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How old do I need to be to work?

In most workplaces, the minimum age to work is 14. But it depends on the job.

For example, you have to be:

  • 14 to work in a store or as a waiter
  • 15 to work in a restaurant kitchen
  • 16 to work on a construction project
  • 18 to sell or serve alcohol (but you have to be 19 to drink alcohol)

If you're under 18 and have not yet graduated from high school, the law says you have to be in school. So you're not allowed to work during school hours.

If you're 18 or older

Human rights laws say that if you're 18 or older, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against you because of your age.

And if this happens, you may want to make a human rights claim. For example, if you're 18 or older, an employer can't decide not to hire you only because of your age.

But, if you're 65 or older, an employer is allowed to discriminate about benefit plans. For example, you might not get the same health benefits as younger workers in your workplace.

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Next Steps: 

1. Find out about age requirements

In most workplaces, the minimum age to work is 14. But it depends on the job. For example, you have to be:

  • 14 to work in an arena, a store, or as a waiter
  • 15 to work in a restaurant kitchen, shipping and receiving area of a grocery store, or a warehouse
  • 16 to work on a construction project or a logging operation
  • 18 to sell or serve alcohol (but you have to be 19 to drink alcohol)

Some employers have their own rules about hiring people under 18 for certain jobs. For example, even though the law says you can work as a waiter when you're 14, a restaurant might decide to hire only people who are 16 or older.

To find out if there is a minimum age requirement for a job that you want, you can contact the Employment Standards Information Centre.

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2. Learn about making a human rights claim

If you're 18 or older and you think that an employer has discriminated against you because of your age, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information.

The Centre helps people file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and, in some cases, represents people who are making claims at the Tribunal.

You can also check out the Centre's online tool Can We Help You? to see if you might be able to make a claim.

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3. Make a human rights claim

If you think an employer has discriminated against you in a way that is against human rights laws, you may be able to apply to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

If the Tribunal decides that an employer discriminated against you, there are things it can order the employer to do. For example, the Tribunal could order the employer to:

  • pay you money
  • offer you a job
  • change its hiring practices so they follow human rights laws
Reviewed: 
June, 2015