Know Your Rights In The Workplace


Finally getting a job is good for many reasons: it provides you with money, hopefully falls within your interests, and – in Canada – it comes with a whole set of rules and regulations that protect you, your employer and your job.

Sick leave, overtime, vacation pay. These are all terms we’ve heard tossed around, but the moment you get a job, you want to be familiar with what you’re entitled to (pay, rights, etc.).

Salary complaints are not uncommon. But if you suspect someone of the opposite sex is being paid differently than you are solely on the basis of their gender, then you have a problem.

In Canada, federally regulated industries, such as transportation, Canada Post, customs and banks, are covered by the Canada Labour Code (the code) and provincially regulated jobs fall under the protection of the Employment Standards Act (ESA), which varies from province to province.

Find out which legislation applies to you so that in the following cases, you know what is within your rights.

Sick leave

If you wake up feeling unwell or find out that strange rash isn’t just a rash, you might need a day off. How do you get that day off and will you still get paid?

The ESA in Ontario does not offer legislation dictating standards for paid plans for sick leave; these plans (and whether or not they involve payment) are up to the direction of the employer.

Under the code, however, employees are protected during sick leave; with some conditions fulfilled, an employee on sick leave cannot be dismissed, suspended, laid off or demoted due to absence based on illness.

However, if your illness prevents you from completing the same work you performed prior to your illness, your employer may assign you to a new position with different terms of employment.

Did you know that if a loved one is seriously sick, you may be entitled to time off? The Compassionate Care Leave, under the Canada Labour Code, and Ontario’s Family Medical Leave, under ESA, determine that all employees (full- or part-time) covered by these pieces of legislation may be entitled to up to eight weeks of time off to care for and support a loved one who is seriously ill.

These regulations give you protection and the satisfaction of knowing that your job will still be yours when you return.


Who doesn’t love a vacation? Those covered by ESA earn two weeks of vacation for every 12-month work period. The Canada Labour Code increases the amount of time and pay to which you are entitled the longer you work for your employer.


The only thing better than vacation is a holiday. Under the Canada Labour Code, every employee is entitled to pay on holidays during their period of employment.

If a holiday falls on your day off, you are still entitled to holiday pay. You and your employer can add a day to your annual vacation or your employer can grant you a holiday with pay on a day that is agreeable to both of you.

When New Year’s Day, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a Saturday or Sunday that is a non-working day, you are entitled to a holiday with pay on the work day that immediately precedes or follows the holiday.

Those under the Ontario Employment Standards Act will want to look into their rights, and keep in mind that, in Ontario for example, public holidays also include Family Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day.

What if you’re required to work on a holiday? There’s an advantage: you are entitled to your regular wages and a rate of at least one and one-half times your regular rate for that day’s work. Some exceptions are outlined in the code so make sure you’re familiar with your rights.


The Canada Labour Code states that standard hours of work are eight hours a day, 40 hours a week. Your employer cannot make you work more than 40 hours a week.

However, should you choose to work overtime for a special occasion, the code entitles its workers to up to eight hours overtime (as in, 48 hours that week), but nothing more. In addition, you must be paid at least one and one-half times your regular work rate for those overtime hours.

Bereavement leave

Losing someone you love is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through. While ESA does not offer standards for bereavement leave, your place of work may offer an applicable plan for its employees.

The Canada Labour Code says that, in the event of the death of an immediate family member, you are entitled to bereavement leave on any of the three work days that immediately follow the day the death occurred. If you worked for three consecutive months with your current employer, then you are also entitled to your regular wages (regular rate of pay for your regular hours of work).

Equal pay

Salary complaints are not uncommon. But if you suspect someone of the opposite sex is being paid differently than you are solely on the basis of their gender, then you have a problem.

The Pay Equity Act in Ontario states women and men must receive equal pay if they perform jobs that are different but of equal value. The Employment Standards Act contains legislation that serves to ensure that women and men performing essentially the same job receive equal pay, where the “same” refers to the same skill, effort and responsibility involved.

Some exceptions are made for systems of seniority, merit, piecework or other conditions outside of gender.

Your rights in the workplace

If you feel your rights have been violated, you should do something about it. Those covered by the ESA can fill out an Employee Self Help Kit that will guide them in their efforts to communicate and amend the situation with their employer.

Your rights aren’t just words on paper; you’re entitled to exercise them. Find out how you’re covered.

About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).