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Retail workers

There are certain rights in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) that apply only to employees of most retail businesses (see "Exclusions"). A retail business is a business that sells goods or services to the public.

The right to refuse to work on public holidays

Most employees of a retail business have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday even if the employee does not qualify for the public holiday.

If an employee has agreed electronically or in writing to work on a public holiday, the employee can later decline to work on that day by giving the employer at least 48 hours' notice before the employee’s work on the public holiday was to begin.

Where the public holiday falls on a day that would ordinarily be a working day, most retail employees qualify for the public holiday off work with public holiday pay.

Where the public holiday falls on a day that would not ordinarily be a working day, or the employee is on vacation, most retail employees qualify for a substitute day off with public holiday pay.

The right to refuse to work on Sundays

There are two sets of rules for employees of retail businesses. The rule that applies depends on whether the employee was hired before or after September 4, 2001.

Sunday rules for employees hired before September 4, 2001

An employee of a retail business who was hired before September 4, 2001 has the right to refuse to work on Sundays.

If an employee has agreed to work on Sundays, whether or not the agreement was made when they were hired, the employee can later decline to work on a Sunday by giving the employer at least 48 hours' notice before the employee’s work was to begin.

Sunday rules for employees hired on or after September 4, 2001

An employee of a retail business who was hired on or after September 4, 2001 does not have the right to refuse to work on Sundays if they agreed electronically or in writing at the time of being hired to work on Sundays, unless they are refusing to work on Sundays because of religious belief or observance (in which case the employee must give the employer notice before the Sunday at least 48 hours before the Sunday work was to begin). Note that if a Sunday falls on a public holiday, the employee could refuse to work on the day, even if they had agreed at the time of hire to work on Sundays. (This is because the refusal to work is because the day is a public holiday, not because it is a Sunday.)

An employee who did not agree electronically or in writing at the time of being hired to work on Sundays may agree at some later point to work on Sundays or on a particular Sunday. In that case, the employee could subsequently decline to work the Sunday(s) by giving the employer at least 48 hours’ notice before the employee’s work was to begin.

Note that an employer cannot make an agreement to work on Sundays a condition of hire if doing so would violate the Human Rights Code. Contact the Ontario Human Rights Commission for further information.

No reprisals

An employee must not be dismissed, intimidated or penalized in any other way because they exercised their rights under this section.

Exclusions

Retail businesses are excluded from these provisions if their main business is to:

  • sell prepared meals (e.g., restaurants, cafeterias, cafés);
  • rent living accommodations (e.g., hotels, tourist resorts, camps, inns);
  • provide educational, recreational or amusement services to the public (e.g., museums, art galleries, sports stadiums, theatres, bars, nightclubs);
  • sell goods and services that are secondary to the businesses described above and are located on the same premises (e.g., museum gift shops, souvenir shops in sports stadiums).
Updated: June 15, 2022
Published: November 22, 2017