The Relevant Legislation

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) sets out the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers in Ontario.

Minimum Age to Work

According to the ESA, young workers have the same rights as other employees in most Ontario workplaces. It is important to know that the minimum age for working in Ontario is 14 years old in most types of workplaces.

Regulations specify higher minimum ages for certain types of work and workplaces. For example, working in the kitchen at a restaurant requires you to be at least 15 years old. You also have to be at least 15 to work in laundries, shipping and receiving areas in grocery stores, automotive service garages, produce and meat preparation areas, and warehouses.

As long as John is above the age of 14, he will be legally allowed to work in the record store.

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is the lowest hourly wage an employer can pay employees. Employers must pay most employees, including young workers, at least the minimum wage.

The minimum wage rate for a certain job can depend on what kind of work an employee is doing and how old the employee is.  In Ontario, there is a general minimum wage rate that applies to most employees. There is also a student minimum wage rate that applies to many students under the age of 18.Students must be paid at least the student minimum wage if they are under 18 and they:

  • work no more than 28 hours a week when school is in session, or
  • work during a school holiday (for example, March break, Christmas break, summer holidays)

As John is a high school student and working during holiday time, his employer will have to pay him student minimum wage. 

Student minimum wage rate is $9.60 per hour (current as of March 18th, 2013)

This is John’s situation and $9.60 is the minimum amount he should be paid for each hour he works at the record store. John’s employer is paying John the appropriate, legal minimum wage for his age and the hours he works.

Students who work more than 28 hours a week when school is in session are entitled to the general minimum wage.General minimum wage rate is $10.25 per hour.

If John decides to take on more hours during the school year, $10.25 is the amount that John should be paid per hour.

There are some exceptions to the minimum wage requirements: 

  • If you are participating in a high school “co-op” or work experience program authorized by the school board that operates your school
  • If you are a college or university student performing work through your school program
  • If you are training for certain occupations such as architecture, law, professional engineering, medicine, optometry
  • If you are a student employed to instruct or supervise children and a person employed as a student at a camp for children (like a camp counselor)


Ontario has 9 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 who qualify are entitled to take these days off work and be paid public holiday pay. They can agree in writing to work on the holiday and they will be paid: (a) public holiday pay plus premium pay for the hours worked on the public holiday; or their regular rate for hours worked on the holiday, plus they will receive another day off (called a “substitute” holiday) with public holiday pay. If the employee has earned a substitute day off with public holiday pay, the public holiday pay calculation is done with respect to the four work weeks before the work week in which the substitute day off falls.

The Right to Refuse to Work on Public Holidays

Most employees of a retail business have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday. As John is an employee in a retail business (record store), he should have the right to refuse to work and his employer can not threaten to fire him for this refusal. Even if John agrees to work on the public holiday in writing, he can still decline to work by giving the employer at least 48 hours notice before his work on the public holiday was to begin.


This blog scenario was written by Tony Young, a volunteer on the JFCY’s PLE Team. The legal content was written by Lauren Grossman, a first year law student at the University of Toronto who is volunteering at JFCY as the PLE team leader through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All legal content was reviewed by a JFCY lawyer. JFCY’s legal content is based on the laws in Ontario relevant to youth under the age of 18.