What is the Employment Standards Act (ESA)?
The ESA is a law that sets minimum employment standards in most Ontario workplaces. Examples of minimum employment standards are:
- Payment of Wages
- Tips and Other Gratuities
- Minimum Wage
- Public Holidays
- Overtime Pay
- Vacation Time and Pay
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave
- Personal Emergency Leave
- Family Caregiver Leave
- Limits on Hours of Work
- Eating Periods and Rest Periods
- Termination of Employment
- Severance Pay
- Temporary Help Agency Rules
Am I covered by the ESA?
If you are an employee working in Ontario, you are probably covered by the ESA. However, some employees are not covered by the ESA and some employees who are covered by the ESA have special rules and/or exemptions that may apply to them. For more information, visit Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 or try our Special Rule Tool.
The ESA does not apply to you if you work for any employer under federal jurisdiction: for example, post offices, airlines, banks, and TV and radio stations.
What if I was covered by a collective agreement when the problem occurred? (For example, unionized employees)
You should ask your union representative for help with your issue.
Generally, if you were covered by a collective agreement when the problem occurred, you cannot file a claim with the Ministry of Labour.
If I have started a court action, can I file a claim with the Ministry of Labour?
If you have already started a court action against the employer, you cannot file a claim about the same employment standards matter. Note there are some exceptions. For more information, visit Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
If I file a claim with the Ministry of Labour, can I also start a court action?
Where a claim has been filed with the Ministry of Labour, a court action generally cannot be started unless the claim is withdrawn within two (2) weeks of the date it was filed. If you have questions about court actions, we suggest that you consult a lawyer before filing a claim.
Are there time limits on the recovery of money?
For all unpaid wages, including vacation pay, that came due on or after February 20, 2015, an employment standards officer (ESO) can issue an order if the claim was filed within two years of the date the wages came due.
Note: There are different limitation periods for unpaid wages that came due prior to February 20, 2015.
Generally, wages, except vacation pay, become due on the employee’s regular pay day. However, if the employment relationship ends, all of the wages owed to the employee (including any unpaid vacation pay) are due either within seven days of that date, or on what would have been the employee’s next regular pay day, whichever is later.
The limits on recovery apply only to an ESO’s ability to issue an order for unpaid wages, including vacation pay, termination pay and severance pay that became due prior to February 20, 2015. When an employer has violated a non-monetary standard, such as the limits on hours of work or reprised against an employee or violated a leave provision in the ESA, an ESO is able to issue certain orders (compliance orders, orders for compensation and reinstatement orders) for up to two years after a contravention has occurred.
Is there a limit on the amount of money the Ministry of Labour can order my employer to pay?
There is no limit on the amount of money an ESO can order for unpaid wages that came due on or after February 20, 2015.
What if I want to add/update information in my claim?
If you have already filed a claim against an employer do not file another claim against the same employer. Refer to your confirmation letter for details on changing or updating information to your claim.
What if I am a Temporary Help Agency Employee?
The ESA has rules that apply to assignment employees of temporary help agencies and to clients of such agencies even though the client is not the employer of the employee.
You are a temporary help agency assignment employee if you are employed by a temporary help agency for the purpose of being assigned by the agency to perform work on a temporary basis for client(s) of the agency. In this case, the temporary help agency is your employer.
A client is a person or entity that enters into an arrangement with a temporary help agency to have one or more of its employees assigned to perform work on a temporary basis in the client’s workplace(s).
Where can I find information about other workplace laws?
The ESA is not the only law that applies to Ontario workplaces.
Government of Canada (Federal) laws cover:
- T4 slips for Income Tax
- Records of Employment
- Employment Insurance
- Income Tax
- Canada Pension Plan
For information on these and other federal laws, contact Service Canada.
Other Government of Ontario (Provincial) laws cover:
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Labour Relations (i.e. unions, collective agreements, and strikes)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance
- Human Rights
- Pay Equity
For information on these and other provincial laws, contact ServiceOntario.
Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help employees and employers understand some of the minimum rights and obligations established under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the ESA or regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation. Although we endeavor to ensure that the information in this resource is as current and accurate as possible, errors do occasionally occur. The ESAprovides minimum standards only. Some employees may have greater rights under an employment contract, collective agreement, the common law or other legislation. Employers and employees may wish to obtain legal advice.