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Hours of work and rest periods

Table of Contents
  1. What are the maximum hours of work for employees?
  2. Can an employee agree to work more than the daily maximum hours?
  3. Can an employee agree to work more than the weekly maximum hours?
  4. How many hours of rest should I receive each day?
  5. What if my employer says that I have to stay because there is urgent work to finish?
  6. When can my employer require me to work more than the maximum hours of work without my agreement or during a period free from work?
  7. What kind of exceptional circumstances might allow my employer to require me to work more than the maximum hours without my agreement?
  8. What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?
  9. Can I see the ESA?

What are the maximum hours of work for employees? Top

Certain employees are covered by the ESA but are not covered by some parts of the Act, or they are covered by the ESA but subject to special rules.

Generally speaking, for most employees covered by the Hours of Work sections of the ESA, the maximum number of hours they can work is:

  • eight hours a day or the number of hours in an established regular workday if it is longer than eight hours; and
  • 48 hours in a work week.
Can an employee agree to work more than the daily maximum hours? Top

Yes, an employer and an employee can agree in writing that an employee will work more than eight hours a day or the established regular work day if that is longer than eight hours. Employers must give employees who are not represented by a union a handout called Information for Employees about Hours of Work and Overtime Pay prior to making the agreement and the employee must acknowledge receipt of that handout in the written agreement. Even if there is a valid agreement to work excess hours, the employer must still comply with ESA requirements about hours free from work and eating periods.

In most cases, employees not represented by a union can revoke an agreement to work excess daily hours by giving the employer two weeks' written notice. An employer can revoke such an agreement by giving the employee reasonable notice. However, in some cases, an employee who entered into an agreement for excess daily hours when he or she was hired may not be able to cancel that agreement unless the employer also agrees to cancel it. Once the agreement has been revoked, the employee cannot work excess daily hours, unless he or she enters into another agreement.

Employees can't be penalized or otherwise disciplined because they refuse to enter into agreements to work excess daily and/or weekly hours. See Reprisals for further information.

Can an employee agree to work more than the weekly maximum hours? Top

Yes, an employer and an employee (or a union on behalf of the employee) can agree in writing that the employee will work more than 48 hours in a work week up to a specified number of hours. If the employee is not represented by a union, his or her agreement to work excess weekly hours is not valid unless, prior to making the agreement, the employer gives the employee the Information for Employees about Hours of Work and Overtime Pay prepared by the Ministry, and the employee acknowledges receipt of that handout in the written agreement. Even if there is a valid agreement to work excess hours, the employer must still comply with ESA requirements about hours free from work and eating periods.

In addition, the employer must obtain an approval from the Director of Employment Standards for excess weekly hours. If an employer has not received an approval or a notice of refusal within 30 days after serving the application for the approval on the Director, and meets certain other conditions, the employees identified in the application could begin working excess weekly hours. However, the most they could work would be the number of hours agreed to or 60 hours per work week, whichever is less.

If your employer makes an application for excess weekly hours, the employer must post a copy of the application in the workplace where it is likely to come to the attention of the affected employees. It has to stay posted until the Director has either approved the application or refused it. When the approval or notice of refusal is received it is posted in place of the application. A notice of refusal has to be posted for 60 days from the date it is issued.

An employee who is not represented by a union can cancel an agreement to work excess weekly hours by giving the employer two weeks' written notice. An employer can revoke the agreement by giving the employee reasonable notice. If the agreement is revoked, the employee cannot work excess weekly hours even though the employer has an approval from the Director of Employment Standards.

Employees can't be penalized or otherwise disciplined because they refuse to enter into agreements to work excess daily and/or weekly hours. See Reprisals for further information.

How many hours of rest should I receive each day? Top

Most employees covered by the ESA must receive a certain number of hours free from work.

Daily:

An employer must give an employee at least 11 consecutive hours off work each day. This applies even if:

  • the employer has established a longer regular workday which exceeds eight hours
  • the employer and employee have entered into a written agreement for excess daily hours.

The daily rest requirement of 11 consecutive hours off work each day does not apply for employees who are "on call" and are called in to work during a period when they wouldn't normally be working.

Between shifts:

Employees must receive at least eight hours off work between shifts, unless the total time worked on the shift before and after the rest period is not more than 13 hours. An employee and employer can also agree in writing that the employee will receive less than eight hours off work between shifts. Even if an employee agrees to receive less than eight hours off between shifts, he or she must still receive 11 consecutive hours off work each day.

Weekly or bi-weekly:

Most employees must receive at least:

24 consecutive hours off work in each work week

OR

48 consecutive hours off work in every period of two consecutive work weeks.

What if my employer says that I have to stay because there is urgent work to finish? Top

In certain circumstances, the ESA allows an employer to require an employee to work excess hours without a written agreement or during a period free from work, but only to avoid serious interference with the ordinary working of the employer's establishment or operations.

In emergencies and certain other exceptional circumstances, the employer can require an employee to work:

  • more than the normal limit of eight hours a day and 48 hours in a work week
  • more than the hours of work in his or her established regular workday
  • during a period when the employee is entitled to be free from work under the ESA.
When can my employer require me to work more than the maximum hours of work without my agreement or during a period free from work? Top

Employees can be required to work more than the limits set out in the ESA and during periods free from work without a written agreement in exceptional circumstances - but only so far as is necessary to avoid serious interference with the ordinary working of the employer's establishment or operations, if:

  • there is an emergency
  • something unforeseen occurs to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services, regardless of who delivers these services (for example, hospital, public transit or firefighting services, even if the employee only indirectly supports these services, such as an employee of a company that is contracted to prepare and deliver patient meals to a hospital)
  • something unforeseen occurs, to ensure that continuous processes are not interrupted
  • something unforeseen occurs, to ensure that seasonal operations are not interrupted (that is, operations that are limited to or dependent on specific conditions or events such as winter ski operations)
  • urgent repair work to the employer's plant or equipment is needed.

What kind of exceptional circumstances might allow my employer to require me to work more than the maximum hours without my agreement? Top

Some examples are:

  • natural disasters (such as very extreme weather)
  • major equipment failures
  • fire and floods.

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA? Top

What if I think my employer is not following the ESA?

Can I see the ESA? Top

Employment Standards Act, 2000

Resources Top

Government:
Ontario Ministry of Labour
Your Guide to the Employment Standards Act: Hours of Work




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