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. See this page to find out if jobs in your field may be provincially-governed or 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.