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Do Ontario's laws about pay apply to me?

It depends on your job.

Ontario's Employment Standards Act (ESA) has minimum standards that employers must follow. For example, there are rules about:

  • hours of work
  • minimum wage
  • vacation pay, holiday pay, and time off from work

But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And, in some cases, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out if your job is covered by the ESA and which parts of the ESA apply.

You don't need to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or have a work permit, to be covered by the ESA.

Work placements

Below are some examples where ESA rules about pay do not apply:

  • students in "work experience programs" that are run by a school board, college, or university
  • people on social assistance who are doing community participation under Ontario Works
  • people in jail who are in work programs
  • people doing work that a court ordered or sentenced them to do

Federal laws

Some industries are covered by federal laws. These are laws made by the Government of Canada and they apply throughout the country.

These industries include banks, airlines, some trucking businesses, and broadcasting.

Workers in these industries are covered by the Canada Labour Code. Like the ESA, the Canada Labour Code sets out minimum standards employers must follow.

If you're covered by the Canada Labour Code, some of the pay rules under the ESA apply to you. For example, the minimum wage rates. But the Canada Labour Code has its own rules about overtime pay.

If your employer says you're "self-employed"

Some employers say that their workers are self-employed and the Employment Standards Act (ESA) does not apply to them.

But even if you signed something that says you're an "independent contractor" or in business for yourself, the rights in the ESA might still apply to you. See Step 3 below. For example, you might have the right to minimum wage.

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Next Steps: 

Find out if you're covered by the Employment Standards Act

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) has minimum standards that employers must follow. But not all jobs are covered by the ESA. And in some cases, only parts of the ESA apply.

Use the Ministry of Labour's online tool called Industries and Jobs with Exemptions or Special Rules to find out if your job is covered by the ESA and which parts of the ESA apply.

You can also call the Ministry's Employment Standards Information Centre at 1-800-531-5551, 416-326-7160, or 1-866-567-8893 (TTY).

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Find out if federal laws apply to you

Some industries are covered by federal laws. These are laws made by the Government of Canada and they apply throughout the country.

These industries include banks, airlines, some trucking businesses, and broadcasting.

Workers in these industries are covered by the Canada Labour Code.

See if your job is covered by the Canada Labour Code.

Check out the federal Ministry of Labour website for information about your rights under the Canada Labour Code. Or call the federal government's Labour Program, Ontario Region at 1-800-641-4049.

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Find out if you're an employee

Even if you signed something that says you're an "independent contractor" or in business for yourself, you might still be an employee and have rights that an employee has.

And the pay rules in the Employment Standards Act might apply to you.

The law says that whether you're an independent contractor or employee depends on many different factors.

For example, if you answer "yes" to some of the questions below, you might be an employee no matter what your contract says.

  • Does your employer supervise your work?
  • Does your employer decide what hours you work?
  • Does your employer decide where you work?
  • Does your employer provide the tools and equipment that you use at work?
  • Do you work for only one employer?
  • Do you get paid the same whether the business makes or loses money?

But sometimes it's hard to know if you're an independent contractor. This is especially true if you answer "yes" to some questions and "no" to others.

You might need legal advice to figure out if you're an independent contractor or employee.

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Reviewed: 
June, 2015