Your guide to the Employment Standards Act
Read about recent and upcoming changes related to employment standards, including:
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 its regulations.
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.
In addition to this guide, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) has additional resources available to assist you:
- The Employment Standards Act Policy and Interpretation Manual is the primary reference source for the policies of the Director of Employment Standards respecting the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the ESA.
- Staff at the Employment Standards Information Centre are available to answer your questions about the ESA. Information is available in many languages. You can reach the information centre from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling:
416-326-7160 1-800-531-5551 1-866-567-8893
Additional educational resources are available.
Topics covered by the ESA?
- the employment standards poster: distribution requirements
- hours of work, eating periods and rest periods
- payment of wages
- overtime pay
- tips and gratuities
- minimum wage
- written policy on disconnecting from work
- non-compete agreements
- pregnancy and parental leave
- sick leave
- bereavement leave
- family responsibility leave
- family caregiver leave
- family medical leave
- critical illness leave
- child death leave
- crime-related child disappearance leave
- domestic or sexual violence leave
- declared emergency leave
- infectious disease emergency leave
- organ donor leave
- reservist leave
- public holidays
- termination of employment and temporary layoffs
- severance of employment
- equal pay for equal work
- temporary help agencies
- lie detector tests
Reprisals are prohibited
Employers are prohibited from penalizing employees in any way because the employee exercised ESA rights. Employers who do so can be:
- ordered to compensate and/or reinstate the employee
- ordered to pay a penalty
Greater right or benefit
If a provision in an employment contract or another Act 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 their rights under the ESA (for example, the right to receive overtime pay or public holiday pay). Any such agreement is null and void.
Enforcement and compliance
Employers who violate the ESA can be:
- ordered to comply with the ESA
- ordered to pay their employees
- ordered to pay a penalty
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
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997
- Labour Relations Act, 1995
- Pay Equity Act
- Human Rights Code
For more information about other Ontario laws, contact ServiceOntario:
1-800-267-8097(in the rest of Ontario)
- online at ServiceOntario.ca
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
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 some people and the people or organizations they work for, such as:
- 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
- individuals performing work under a program that is approved by a private career college registered under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005
- secondary school students 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 individuals who perform work as part of a sentence or order of a court
- people who hold political, judicial, religious or elected trade union offices
- major junior ice hockey players who meet certain conditions related to scholarships
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.