for servers. Exceptions exist for students and certain trades; I invite you to see the summary table by clicking here.

New: the minimum wage should increase every year on October 1st 2020 by a certain percentage, among other things, a strong argument to ask your employer for an increase.

Dismissal and resignation

Unlike in France, here employers do not need a real reason to fire you. Indeed, a dismissal can be made without the employer having to justify himself.

However, a notice period must be respected. The notice period is generally two weeks for the first two years, then one more week for each year worked for the employer up to 8 years. To put it simply, the maximum notice your employer can give you is 8 weeks.

Your "trial period" is 3 months before you are entitled to this notice. However, it is stated that the employer must give reasonable notice under this date.

The immediate dismissal as you see it in American movies with the fact that you leave with a box and all your stuff is more common than here in Europe!

If you have worked for more than 3 months, your employer will have to pay you for the weeks of notice not respected (+4% of the total notice for paid vacations).

On your side, you would also have to give the same notice as your employer if you decide to resign from a job.

Regarding the aid you are entitled to when you are fired from a job, I will do a future article on it because it requires more attention. :)

Paid vacations / public holidays

Contrary to France, here the law only provides for 2 weeks of paid vacations. Depending on the employers, some of them can offer you a little more to make you want to come to their place, or integrate a "loyalty" part by adding 1 week of paid vacations (until you reach 5) every 2 years. According to the law, under 5 years of work, you are required to get only these 2 weeks of paid vacations. If you work in a temporary employment agency, for example, you will automatically be paid 4% of your gross salary. The days you take will be unpaid vacations (days when you are not paid).

Ontario Statutory Holidays (9 official)

  1. January 1: New Year's Day

  2. 3rd Monday in February: Family Day;

  3. The Friday before Easter Sunday: Good Friday;

  4. The Monday before May 25: Victoria Day

  5. July 1st : Canada Day;

  6. 1st Monday in September: Labour Day

  7. 2nd Monday in October: Thanksgiving;

  8. December 25: Christmas;

  9. December 26: Boxing Day (December 26).

Some employers give their employees an optional holiday:

  • Easter Sunday

  • Easter Monday

  • 1st Monday of August: Simcoe day

  • November 11: Remembrance Day

  • An additional holiday chosen by the employer

These vacations are not statutory holidays. Check with your company, or the collective agreement, to determine what additional vacations you are entitled to.

Sick leave: By law, even if your contract does not provide for it, you are entitled to 3 sick leaves per year (from January to December), unpaid and job-protected if you have worked at least 2 weeks. However, if you are absent for half a day, your employer may count this as a half day or a full day.

In general, if you are sick for more than 3 days in a year, you will not be fired; people are understanding about this kind of thing. Some employers even offer between 3 and 5 days of paid sick leave per year in your contract. If you are affected by a more serious illness, or one that may be long term, I encourage you to consult this page.

Maternity/parental leave

Here, nothing to do with France, the Ontario law provides for an unpaid maternity leave for pregnant employees, of a maximum duration of 17 weeks. Parental leave without pay is 61 weeks. Persons taking such leave may continue to participate in certain benefit plans and retain their seniority with their company. The employer has no right to penalize a person taking maternity or parental leave.

If you have just started a new job, you will be entitled to maternity leave if you arrive 13 weeks before your expected due date (as determined by your doctor).

There is also employment insurance, which is a way to access assistance during maternity leave. To be eligible, you must

  • Have an insurable job (normally included in the contribution with your salary) and have worked at least 600 hours

  • Have a weekly income that has decreased by more than 40% following the leave

  • Not be able to work because you are pregnant or a parent caring for the child after the birth

How much?

The contribution: (the contribution is $1.58 for every $100 you earn)

What you receive: When you set up the application, the calculation will be made so that roughly the amount is 55% of average earnings per week. There is still a limit that has been established as of January 1, 2020: $573 per week maximum.

The two options :

  1. Standard benefit: Both parents receive up to 40 weeks to share (at 55% of earnings) ==> 35 weeks max/person

  2. Extended Benefit : Both parents receive up to 69 weeks to share (at 33% of salary) ==> 61 weeks max/person

For more information, I recommend these 2 links:


As for the maternity or parental leave, in order to be entitled to unemployment, you have to register with the employment insurance. You will then be able to receive unemployment, which amounts to 55% of your weekly salary if you meet these conditions in Ontario:

  • You have worked at least 700 insurable hours

  • You were laid off from your job and did not quit

You will be entitled to receive your unemployment benefit for 14 to 36 weeks, depending on how long you have contributed.

Please note that in Canada, the Employment Insurance benefit takes into account the unemployment rate in your region, as well as your location, in order to grant you these rights. You can find the summary table here.

Within a region, the higher the unemployment rate, the more your entitlements are increased over time. However, you should know that Toronto has a low unemployment rate (less than 6%).


When you work in the restaurant industry, you are likely to receive tips. As of 2016, it is illegal for employers to keep tips and even withhold a portion of them, even if the employee has lost, broken or spilled things while on duty. This means that you should not give your tip in exchange for a higher minimum wage, for example. The only deduction that can be made is that the tip is for tax purposes.

Tip Pooling: In some establishments, the owner may decide that a percentage of the tips earned by the waiters should be divided among the various people in the establishment. For example, in a 3-person restaurant, if the tip pool is 20% of $100 in tips earned by the server, $20 will be split equally with the other 2 people ($10 each). This can include the dishwasher, the cook, the hostess...

NB: Be careful, everything that is said in this article should not be taken at face value. Indeed, variations of this law may exist depending on your contract, the collective agreement, or the sector in which you work.

A number to call: if you have specific questions about certain situations, a free service is available to all in English/French.

  • Contact if you are working in an environment you consider unsafe: 1-877-202-0008

  • Contact regarding problems with your pay and hours: 1-800-531-5551

And as usual, feel free to follow me on instagram to support me! :)

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