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Understanding Wage and Hour Laws: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Wage and Hour Laws: A Comprehensive Guide

May 29, 2024

In addition to being a major source of concern for employers and employees alike, wage and hour laws are essential for ensuring fair labour practices. This comprehensive book will cover a wide range of subjects related to these rules, with a focus on those that are specific to Canada, such as unpaid wages, workplace discrimination, and the legal framework controlling employment contracts.

According to employment standards in Canada, your typical work hours as an intern or employee are:

  • Eight hours a day (or any twenty-four hours in a row)
  • A week consists of 40 hours (the time from Saturday at midnight to Saturday at midnight the following Saturday).
  • Every week, you have the right to one complete day off, which normally occurs on a Sunday. You also have the right to rest periods and breaks.
  • When there are one or more general holidays in a given week, the ordinary workweek is cut short by eight hours for each holiday.

Minimum Wage

Canada has a federal minimum wage, but individual provinces and territories can set their minimum wage laws, which are typically higher. Always check your provincial or territorial minimum wage to ensure you’re being paid correctly. Resources like the Government of Canada website provide a helpful breakdown of minimum wage by region. Here are some latest updates on minimum hourly wage in different areas:

  • Alberta
      • Current Wage: $15.00
  • British Columbia
      • Current Wage: $16.75
      • Notes: Set to rise to $17.40 on June 1, 2024. The annual increase aligns with British Columbia’s December 2023 consumer price index.
  • Manitoba
      • Current Wage: $15.30
  • New Brunswick
      • Current Wage: $15.30
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
      • Current Wage: $15.60
      • Notes: Adjusts annually based on the Consumer Price Index since April 1, 2024.
  • Northwest Territories
      • Current Wage: $16.05
      • Notes: Adjusted annually since September 1, 2023, based on CPI and the previous year’s average hourly wage changes.
  • Nova Scotia
      • Current Wage: $15.20
      • Notes: Adjusted annually to include inflation plus an additional 1% since April 1, 2024.
  • Nunavut
      • Current Wage: $19.00
      • Notes: In effect since January 1, 2024.
  • Ontario
      • Current Wage: $16.55
      • Notes: Set to increase to $17.20 on October 1, 2024. Adjusts annually based on inflation.
  • Prince Edward Island
      • Current Wage: $15.40
      • Notes: Increasing to $16.00 on October 1, 2024. Effective from April 1, 2024.
  • Quebec
      • Current Wage: $15.25
      • Notes: Set to rise to $15.75 on May 1, 2024.
  • Saskatchewan
      • Current Wage: $14.00
      • Notes: In effect since October 1, 2023.
  • Yukon
    • Current Wage: $17.59
    • Notes: Effective from April 1, 2024; adjusts annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

Overtime Work

You will be paid overtime if you work longer than your usual hours. Every province or territory has different overtime requirements, so it’s critical to know which ones apply to you. In general, overtime compensation is computed as 1.5 times your usual rate, or time and a half, for each hour worked more than the 40 hours that make up a traditional workweek.

To take paid time off, you have to:

Request time off from your employer and have a written agreement that outlines the dates you will take time off. If you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, take the time off no later than three months from the end of the pay period during which the overtime was worked, or within any longer period specified by the agreement. If you are not, take the time off no later than three months from the end of the pay period during which the overtime was worked, or within any longer period not exceeding twelve months, agreed upon in writing by you and your employer.

Your overall number of overtime hours each day and week may not add up to the same amount. If so, your employer’s overtime payment calculation must take the bigger of the two figures.

Right to Refuse Overtime

In Canada, employees may refuse extra labour under certain conditions, particularly if it interferes with meeting certain duties to their families. This privilege is essential for handling obligations like: 

  • Healthcare or caregiving for any family members.
  • Educational needs of family members who are under the age of 18.

Employees are encouraged to attempt to resolve these duties fairly before utilizing their right to reject overtime. Employees are then free to decline working extra if these attempts are found to be insufficient and taking care of family matters still has to be prioritized during the suggested overtime hours. 

This aspect of labour rights is an important consideration within employment contracts in Canada, ensuring that employees do not have to choose between their family obligations and their work duties without first having the opportunity to seek other solutions.

Why You Can’t Refuse Overtime Work?

Certain circumstances prohibit employees in Canada from declining to work extra. This restriction is especially applicable in unanticipated situations that might present immediate or significant risks, such as:

  • Threats to a person’s life, health, or safety.
  • Possible loss or harm to property.
  • Significant alterations to the employer’s establishment’s regular operations.

Unpaid Wages and Wage Theft

Unfortunately, wage theft is a reality for some employees in Canada. Wage theft can occur in various forms, such as not being paid for overtime, being misclassified as an independent contractor, or having deductions taken from your pay that are not permitted by law. If you suspect wage theft, you have options. You can contact your provincial or territorial Ministry of Labour for assistance, or consult with an employment lawyer for further guidance. 

  1. Overtime Pay Violations: When businesses neglect to pay their staff for overtime, it is a typical instance of wage theft. Employees who put in more hours than the typical 40-hour workweek could not receive the extra compensation that is due. Think about a situation where a worker often puts in extra hours to fulfil project deadlines, only to find out later that their employer does not account for these extra hours on their salary. 
  2. Misclassification as Independent Contractors: A further strategy employed by certain businesses is to falsely identify workers as independent contractors to evade labour regulations and withhold appropriate remuneration. Employers might avoid fulfilling obligations to their workforce by doing this, including paying overtime, taking time off, and offering other benefits that are required. For example, a delivery driver who is employed as an independent contractor could have to put in lengthy hours without receiving overtime compensation or benefits.
  3. Unauthorized Deductions: Employers sometimes unlawfully deduct wages from employees’ paychecks, often without valid justification. These deductions might include charges for uniforms, equipment, or other business expenses that should be covered by the employer. For example, a restaurant may deduct the cost of uniforms from servers’ wages, even though such deductions are prohibited under labour laws.
  4. Non-Payment of Statutory Entitlements: Certain statutory entitlements, such as vacation pay, public holiday pay, and termination pay, are legally mandated in Canada. However, some unscrupulous employers may fail to fulfil these obligations, leaving employees financially disadvantaged. For instance, an employer might refuse to pay an employee for statutory holidays worked or neglect to provide accrued vacation pay upon termination.

To sum up, understanding the nuances of Canada’s wage and hour legislation is crucial for ensuring fair and equal working practices for both businesses and employees. This thorough blog clarifies key areas of Canadian labour standards, from comprehending minimum wage laws to claiming rights to overtime compensation and refusal. 

Furthermore, establishing inclusive work environments requires acknowledging and resolving problems like wage theft and workplace discrimination. People support the values of justice and fairness in the Canadian workforce by remaining educated and standing out for their rights.

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