David Macauley, Harvard Law School, JFCY summer student

As summer approaches and many students prepare for summer employment, it is a good time to share a few reminders about student employment rights in Ontario and recent changes to the minimum wage.

Minimum wage: The minimum wage was increased this year, but the minimum wage for students under 18 years of age remains slightly lower than the general minimum wage.

As of January 1, 2018, the minimum wages are:

  • $13.15 for students under 18 years of age
  • $14.00 for most others

Next year, on January 1, 2019, the minimum wages will rise to:

  • $14.10 for students under 18 years of age
  • $15.00 for most others

The student minimum wage only applies if:

  • you are under 18, AND
  • you are working 28 hours or less per week, OR working during a school holiday (summer break, winter break, March break, etc.).

If a student under 18 works more than 28 hours in a week while school is in session, they are entitled to the higher, general minimum wage for that week.

If an employer provides room and board, it can be considered as wages for the purpose of calculating what an employee is entitled to under the minimum wage. However, room and board can only be considered where the employee has actually received the meals or occupied the room, and up to a limited amount:

  • For room, $31.70 a week if the room is private, and $15.85 if it is not private.
  • For board, $2.55 a meal, up to $53.55 a week.
  • For both room and board, $85.25 a week if the room is private, and $69.40 if it is not private.

For example, a student working in the summer is paid $13.15 an hour, the student minimum wage. The student works 40 hours per week, and is entitled to $526 ($13.15 x 40) in wages per week. The student receives room and board, and is therefore considered to have already been paid $85.25 in wages for the week. As a result, the employee is only entitled to $440.75 in regular wages. The pay calculation for the week would be:

$440.75 (regular wages) + $85.25 (room and board) = $526 (which amounts to $13.15 x 40 hours)

There is no minimum wage, however, for students employed:

  • in a recreational program operated by a charitable organization,
  • to instruct or supervise children, OR
  • at a camp for children.

Payment: Employers must establish a regular pay period, and a regular pay day for all of the wages earned during the pay period. Employers may choose different schedules, but they must pay their employees on a regular schedule.

If your employment ends (e.g., you quit or are fired), you are still entitled to the wages you earned. Your employer must pay you within seven days after your employment ends or on your next pay day – whichever is earlier.

Deductions: An employer can only deduct from your wages in one of three cases:

  • where the law requires it (such as income tax, Canadian Pension Plan, or Employment Insurance),
  • where a court orders it (if an employee owes money to either their employer or someone else, and a judge orders that the employer may make deductions), OR
  • where you, the employee, provide written authorization for the employer to deduct from your wages.

In practice, this means that an employer could make wage deductions to cover the cost of something like a uniform. However, they must receive written authorization from the employee first.

But even with written authorization, an employer cannot deduct wages:

  • due to faulty work (such as a mistake in a credit card transaction, or damage to an employer’s tools or vehicles while working), OR
  • to cover lost or stolen property, UNLESS the employee was the only one with access to the cash or property (in which case, the employer would still need written authorization).

Under these rules, an employer could not deduct from an employee’s wages to cover the cost of a “dine and dash” or a customer who shoplifts something, because the employee wouldn’t have been the only one with access to the stolen property.

In addition, employers cannot deduct from tips for any losses or theft. The only instance in which an employer can take an employee’s tips is if the employer is collecting the tips to redistribute them in a tip pool. The employer can only share in the tip pool if they own part of the business and spend most of their time doing the same work as the employees who share in the tip pool, or other employees in the industry that would normally receive or share tips.

Breaks: Employees cannot work for five hours continuously without a 30 minute break, which may be broken into two shorter breaks. These breaks are unpaid, unless the contract between you and your employer states that you will be paid for the breaks.

Time off between shifts: Your employer must give you at least 8 hours of time off between shifts, unless:

  • the total length of the successive shifts doesn’t exceed 13 hours, OR
  • you and your employer agree that you will receive less than 8 hours of time off between shifts.

Free time: Your employer must give you at least a 24 hour block of free time off every work week, or a 48 hour block once every two consecutive work weeks.

Daily rest period: Employers must give you 11 consecutive hours free from work every day, unless you are on call.

Personal emergency leave: You are entitled to a leave of absence if you or a close relative become ill, experience a medical emergency, or some other urgent matter comes up. You must inform your employer that you intend to take personal leave, and they may require you to provide evidence of the emergency, but cannot require a note from a health practitioner like a doctor or a nurse.

You are entitled to 2 paid and 8 unpaid days of personal emergency leave in a calendar year. If you have been with the employer for at least a week, the paid days must be taken first.

Termination notice and termination pay: If you have been working for the same employer for three months or more, they must give you at least one week’s notice if they plan to terminate your employment. The longer you’ve worked for the employer, the more notice they are required to give.

Employers may choose to give you termination pay rather than notice, in which case they must pay you for the amount you would have made during the time of required notice. For example, if you had been working for four months for the same employer, the employer could either give you one week’s notice, during which time you would continue to work your regular hours, or give you one week’s pay.

Public holidays: Ontario has nine public holidays (New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day). Most employees are entitled to take these days off of work and be paid public holiday pay.

As of July 1, 2018, public holiday pay is determined by the total wages you earned in the four weeks before the work week of the public holiday, divided by 20.

However, you can agree to work on the holiday and be paid either:

  • Public holiday pay PLUS premium pay (which must be at least 1.5 times regular pay) for all hours worked on the public holiday, OR
  • Regular pay for all hours worked on the holiday, AND be entitled to another day off (“substitute” holiday) for which you will be paid public holiday pay.

You have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday or a Sunday. If you agree to work on the holiday or Sunday and then change your mind, you must notify your employer at least 48 hours before you were scheduled to start work on that day.

Compensation for public holidays doesn’t apply to students employed:

  • in a recreational program operated by a charitable organization,
  • to instruct or supervise children, OR
  • at a camp for children.

Overtime pay: Overtime pay begins when you work more than 44 hours in a work week. For every hour of work over 44, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular pay rate (often called time and a half). Overtime pay is calculated on a weekly basis, so it doesn’t automatically apply when you work a particularly long shift. But if you work several long shifts in a week, it may put your hours above 44, at which point overtime pay would apply.

Overtime pay doesn’t apply to students employed:

  • in a recreational program operated by a charitable organization,
  • to instruct or supervise children, OR
  • at a camp for children.

Discrimination: The Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination based on a protected ground in a protected area. Employment is one of the protected areas. The protected grounds include:

  • Age (except for those under 18 – see more here)
  • Ancestry, colour, race
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Place of origin
  • Creed
  • Disability
  • Family status
  • Marital status (including single status)
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Record of offences
  • Sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Sexual orientation

The right to equal treatment in employment includes job advertisements, job applications, job recruitment, interviews, training, and other elements of employment. It also includes the right to be free from harassment (a pattern of unwelcome comments or actions), and sexual harassment (comments or actions based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression). Discrimination and harassment can take many forms.

If your rights have been infringed, you have one year from the time of the incident (or most recent incident in a series) to file an application with the Human Rights Tribunal. More information can be found with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has produced these information materials:

The Ontario Human Rights Commissions has produced the following guide:

Additional information from Community Legal Education Ontario can be found here: