Young workers’ rights
A young worker in Ontario is any employee under the age of 25. In most cases, young workers have the same rights under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) as other employees.
Below you will find information for young workers related to:
- unpaid wages
- job termination
You cannot be penalized by your employer in any way if you:
- ask your employer to follow the ESA
- ask questions about rights under the ESA
- file a complaint under the ESA
- exercise or try to exercise your rights under the ESA
- give information to an employment standards officer (ESO)
- take or plan to take any of the leaves available under the ESA. Learn more about leaves of absence by selecting an available leave from the table of contents in this guide
- are subject to a garnishment order (a court order to have wages deducted to pay a debt)
- participate in a legal proceeding under the ESA or section 4 of the Retail Business Holidays Act
- refuse to take a lie detector test
If you believe you have been penalized, or your employer has threatened to penalize you for any of the above reasons, you can file a claim with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
Your employer must establish a regular pay period and pay day. On or before pay day, your employer must provide you with a wage statement.
Employers can pay wages by:
- direct deposit, which includes Interac e-Transfer, into the employee's account at a bank or other financial institution.
Minimum wage is the lowest wage rate (amount of money) an employer can pay employees, whether they are full-time or part-time. Employers must pay young workers at least the minimum wage, no matter how you are paid. This includes:
- flat rate
- piece rate
There are several minimum wage rates in Ontario, including:
- general minimum wage rate that applies to most employees
- student minimum wage rate that applies to students under the age of 18 who:
- work no more than 28 hours a week when school is in session
- work during a school holiday (A school holiday includes summer holidays and breaks during the academic year. For example, Christmas holidays and March break.)
Learn more about the current minimum wage rates.
Exceptions from earning minimum wage
Not all students are entitled to the minimum wage. Students who are not entitled to minimum wage include those:
- in training for occupations, such as architecture, law, professional engineering, medicine and optometry
- secondary school students in a work experience program authorized by their school board
- post-secondary students working in co-operative or work experience programs approved by their college or university
- working under a program approved by a career college registered under the Ontario Career Colleges Act, 2005
- employed as students instructing or supervising children or employed as a student at a camp for children, unless working as wilderness guides.
Learn more about industries and jobs with exemptions or special rules.
Tips or other gratuities
Employers cannot withhold tips or other gratuities from young workers or make deductions from their tips to cover such things as spillage, breakage, losses or damage. However, employers can make deductions from tips or other gratuities if it is authorized by statute or a court order, or if the amount will be distributed to other employees as part of a tip pool.
Learn more about tips or other gratuities.
Young workers with less than five years of employment are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of paid vacation after every 12 months of employment, starting from the date they are hired.
If your employer bases your vacation days on a date that is different from when you were hired, you are still entitled to a proportionate amount of paid vacation days.
If you have worked five years or more, you will be entitled to a minimum of three weeks of vacation time after every 12 months of employment.
If you have worked fewer than five years somewhere, your vacation pay is at least 4% of your total wages.
If you have worked more than five years at the same place, your vacation pay is at least 6% of your total wages.
Learn more about vacations and vacation pay.
Employers have to pay young workers overtime pay of at least one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for each hour of work beyond 44 hours a week.
If you and your employer agree electronically or in writing, you can take one-and-a-half hours of paid time off work (lieu time) for each hour of overtime worked. This paid time off must be taken within 3-12 months of that work week.
Some jobs are not eligible for overtime, including:
- installing and maintaining swimming pools
- landscape gardening
- growing, transporting and laying sod
- students instructing or supervising children
- students working at a children’s camp
Pay records and mandatory pay slips
Employers must keep detailed records of:
- the hours you work
- your wages
This includes providing a "pay stub" or "pay slip" with each pay period. Young workers should also keep track of their own hours worked.
Three-hour shift rule
If you typically work more than three hours a day and your employer asks you to work less, they must pay you for a minimum of three hours at your regular rate of pay – even if you work less than three hours. The only exception is if your employer is unable to provide work due to a cause beyond their control, such as lightning or power failure that stops work.
Unless you also work as a wilderness guide, the three-hour rule does not apply to students of all ages who work:
- at a children’s camp
- instructing or supervising children
- in a recreational program run by a charity
Deducting the cost of uniforms or other items
Some employers require you to pay for work uniforms or other items as a condition for employment. They can deduct the cost of the uniform or other items from your wages only if you agree in writing. You should ask your employer about any special requirements before accepting a job.
Even if you have agreed in writing, your employer cannot make any deductions from your wages:
- if there is a cash shortage and more than one person has access to a cash register
- due to faulty work, such as a mistake in a credit card transaction, work that is spoiled or rejected, or a situation where tools are broken or a company vehicle is damaged
Your breaks and holidays
Lunch and coffee breaks
Young workers cannot work more than five hours in a row without getting a 30-minute eating period If you and your employer agree, you can take the 30-minute eating period as two breaks in a five-hour work period. Meal breaks are usually unpaid unless paid meal breaks are in your contract.
Employers do not have to give you “coffee” breaks or any other kind of break other than the eating period.
Paid public holidays
Young workers are entitled to take the following nine public holidays off with pay:
- New Year's Day
- Family Day
- Good Friday
- Victoria Day
- Canada Day
- Labour Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Public holiday pay is calculated by adding all of the regular wages earned in the four work weeks before the work week in which the public holiday falls, plus any vacation pay payable to the employee in the same four work weeks (the four work weeks before the work week with the public holiday), then dividing the total by 20. Visit the Employment Standards Self-Service Tool to see how much you should be paid for public holidays.
If the public holiday falls on a day when you would normally work and you are not on vacation, you may be required to work if you work in a:
- hotel, motel or tourist resort
- restaurant or tavern
- continuous operation workplace (a workplace that does not shut down more than once a week, like oil refineries or alarm monitoring companies)
Most employees are entitled to be paid premium pay (time and a half) for every hour they work on a public holiday.
If you work on a statutory holiday, you may be eligible for a substitute holiday. A substitute holiday is when you are given a different day off because you worked on the statutory holiday. Learn more about special rules around substitute holidays.
When you don’t have the right to a paid holiday
You do not have the right to a paid public holiday or a substitute holiday if you fail to work all of your last regularly scheduled shift before or first regularly scheduled shift after the public holiday without reasonable cause.
You have “reasonable cause” for missing work when something beyond your control prevents you from working. For example:
- absences related to sick leave or family responsibility leave, such as an illness, injury or medical emergency for family members and dependent relatives
- absences for bereavement leave
- family caregiver, family medical, domestic or sexual violence and critical illness leave
You are responsible for showing your employer that you have a ‘reasonable cause’ for not working.
Learn more about public holidays.
Agreeing to work on a public holiday
If you agree electronically or in writing to work on a holiday, you are entitled to both:
- public holiday pay
- a substitute holiday with public holiday pay
Alternatively, if you and your employer agree electronically or in writing, you can get public holiday pay for theday you work, plus premium pay at time and a half for each hour worked on the holiday. In this case, you would not be entitled to a substitute holiday on top of that.
Retail workers, public holidays and Sundays
There are specific rights for workers in retail businesses. These rights apply to:
- sales employees
- non-sales employees, such as managers
- employees who work in a retail business, even if their employer is not a retail busines (for example, cleaners and security guards who work for a cleaning or security company and are assigned to work in a retail business)
Retail workers have the right to refuse to work on public holidays, even if they do not qualify for public holiday pay.
Retail workers hired before September 4, 2001 have the right to refuse to work on Sundays. After that date, if you agreed electronically or in writing when you were hired that you would work on Sundays, then you cannot refuse to work on Sundays except for reasons of religious belief or observance.
Learn more about retail workers and holidays.
Job termination and unpaid wages
If you have been employed for an employer for three straight months, they must give you advance notice in writing and/or termination pay when they end your employment.
The amount of notice depends on how long you worked for them. If you worked for them for:
- three months or more but less than one year, they must give you one week's notice
- one year or more but less than three years, they must give you two weeks' notice
- more than three years, they must give you one week’s notice for each year worked, to a maximum of eight weeks
Your employment is not terminated if you are “temporarily laid off.”
Learn more about termination of employment.
If you worked for an employer for at least five years, you may also be entitled to severance pay when your employment ends. You may qualify for severance pay if your employment is severed and:
- you have worked for the employer for five or more years (including all time spent in employment with the employer, whether continuous or not and whether active or not)
- your employer either:
- has a global payroll of at least $2.5 million
- severed the employment of 50 or more employees in a six-month period because all or part of the business permanently closed
Recovering unpaid wages
If you cannot recover wages you are owed from an employer, please contact the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development to file a claim. If you believe your employer has violated your employment rights, you must file a claim within two years of the alleged incident(s).
Learn more about this and other situations concerning recovering wages.