If you’re working in Canada, your rights as an employee are protected by law. The vast majority of Canadian employers comply by the rules and provide positive and safe workplace environments. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, so it is crucial to know what you can expect from employers, and how to make sure you are treated well in the workplace.
Most employees are protected by provincial law, but some industries are federally-regulated
Your labour rights in Canada
Each province and territory has its own Human Rights Act or Code, which governs employment rights in the province. These rights and standards are largely the same across Canada – the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion provides a detailed comparison.
To cut out the legalese, the basic thing you need to know is this: you have rights in the workplace, and there are mechanisms to help you if your rights are abused.
Your rights on the job in Canada
Throughout your career, you’ll benefit from certain rights at work relating to pay, schedule, sickness or holiday leave, and other aspects of working life. Overall these are fairly similar across the country, although there can be slight differences between provinces.
One key takeaway that applies across the country is the number of hours in a work week. A working day is usually considered to be eight hours long (this may include an unpaid break). Over a five-day work week, this means that most full-time workers clock around 35 to 40 hours. However, working anywhere from 30 to 40 hours per week is usually considered full-time employment, for the purposes of benefits and deductions calculations (for example, even if you work 30 hours a week, you could be eligible for the benefits and deductions applicable to a full-time employee).
If you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should usually be entitled to overtime pay. This can vary by position and industry, so check the provincial advice pages linked below. When in doubt, it is always appropriate to ask about these details in a job interview or when you are hired.
The conditions for vacation pay vary between provinces, but again the basics are the same: employees earn vacation pay at a rate of four percent, which equates to two weeks’ vacation per year if you’re working full-time (this usually goes up to six percent and three weeks’ vacation after a number of years with the same employer). However, it is important to note that every employee earns vacation pay on their earnings: if you are employed part-time, you also have a right to vacation pay equalling four percent of your earnings.
Every province and territory also has its own conditions for “job-protected” or authorized leaves, such as sick days, bereavement leaves, and maternity/paternity leave. The conditions and entitlements vary, but the underlying concept is the same: wherever you work in Canada, there are ways for you to take the time off that you need, during which your job is protected. That is, if the absence meets the conditions set out in the province or territory’s labour standards, your employer cannot fire you, and must let you return to work if you wish to.
Statutory holidays in Canada
Several statutory, or “bank”, holidays are celebrated across Canada, and employees get these days off in addition to their vacation time. Adding to statutory holidays, there are also provincial holidays.
If a holiday falls during your scheduled vacation, you still get it as an additional vacation day (for example, if you take five business days off work over the July 1 weekend, you would use up only four days of your vacation time). If you are required to work on a recognized holiday, overtime wages may apply – the way this is calculated can vary by province, so check their pages for more information.
Working in Canada should be a safe, profitable, and rewarding experience for everyone, and this is the case for the overwhelming majority of people, but it always helps to know your rights.