Canada is one of the United States' most important economic partners. Home to one of the best public education systems in the world, Canada is a booming talent hub across all industries, including tech, financial services, healthcare, and agriculture. Despite being a relatively small country by population, Canada's GDP is approaching $2 trillion. Companies looking to expand globally can hire top Canadian talent by partnering with an EOR service like Via.
If you’re planning to hire in Canada, you may have already started researching what employee rights are protected by the country’s labor laws. In general, these rights vary from province to province. So even if you have an entity set up in Ontario, you might not be able to hire in Quebec or another province.
In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the basic employment rights that govern the entire country, as well as some major differences between each province that companies should know before they get started expanding into and hiring in Canada.
The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination for workers in Canada on the basis of several protected grounds, including race, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, religion, and disability during the interview stage and all the way through termination.
The CHRA further protects individuals from discrimination based on:
Gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation
Colour, creed, and criminal background
Citizenship, marital status, and family status
This law applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction, including employment, housing, and services provided by the federal government.
The Act established the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination in the workplace and promoting human rights in Canada. It also established a tribunal system to hear complaints of discrimination and to make orders to remedy the situation.
Coexisting with the Canadian Human Rights Act is the The Employment Equality Act, a federal law across Canada requiring employees to protect and take measures to improve employment conditions for the following groups:
People with disabilities
Employers are required to take proactive measures to identify and eliminate barriers & discrimination in employment for certain groups. This includes developing employment equity plans, setting goals and timetables, and implementing measures to achieve those goals.
Around 12,000 businesses and 820,000 employees (around 6% of the country’s workers) in Canada are regulated by the Canada Labour Code, which is the federal labor law that lays out the terms and conditions of employment. The other 94% are subject to provincial and territorial regulations.
This legislation governs over:
Companies that transport goods between provinces
Businesses run and operated by the federal government
This code covers a wide range of topics, including hours of work, overtime pay, vacation time and pay, and leaves of absence.
The Canada Labour Code also has provisions related to workplace health and safety, including:
The right to refuse dangerous work
The requirement for employers to develop and implement health & safety policies
The establishment of health and safety resources
In addition, the Code provides for the formation of unions and collective bargaining between unions and employers. It sets out rules for the certification of unions, the negotiation of collective agreements, and the resolution of disputes between unions and employers.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) is a piece of employment standards legislation that each province has that sets out minimum conditions for workplace health and safety. The Act applies to all employers and workers in the province or territory, regardless of the industry or occupation.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is the right and responsibility of the employer to the health and safety of their workers by identifying and controlling workplace hazards, providing training and supervision, and developing health and safety policies. Workers also have a responsibility to work safely and to report any workplace hazards or concerns to their employer.
This act helps establish the role of health and safety representatives or committees in the workplace. These representatives or committees are responsible for monitoring and improving workplace health and safety, and for investigating and reporting on workplace incidents or accidents.
Laws in Canada protect every worker regardless of if they are citizens or foreigners.
In Canada foreigners have the same rights as citizens including:
Payment for their work
Having a safe work environment
Keeping their passport or work permit
All other businesses are regulated by the laws that stand in their own province. However, every province has an office that foreign workers can visit for information regarding employer and employee relationships, pay, normal working hours, breaks, and all other working conditions. Employers do not have the right to discriminate or punish foreign employees for visiting these offices to ask questions about their labor conditions.
Outside of the smaller provinces, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) generally governs remote work in Canada.
Remote work regulations that every employer will need to follow under the ESA include deciding:
On a plan for when and where employees will work remotely
How remote work requests will be handled
Who is entitled to remote work
If the employer or employee will pay any additional costs from working remotely
Most importantly, under this act, employers can visit and observe the employees' remote work place with 48-hours of notice to ensure that it complies with that province's health and safety regulations.
Under the Directive on Telework, the Canadian government specifies exactly how employees should be managed.
Employers must state in the employment contract:
Technology requirements for working remotely
The number of hours, break times, and when the employee will work each day
How often the employee is expected to communicate with management throughout the day
Physical workspace requirements to comply with Canadian health and safety regulations
What data protection they plan to use to monitor employee progress throughout the day (if applicable)
In 2022, the Working for Workers Act was passed, requiring employers to allow flexibility in the workplace especially in regards to remote employees. Under this act, employers must have a written policy that specifies the right for employees to disconnect from work.
In many Canada provinces, like Quebec, employers have already implemented policies or agreements with their employees to encourage a healthy work-life balance and to limit after-work communication, such as emails or calls, to allow for uninterrupted personal time. While such policies and agreements are not mandatory, they can be a positive step towards promoting work/life balance and the well-being of employees.
Each province and territory in Canada has its own laws and regulations that govern pay, including minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules related to payroll deductions & record-keeping.
Here is a summary of some of the key laws related to pay in each province and territory:
Alberta: The Employment Standards Code governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and vacation pay.
British Columbia: The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules for holiday pay and statutory holiday pay, among other things.
Manitoba: The Employment Standards Code governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and vacation pay.
New Brunswick: The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules for holiday pay and vacation pay.
Newfoundland and Labrador: The Labour Standards Act governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and vacation pay.
Northwest Territories: The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules related to vacation pay and statutory holidays.
Nova Scotia: The Labour Standards Code governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules for holiday pay and vacation pay.
Nunavut: The Labour Standards Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules related to vacation pay and statutory holidays.
Ontario: The Employment Standards Act governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules related to vacation pay and public holiday pay, among other things.
Prince Edward Island: The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules for holiday pay and vacation pay.
Quebec: The Act Respecting Labour Standards governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and vacation pay.
Saskatchewan: The Saskatchewan Employment Act sets out minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules for holiday pay and vacation pay.
Yukon: The Employment Standards Act governs minimum wage rates, overtime pay, and rules related to vacation pay and statutory holidays.
Employees in Canada are protected from being unfairly dismissed and there are even further protections for those who take certain leaves like maternity, domestic violence, parental, and critical illness. The protection period will depend on the territory in which they are employed.
In Canada, both federal and provincial laws govern severance and termination of employment.
Federally regulated employers are required to pay severance to employees who have worked for the company for at least 12 months and who are being terminated due to lack of work or discontinuance of a function. The amount of severance pay that employees receive is based on their length of service and the reason for termination.
Most provinces also require employers to provide severance pay in certain circumstances, such as when terminating a large number of employees at once.
Employers are generally required to provide employees with notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice when terminating their employment. The length of notice required varies by province and is usually based on the employee’s length of service.
Federally regulated employers must provide notice or pay in lieu of notice based on the employee’s length of service, up to a maximum of 16 weeks.
In some cases, employers may terminate an employee without notice or pay in lieu of notice if the employee has engaged in serious misconduct, such as theft or harassment.
Federally regulated employers are prohibited from terminating an employee without just cause. If an employee believes they have been unjustly dismissed, they can file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board, which has the power to order reinstatement and/or compensation.
Employees are always protected from their employers for demanding that their employers comply with their legal obligations or if they need to report unlawful conduct to authorities. It’s a criminal offense for employers to threaten employees for providing law enforcement with information regarding their employer.
In Canada, there are no specific laws that protect employees for business transfer. Regulations favor employees having the right to choose if they want to stay with the new employer after transfer.
In a business ownership transfer, employees are able to retain employment. In an asset transfer, on the other hand, the employees’ employment will end at the point of sale. Employees are not allowed to be transferred to a new employer without prior consent.
For entitlements, almost all Canadian provinces consider employment uninterrupted during a business transfer. Employers who don’t want to recognize these entitlements must make this explicit in the new employment contracts.
Unions in Canada are protected by federal and provincial legislation.
In Canada, unions have the right to engage in collective bargaining with employers on behalf of their members.
The federal government and most provinces have legislation that regulates collective bargaining, including the process for certifying a union as the bargaining agent for employees, the requirement for employers to bargain in good faith with the union, and the procedures for resolving disputes and strikes or lockouts.
In Canada, employees have the right to join or form a union, and employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on union membership or activities.
Some provinces also have legislation that requires employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, while other provinces have “right-to-work” laws that prohibit mandatory union membership or dues.
Federally regulated employees have the right to join a union, and the Canada Labour Code sets out minimum labor standards related to hours of work, overtime pay, vacation pay, and other working conditions.
Each province also has its own labor standards legislation that sets out minimum employment standards, such as minimum wage, hours of work, and overtime pay.
Unions may negotiate collective agreements that provide additional rights or benefits to employees beyond the minimum standards set by law.
Unions in Canada are typically structured with local, regional, and national levels of representation.
Union members have the right to participate in union activities, attend union meetings, and vote in union elections.
Unions also have a duty to represent their members fairly and without discrimination.
Employees are entitled to various types of leave in Canada under federal and provincial laws, as well as collective agreements and employer policies. Here are some of the common types of leave available to employees in Canada:
Maternity and parental leave: Pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave, which is job-protected leave for up to15 weeks under federal law and up to 18-19 weeks under provincial laws in places like Quebec. Parental leave is available to new parents, and can be taken by either parent or shared between them. Parental leave is usually job-protected for up to 35 weeks individually under federal law and up to 61-63 weeks under provincial laws.
Personal leave: Some provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, provide paid leave for personal reasons to employees for personal illness, injury, or urgent matters. The amount of leave and the conditions of eligibility vary by province.
Compassionate care leave: Employees may be entitled to compassionate care leave to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition or is at risk of dying. Compassionate care leave is job-protected for up to 28 weeks under federal law.
Bereavement leave: Employees may be entitled to a period of bereavement leave following the death of a family member, such as a spouse, parent, or child.
Sick leave: Some employers provide paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury and can range all the way up to 17 weeks. Employers are not allowed to terminate employees for taking this leave.
Vacation leave: Employees are entitled to a certain amount of paid vacation time each year, which varies by province and employer policy. For example, in Ontario, employees are entitled to at least two weeks of vacation per year after one year of employment.
Other leaves: Other types of leave may be available to employees, such as jury duty leave, educational leave, or military leave. The amount of leave and the conditions of eligibility vary by province and employer policy.
For companies that want to hire in Canada, you’ll need to have a strong HR department that understands the province's nuances regarding labor and employment regulations.
Employment contracts are not mandated in Canada; however, they are strongly encouraged in order to protect both the employer and employee. The employment contract should define the working relationship, highlight the province's specific regulations, and spell out compensation, benefits, termination, and severance.
HR is required to give employees pay slips in order to ensure fair wages. The pay slip should specify the hours worked, pay, and any overtime hours.
As a global EOR provider, Via makes hiring Canadian talent and building your global team seamless. Instead of having to learn every specific nuance in every province, you can focus on finding the talent that fits your company. Whether you need to hire remote workers or independent contractors in Canada, we support you throughout the entire process. Via helps you manage local HR processes for direct employment such as work visas & permits, benefits, payroll, background checks, and more. Our team of local labor lawyers and on-the-ground experts ensure that your company remains compliant while expanding abroad. As your employer-of-record/entity in Canada, Via assumes responsibility for employment liability, so that you can focus on what matters: recruiting and managing your team.
The 3 basic employee rights in Canada are: - The right to know - The right to participate, and - The right to refuse unsafe work
The main difference between employment laws in Canada and the US is that in the US, all employment is considered at-will. At-will employment means that there are no real standard regulations for why employers are allowed to fire and terminate employees. In Canada, employers are required to guarantee employees certain rights and can’t fire employees at any given time without just cause.
Yes, there are labor laws in Canada. Major labor laws in Canada include: - The Canadian Human Rights Act - The Canada Labour Code - The Employment Equality Act. Each province also has their own labor laws that govern employment.
To legally fire an employee in Canada, employers are required to give the worker at least two-weeks’ notice of termination that highlights the reason. Employers are required to give 2 days worth of pay for every year of service the employee has with the company.