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Ontario's work laws

You have the power to help yourself. One important way is to know the laws.

Table of Contents
  1. What protections do I have under the law?
  2. How can I find out the basics?
  3. Links to descriptions of the laws

What protections do I have under the law? Top

Ontario workers are protected by both occupational health and safety and employment standards laws. Employers must pay at least a minimum wage and provide a safe and healthy work environment, among other responsibilities.

Workers have responsibilities under the law too. Learning about the legislation that keeps you healthy, safe and treated fairly at work is important.

If you're working now or planning a new or first job, find out what laws apply to you and if there are any special provisions you should know about.

Sometimes you may be entitled to be paid for a statutory holiday, and sometimes you're not. You can't work in some types of workplaces until you're at least 16 years old.

How can I find out the basics? Top

In this section, you can link to short descriptions of the legislation, or follow the road map, which will take you to the basics you need to know.

Road Map: Basics of the OHSA and ESA

Here's a three-step process to help you understand the law.

Step 1 - Find out if you're covered by the legislation.

Not everyone is and sometimes you may be covered under different legislation. It may depend on various things, like the type of place where you're working or the type of work you are doing.

Employment standards: find out if the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) covers you and if it does, what parts of the legislation apply.
Am I Covered by Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000?

Health and safety: find out if you're covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), or perhaps by similar federal legislation.
Am I Covered by Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act?

When you complete Step 1 you'll know if the type of work you do is covered by federal or provincial legislation. If it's federal, there are directions to websites with information on that legislation. If your job is covered by Ontario's Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, read on...

Step 2 - Learn your rights and responsibilities.

Whether it's getting minimum wage or getting the training to do the job, you need to know what 's expected of you and what you have the right to ask for. Too many workers don't find out about these things until there's a problem. Be smart and be safe - find out first.

Employment standards
There are particular things you need to do or know. If your employer is covered by the ESA, they must post in their workplaces Ministry of Labour documents that outline the rights and obligations of employees and employers under the ESA. Your employer may have agreements in place that include requiring employees to work extra hours or your employer may require employees to wear a uniform.
My employment standards rights

Health and safety
Along with three important rights, Ontario workers have three responsibilities that help keep them and those they work with healthy and safe.
My health and safety rights

Step 3: Find out what the law says your employer must do to protect you.

Protection can include keeping accurate employment records or providing safety glasses. In either case, knowing what the employer has to do may be important if there's ever a problem with your pay or time off or if you feel you haven't been given the information you need to do your job safely.

Employment standards
Employers covered by the ESA must provide minimum employment standards in a wide range of areas such as minimum wage and overtime pay.
What should I get paid
Hours of work
Time off

Health and safety
Employers have overall responsibility for your health and safety at work. Their wide range of duties includes providing training, ensuring your supervisor is competent, guarding machines and ensuring the air is free from harmful substances.
My boss, safety and me

Links to descriptions of the laws Top

Find out more about:

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

Regulations made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) legislation

Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA)

Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA) requires employers to pay insurance premiums to compensate their workers if they get injured, but also to ensure the workplace is safe so that injuries are prevented. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) administers the WSIA. Contact them at

For a quick guide on WSIB, try:

Would you like to know more about the history of these laws?

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