The Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) provides the minimum standards for most employees working in Ontario. It sets out the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers in most Ontario workplaces.

This guide should not be used as or considered legal advice. You may have greater rights under an employment contract, collective agreement, the common law or other legislation. If you’re unsure about anything in this guide, please talk to a lawyer.

About Your guide to the ESA

This guide is a convenient source of information about key sections of the ESA. It is for your information and assistance only. It is not a legal document. If you need details or exact language, please refer to the ESA itself and the regulations.

What is covered by the ESA?

The ESA covers a wide range of employment standards including: minimum requirements for employment; provisions to assist employees with family responsibilities; increased flexibility in work arrangements; and mechanisms for compliance and enforcement.

Greater right or benefit

If a provision in an agreement gives an employee a greater right or benefit than a minimum employment standard under the ESA then that provision applies to the employee instead of the employment standard.

No waiving of rights

No employee can agree to waive or give up his or her rights under the ESA (for example, the right to receive overtime pay or public holiday pay). Any such agreement is null and void.

Other workplace-related laws

The ESA contains only some of the rules affecting work in Ontario. Other provincial and federal legislation governs issues such as workplace health and safety, human rights and labour relations. Related Ontario laws include the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, the Labour Relations Act, 1995, the Pay Equity Act, and the Human Rights Code. For more information about other Ontario laws, call ServiceOntario at (416) 326-1234 in Toronto, and toll free in the rest of Ontario at 1-800-267-8097 or visit Service Ontario.

Federal laws affecting workplaces include statutes on income tax, employment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. For more information about federal laws, call the Government of Canada information line at 1-800-622-6232.

Who is not covered by the ESA?

Most employees and employers in Ontario are covered by the ESA. However, the ESA does not apply to certain individuals and the persons or organizations they work for including:

  • Employees and employers in sectors that fall under federal employment law jurisdiction, such as airlines, banks, the federal civil service, post offices, radio and television stations and inter-provincial railways
  • Individuals performing work under a program approved by a college of applied arts and technology or university
  • A secondary school student who performs work under a work experience program authorized by the school board that operates the school in which the student is enrolled
  • People who do community participation under the Ontario Works Act, 1997
  • Police officers (except for the Lie Detectors provisions of the ESA, which do apply)
  • Inmates taking part in work or rehabilitation programs, or young offenders who perform work as part of a sentence or order of a court
  • People who hold political, judicial, religious or elected trade union offices.
  • Employees of the Crown are excluded from some (but not all) provisions of the ESA.

For a complete listing of other individuals not governed by the ESA, please check the ESA and its regulations.

Employers are prohibited from misclassifying employees as independent contractors, interns, volunteers or any other type of worker not covered by the ESA. If an employer misclassifies an employee, an employment standards officer can order the employer to comply with the ESA, issue a notice of contravention and/or prosecute the employer.